In 1996, Loren Pope provided an alternative to traditional college rankings in his book "Colleges That Change Lives," highlighting Cornell College and 39 of the other "best colleges you've never heard of." In the book's completely revised 2012 edition, Cornell is still featured prominently.
The following are excerpts from the 2013-2014 edition of "Colleges That Change Lives." Note that OCAAT is shorthand for Cornell's One Course At A Time curriculum.
It’s fitting that Cornell College has a revolutionary calendar to match its spirit.
The academic year is divided into eight blocks, each of which lasts for three and a half weeks. A student takes one course per block, has a four-day break, and then begins her next course. Similarly, professors teach only one course at a time. At a place where the average class size is seventeen students, that means the professor is focusing on a very small cohort of students. You’d be hard-pressed to find this kind of attention anywhere else.
Make no mistake: OCAAT was not a marketing venture. It was a pedagogical one.
Each professor can build the class schedule best suited to teaching the content instead of molding the content to fit the schedule. That means that professors infuse experiential learning opportunities into class frequently because they have the time to do it.
Scientists love the time to work in the lab–to learn science by actually doing science. Linguists love the language immersion OCAAT offers. Artists love that the clock doesn’t trump the muse. Over and over again, professors say they couldn’t go back to the semester system because of the freedom the Block Plan offers them and their students.
Students use the word “intense” to describe their academic lives, but they uniformly profess loving OCAAT.
[One] senior spent a semester in Greece on a traditional semester calendar. “The first three months felt so slow. It wasn’t until the fourth month when I felt like we really got into it. Here, you jump in and start learning right away.” They also feel that Cornell has sharpened their writing and ability to discuss and analyze–and cured them of any tendency to procrastinate.
Cornell is refreshing.
Professors, students, administrators, and staff work for a common purpose: to educate and equip Cornell graduates for lives of work, leadership, and fulfillment. You won’t find even a hint of Ivy envy, and people here are absolutely sure that this Cornell sets the standard for learning and teaching. They’re right.
Learn more or read the book
Loren Pope's book inspired the creation of an organization dedicated to a student-centered approach to college selection. On the Colleges That Change Lives website you can find selection criteria for the book and a variety of college search resources.