The college search is nothing if not daunting, and with many universities it’s clear even in the application process that you will be integrated into their system merely as a number. For some, the big, state school model is ideal; after four years of the quintessential college experience—cheering at football games, switching majors, pulling all-nighters, joining an intermural sports team, etc.—you’ll get a degree that employers will probably pretty readily know the value of (for better or for worse).
But for those of us looking for something a little different, it can be hard to find those little hidden gems of schools tucked away in the most unassuming towns in the country. A while ago, we posted a blog about one such school, Ohio Northern Univeristy, and now, we’ve decided to keep shining the spotlight on some of those small schools for our savvy College Compass readers. Today’s university of choice is Austin College, the oldest institution of higher learning in the state of Texas still operating under its original name and charter.
Founded in 1849 and located about an hour North of Dallas in Sherman, Texas, Austin College is not to be mistaken for Austin Community College or The University of Texas at Austin; being an AC Kangaroo (yes, their mascot is a kangaroo!) is really a very different experience from being a Longhorn. For starters, Austin College’s enrollment hovers around 1,300 students, a far cry from UT’s 50,000! This means a more intimate environment where professors know your face, your name, and probably even some of your life story. In fact, the student to faculty ratio at AC is 13:1, and 93% of those faculty members are tenured/tenure-track professors with a terminal degree in their field. Additionally, parents will be happy to know that about 75% of AC students receive merit-based financial aid. But, looking beyond just the general college stats, Austin College has some unique features that make spending your next four years in Sherman pretty appealing.
For one thing, there’s a good chance you won’t be spending all of those four years in Sherman; seven out of ten AC students have an educational experience lasting at least three weeks abroad. Not only is AC’s study abroad office willing to work with you to make a semester abroad to your destination of choice happen (even if you want to boldly go where no AC Kangaroo has gone before) but AC also offers a Janterm! A what?
Janterm is a little mini semester that takes place after Christmas break but before Spring Semester begins (in January). During this time, professors offer special-interest courses that give students a break from their regular studies in order to immerse themselves in a different kind of learning experience. There are plenty of on-campus Janterm opportunities, but students (in particular, upperclassmen) are also encouraged to take advantage of off-campus opportunities, either studying independently, exploring a possible career option, or learning about another culture by going abroad!
Austin College’s emphasis on having students study abroad is just a small part of their educational philosophy. While the school itself may be tucked away in North Texas, AC is committed to providing students with an understanding of how their education can be put to use in a global context. By encouraging students to learn about other cultures and experience a plethora of hands-on learning opportunities, AC hopes to help students become compassionate, creative, and discerning individuals who will excel in their respective fields.
So if sitting in the back of a lecture hall on Facebook doesn’t exactly sound like the most productive use of your time, why not check out AC? And while you’re at it, stay tuned to College Compass for more small school suggestions!