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9 Unconventional Colleges for Students Who Need a Change of Pace

Reed College

Reed is a liberal arts college in Portland, Oregon known for its creative, laid-back culture and its unconventional grading practices. Reed determined that traditional grading practices put unnecessary, negative pressure on students, so they don't distribute letter grades. Reed still maintains a record of the grades, and students can choose to view them if they desire. 

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Evergreen State College

Evergreen State College is located in Olympia, Washington. This public liberal arts college has decided that standard A-F letter grades do not reflect a student's true potential. Instead of the traditional, rather ambiguous system, Evergreen State uses written narrative evaluations from teachers to track progress and to use as recommendations for jobs and internships for students.

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Brown University

Brown University, located in Providence, Rhode Island, is one of the most prestigious Ivy League colleges in the world. Even though it's very difficult to gain acceptance, you're highly rewarded if you do. Brown allows its students to choose what kind of grading system they want to use, whether it’s the standard A, B, C system (D’s and F’s are not recorded) or to have their classes recorded as pass/fail. Plus, students can also request written evaluations from all of their teachers.

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Bennington College

Bennington College is a private liberal arts college in Bennington, Vermont that allows its students to determine their own field of study and course completion program instead of forcing them to follow a generic program. This small college also allows its students to participate in a Field Work Term, where students pursue jobs and internships in their chosen fields for seven weeks in place of classes.

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Deep Springs College

Deep Springs College is an alternative college in Deep Springs, California that takes a very unique approach to learning. At this highly selective (yet tuition free!) school, male students live and learn together on a ranch for two years. Deep Springs believes that the three pillars of success are academics, labor, and self-governance—so it exposes all of its students to these three ideals.

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Unity College

Unity College is a private liberal arts college in Unity, Maine that calls itself “America’s Environmental College.” Everything from their curriculum to their student life is focused on sustainability, and their mission is to educate their students well enough to take on some of the biggest challenges that face our environment and our economy today. Here, you’ll find interesting majors like Adventure Therapy and Art and the Environment.

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Clarkson University

Clarkson University is a private research university with its primary campus located in Potsdam, New York. What sets this university apart from most research universities is that it offers an interdisciplinary program for high school seniors to get a head start on their education. This program is a great way for high school students to gradually transition into college life if they are nervous about making such a huge jump.

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Hamilton College

Hamilton College is a private liberal arts college located in Clinton, New York, and it focuses heavily on student/professor interaction. Their core curriculum consists of what they call “proseminars,” where professors and students discuss and debate various topics in academia. Additionally, this college places a lot of emphasis on writing because they see it as a necessary skill for all disciplines. 

(Image via Hamilton College)

Manhattanville College

Manhattanville College is a private liberal arts college located in Purchase, New York, and this college uses a portfolio system rather than a curriculum. In this portfolio system, students can design their own four-year degree to cultivate a program that perfectly fits their wants and needs. As a result, there are no “blow-off classes” and students are learning exactly what they want to learn. 

(Image via Manhattanville College)