Occidental One of America's Hottest Colleges - Again
Occidental College is one of America’s hottest colleges, according to Newsweek magazine – the second time in three years that the nationally ranked liberal arts college has been picked as “a stand-out gem.”
Occidental’s selection as one of 12 “hot” schools – it is the only California institution on the list – is the latest in a series of high marks the 116-year-old college has received in national college guides. U.S. News & World Report ranked Occidental #10 in its 2004 "Best Values" list for national liberal arts colleges; Washington Post education writer Jay Mathews ranked Occidental #8 in his new college guide, Harvard Schmarvard; and the newly released editions of the Fiske and Princeton Review guides both gave Occidental four-star academic rankings.
Occidental received a record-breaking number of applications for a fifth consecutive year in 2003, totaling more than 4,500 for the first time ever -- a remarkable 145 percent increase compared to six years ago. Of those who applied for admission, 1,964, or 44 percent, were offered admission, with an average SAT score of 1310.
Occidental’s status as a “hot” school is based on interviews with deans, admissions officers, guidance counselors, and students – as well as “an eye on the news,” according to Newsweek. (The “hotness” list also appear in the 2004 edition of the Kaplan/Newsweek “How To Get Into College” guide.) Occidental was first picked as a “hot school” in the 2002 guide – the only school to appear on both the Kaplan/Newsweek list and on the Wall Street Journal’s list of “colleges for a new era” that year.
In a U.S. News article titled “Inside the In Crowd: How Schools Get Hot,” Vince Cuseo, Occidental’s director of admission, explained that one of the reasons applications to Occidental have more than doubled was a conscious decision to “position the College as a ‘player’ in Los Angeles life. We did so not only because it would help raise Oxy’s visibility but because it was considered the right thing to do as an educational enterprise in this city.”
The Newsweek “hot” list also includes such colleges as Grinnell, Reed, Carleton, and Rhodes.
Occidental’s #10 “Best Values” ranking by U.S. News is based on a combination of the school’s academic quality and the average level of financial aid for students. “The higher quality of the program and the lower the cost, the better the deal,” the magazine says. Thanks to its impressive admission numbers, U.S. News also ranked Occidental #24 in selectivity. For the seventh consecutive year, Occidental was rated tops in diversity among nationally ranked liberal arts colleges.
In his new book Harvard Schmarvard: Getting beyond the Ivy League to the College That Is Best For You, Washington Post writer Jay Mathews ranked Occidental #8 on his list of “100 Colleges That Are Better Than You Think.” Occidental almost didn’t make the list, he explains, “as I no longer think it is underappreciated.” But many guidance counselors to whom he spoke insisted, saying that Occidental “has an excellent academic reputation” and “a faculty truly devoted to undergraduate teaching.”
The theme that Occidental is no longer a hidden gem was reflected in the new editions of major college guides. Kaplan’s Guide to the 328 Most Interesting Colleges, for example, says Occidental “is still a ‘treasure,’ but it’s no longer hidden.” Among the other recent reviews of Occidental:
The Fiske Guide calls Occidental “an urban oasis” that shelters “a thriving community of high achievers. … Faculty members are readily available in and out of the classroom, and teaching is one of Occidental's strong points. ‘The quality of teaching at this institution is magnificent,’ says a sophomore. ‘Professors are not only brilliant researchers, but truly committed educators,’ says a kinesiology major. ‘They seem to really care about students' best interests.’”
According to the Yale Daily News’ Insiders’ Guide to the Colleges, “Occidental undergrads say that student-teacher relationships are very strong. Professors are often young, with new teaching styles and fresh ideas, and they are ‘very accessible and more than willing to assist in the individual education of the students.’ … At some other schools, students of different backgrounds may tend to separate into cliques, but Oxy students find their classmates not only extremely tolerant, but also integrated. The strong, tight community and well-integrated diversity are what make Occidental College stand out.”
“A small liberal arts college in a huge city, Occidental students claim that at their school, ‘the academics are tops in the nation,’” says the Princeton Review. “At the heart of an Occidental education is the close interaction between students and faculty. ‘I’m constantly amazed at how much professors -- who, by and large, are incredibly intelligent, capable instructors – take a genuine interest in our progress,’ says one student.