[Go on college road trips with U.S. News.]
Why I Chose Spelman College (Atlanta)
Jasmine Ellis, junior
When I was 10, my father first told me about Spelman College and its history of drawing women of color from around the world and producing noted leaders.
I've had classes in public speaking; spent a semester shadowing the executive director of Spelman's Center for Leadership and Civic Engagement; and been offered the chance to attend conferences, workshops and seminars with leaders in various professions from engineering to the arts.
Why I Chose Tulane University (New Orleans)
Maddie Ross, 2013 graduate
Tulane University fosters a rich academic environment and a culture of engagement on and off campus. The university offers interdisciplinary majors, small class sizes and public service internships that enable all students to translate their classroom knowledge into real-world situations.
As a public health major and premed student, I was able to spend an eye-opening semester living in rural KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa, working as a public health educator. Later, I had a chance to intern in New Orleans with a nonprofit that worked to reduce the spread of HIV in local communities.
Tulane students value the culturally rich city around them. It's hard not be enamored by the gumbo, jazz melodies and "second line" parades that one can only find here.
Why I Chose University of Kentucky (Lexington, Ky.)
Roshan Palli, junior
I came to the University of Kentucky for the community: Students, faculty, staff and administrators collaborate to enhance the education and experiences of UK's student body.
Our beautiful, open campus hosts more than 500 student organizations, like the group that organizes Dance Blue, the annual dance marathon that this year raised more than $1 million for cancer research.
UK encourages freshmen to participate in research with professors and take on leadership positions. I was able to study with an economics professor the effects of tax policy on where people choose to live.
Why I Chose Washington University in St. Louis
Mariah Cushman, junior
I chose Washington University in St. Louis not only for its wonderful academic reputation, but also because, even on my first visit, I sensed the passion, excitement and mutual supportiveness that binds together the school's tight-knit community.
As a chemical engineering major, I've been able to pursue research in on-campus labs, intern at a national laboratory in São Paulo, Brazil, and develop other interests from intramural soccer to Spanish.
Wash U's drop-dead gorgeous campus in the city makes it easy to take a break to ice skate in nearby Forest Park, eat Italian food in The Hill neighborhood and attend arts festivals downtown.
This story is excerpted from the U.S. News "Best Colleges 2014" guidebook, which features in-depth articles, rankings and data.