Apparently colleges in the Midwest can’t get no love, according to the economy experts at Marketplace. And that's a darn shame.
Declining preparedness and achievement rates among Midwestern high school students seem to be to blame, which is deeply upsetting in its own right. (Put more money toward education. Full stop.) But more on that another day. Today, I want to shine a light on the heartland as a college destination, especially for us coastal kids who think Midwestern education begins and ends with Ohio State, Michigan, and Notre Dame.
C'mon! I don't think I'd ever get sick of that view.
In my six years writing and reviewing college articles, I’ve actually amassed a significant number of Midwestern personal favorites, those schools that gave me a serious case of the “what ifs” as I discovered them. Of course, I can’t share my list because of that whole journalistic integrity thing. But I will say the school most prominently featured in the Marketplace story linked above, Gustavus Adolphus College, has been on my radar for a long time. It’s a small, Lutheran-affiliated liberal arts school in St. Peter, Minnesota, and I still remember reading about it for the first time: I thought it sounded like a lovely place, the kind of school I could’ve been very happy at as an undergrad—and I was flabbergasted that I had never even heard of it. I bet a bunch of other people hadn’t either until they listened to that Marketplace story. (Also, I now finally know how to pronounce its name: Gus/TAY/vus A/DOL/fus. All these years, I thought it was pronounced Goose/tah/vus. Good job, me. Oye.) But good old Gustavus is just the tip of the iceberg.
Chicago: now that's a pretty city
Much of the U.S. population is concentrated along the coasts, and it makes sense that so many of our colleges and universities would be too. Yet when we talk about schools in the center of the country, I feel like the big, well-known state schools dominate the conversation. Not that they don’t deserve the attention—they’re great schools with great programs and a great education to be had. But they’re not the only ones!
There are thousands of colleges and universities out there with extraordinary educational opportunities and unique campus personalities, in the Midwest and beyond. Don’t limit your college search to only those you recognize. As we say in every issue of Private Colleges & Universities magazine: you might find the perfect school for you, and you haven’t even heard its name. Conduct your college search with an open mind, making a list of what you want and carefully searching for schools that meet your criteria—just, you know, give the Midwest a fair shake. And if you hail from the area, don't be afraid to stick around—and seek out the college search help you need. Not only that, but it sounds like a “buyers’ market” amongst Midwestern schools, so you may be a more desirable candidate, especially if you’re bringing the geographic diversity of coming from far away. (And admission counselors do consider that.) Remember, by casting a wide net in your college search, you’ll only increase your likelihood of finding the right school for you.
Yes, there's prairie land, and it's pastoral and lovely
Now, you might be thinking, I’m all about keeping an open mind, but what makes the Midwest so special? Well, besides having some of the most breathtaking landscapes around (have you seen the Great Lakes?! I’ve only been to Lake Eerie, the baby of the bunch, and wow . . . ), it’s actually a great time to be out there. Areas like Oklahoma City, Omaha, Kansas City, and Madison are experiencing impressive growth and economic stability, high quality of life and low costs of living. Plus, the Twin cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul still enjoy a rather unblemished record of economic stability and livability factors. Not to mention little towns throughout the region are earning props as the best places to live in the country, according to sources like TIME, CNN Money, Businessweek, and more.
Snowy park in St. Paul, Minnesota (reminds me of Boston!)
So do yourself a favor and investigate the colleges and universities throughout the Midwest. It won’t take long to become enamored with the area, trust me . . . because now I totally want to move there. Think they’ll hire me at Gustavus Adolphus?
If you’re interested in checking out some hidden college gems in the Midwest and beyond, take a look at these state-by-state lists of schools. Want to give a shout-out to a Midwestern school? Leave a comment!