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College Admissions: 4 Fall Pennsylvania Roadtrips

Tuesday, September 18, 2012


Pennsylvania is home to an abundance of colleges of every size and specialty, including Ivy League U PENN in Philadelphia.

Pennsylvania is home to the Liberty Bell, Declaration of Independence and many of Ben Franklin’s inventions. From the exciting cities of Philadelphia and Pittsburgh to countryside Amish colonies, this state

boasts dozens of superb colleges. It’s also an ideal destination for a family college road trip because you can mix in activities for younger kids at places like The Philadelphia Zoo, Hershey Park or Lancaster.

Roadtrip #1: Philadelphia

If city schools race your engine, then start in Philadelphia. You need to be at the very top of your class with 700s on your SATs for Ivy League UPENN to be in range, but nearby, Drexel is much more reasonable to get into. Drexel boasts one of the nation’s top co-op programs, with an array of internships and highly rated engineering. Just outside of the city with easy access to downtown, the suburbs are dotted with competitive colleges like Villanova, Haverford, Swarthmore and Bryn Mawr. All of these schools are looking for A/A- students with 600s or 700s on their SATs. UPENN, Swarthmore, Haverford and Bryn Mawr also participate in a consortium that allows students to take a course or access a library collection at any of the member institutions; attend one college and reap the benefits of four!

Roadtrip #2: Pittsburgh

Philadelphia isn’t the only city In PA, however. Many families overlook the great options in Pittsburgh. Carnegie Mellon blends a world class music conservatory with top rated engineering, business and liberal arts--all on a vibrant, medium-size, city campus. The University of Pittsburgh is a larger state school with an urban feel and lots of spirit around its elite sports teams. It’s hard to find a major that Pitt doesn’t have. If you love city schools and have been focused on DC, Boston and NYC, don’t overlook Pittsburgh.

Roadtrip #3: Small Town/D1 Standouts

Heading out into the beautiful Pennsylvania countryside, there are an abundance of great colleges. If you prefer medium-size campuses, Lehigh, Bucknell and Lafayette all host top-rated engineering programs, plus great liberal arts and business schools. Their D1 sports teams foster environments rich with enthusiasm on game nights, and fraternities play a BIG role in the social life at both Lehigh and Bucknell. The towns are not large, but students don’t seem to mind; most of what they need can be found on campus.

Roadtrip #4: Small Liberal Arts Gems

Small class sizes, close professor relationships and an intimate learning environment characterize the next group of colleges. Franklin & Marshall, Gettysburg, Dickinson, Muhlenberg, Juniata, Ursinus and Susquehanna are all liberal arts colleges with different flavors on each campus. From Dickinson, which has an emphasis on experiential learning and study abroad programs, to Juniata’s exceptional pre-med curriculum, there is something for everyone. And don’t think small doesn’t mean that there aren’t great sports; the Centennial League contains some of the nation’s top D3 sports teams. You’ll find a lot of athletes here who could have played D1, but opted for the advantages of a more personal academic experience.

Itinerary add-on: Penn State

Is a big university more your style? It doesn’t get much bigger than Penn State at University Park. With almost 40,000 undergrads, University Park is not for the faint of heart. There are high rise dorms and the campus spans 5,500 acres. It is resource rich with an abundance of great facilities, an enormous research budget, and every imaginable major. Recent scandals have done little to damage the heart and soul of Penn State. While many predicted applications would drop, in fact, they increased in 2012.

No matter what size and type of school you want, you can’t go wrong with a college trip to PA. Few states contain such an array of large, medium and small campuses with excellent academics.

Cristiana Quinn, M.Ed. is the founder of College Admission Advisors, LLC which provides strategic, college counseling and athletic recruiting services for students. www.collegeadvisorsonline.com.

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