Review of Loren Pope's Colleges That Change Lives

Learn about Loren Pope's Important Book on Rethinking College Selection

Colleges That Change Lives
Colleges That Change Lives.

This little (by guidebook standards) volume covers only forty schools, but it is essential reading for today's college-bound students. Written by the late Loren Pope, an education writer for The New York TImes,  Colleges That Change Lives selects schools not for their prestige or selectivity, but for the personal growth that occurs while students are in college. Pope makes the reader rethink the logic behind college selection, and the elite universities come out the losers in the process.


  • Challenges the myths surrounding elite schools
  • Persuasively argues that great educations exist outside the Ivy League
  • Provides different metrics for measuring schools than most guidebooks
  • Valuable chapter on students with learning disabilities


  • Covers only 40 schools
  • Anti-Ivy League bias is obvious
  • Fails to address the short-comings of the 40 schools


  • Profiles of 40 schools
  • 352 pages
  • Lists for $17 but often discounted
  • Updated in 2012

Guide Review - Loren Pope's Colleges That Change Lives:

So many of the college guidebooks out there focus on so-called "top" schools -- those schools with the prestigious names and remarkably high admissions standards. Loren Pope's Colleges That Change Lives looks at education in terms of a school's value to the student, not in terms of SAT scores, endowments, and acceptance rates.

The result is a book that helps readers rethink what it is that they are investing in when making decisions about college.

Is it an education or a school's name? For Pope, the education comes first.

For anyone despairing about not having the scores to get into the Ivy League, this book is essential reading. For anyone who is applying to elite universities, this book is worth a read to help you make an informed decision about the path of your education.

The book does have its biases, and some of the trash talk about Harvard and other elite schools is not fully justified. Nevertheless, Pope does add an important counter-argument to the myths surrounding the likes of Harvard University and Stanford University, and he is certainly correct when he argues that there are some great but lesser-known schools in the United States.

First published in 1996, Colleges That Change Lives has gone through several editions, and the schools included in the book have changed over the years. Loren Pope passed away in 2008, yet his book continues to evolve and influence college counselors and applicants. The 2012 edition was edited and updated by Hilary Masell Oswald.

A Word About Colleges That Change Lives, Inc:

After the initial publication of Pope's book, a non-profit organization formed to celebrate the ideals espoused by Loren Pope (see the Colleges That Change Lives website). In 2015, the member schools numbered 44. All are liberal arts colleges or small liberal arts universities that have been proven to have a meaningful impact on students' lives.

The 44 member institutions are listed below. Click on a school's name to learn more.