Assistant Prof. Miro Kummel digs his fingers into wood chips, soil, and sediment on a snowy mountainside 30 miles from campus. He and his Ecology and the Environment class are on a daylong field trip, an experience shockingly rare at most colleges. These trips are an enviable perk of Colorado College's signature teaching tool: block scheduling.
Students take one class at a time for 3½ weeks each, with four-day breaks in between. The schedule is intense, and Colorado College is definitely not for everyone. The average class size is 15 students, and with three hours of class, five days a week, slinking to the back of the classroom is just not an option.
For students who can take the pressure, Colorado College offers a special experience. "You can really let a class take over your mind," says Liza Mitchell, a 2008 environmental science graduate. Because there are no scheduling conflicts with other classes, professors can use entire days, or even weeks, to get to their point. Geology majors spend an average of 60 days in the field at quarries, fossil sites, or active volcanoes; one class in philosophy and literature is taught in Greece, visiting the isles while reading Homer and Plato. And faculty and students become close. Kummel, for instance, held his class's final project presentations in his small, off-campus home. Students made their own sushi for lunch.
If all this sounds a bit too hippie dippy for your taste, skeptics can take heart that Colorado College is tucked neatly into quirky Colorado Springs—the state's second-largest city and home of Fort Carson, Peterson Air Force Base, and the U.S. Air Force Academy. It's also headquarters for the U.S. Olympic Committee and has a vocal evangelical Christian contingent. Much like its surroundings, Colorado College offers a little bit of everything, as long as you're intense enough to go after it.
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Plus factor: The school reports that about 94% of freshmen return for their sophomore year.
Undergrad enrollment, fall '08: 1,996
Est. annual cost, 2009-10: $46,902
Colorado Road Trip
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