Eight Programs That Enhance Learning

A look at innovative things that schools do that go beyond the rankings that we publish.

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If you are looking for schools that have some unique academic programs and also provide an especially rich academic environment on campus, then you may want to visit the Programs to Look For page in the free section of our website.

Why did we choose these particular types of programs? We felt that it was important to look at innovative things that schools do that go beyond the rankings that we publish. With the help of education experts, including staff members of the Association of American Colleges and Universities, we identified eight such types of programs that have been shown to enhance learning experiences. Next, we invited college presidents, chief academic officers, deans of students, and deans of admissions from over 1,400 schools to nominate up to 10 institutions with stellar examples of each program type. We list in alphabetical order the ones that were mentioned most often.

Here are brief descriptions of the eight areas: You can click on the link to see the schools that have been named as leaders.

First-year experiences are first-year seminars or other programs that bring small groups of freshmen together with faculty or staff on a regular basis.

Internships/Co-ops send students into the real world—through closely supervised internships, workshops, or through cooperative education, in which a period of study typically alternates with one of work.

Senior capstone or some culminating experience in which students create a project that integrates and synthesizes what they've learned. The project might be a thesis, a performance, or an exhibit of artwork.

Undergraduate research/Creative projects where students and faculty do intensive and self-directed research or creative work that results in an original scholarly paper or other product that can be formally presented on or off campus.

Learning communities where students typically take two or more linked courses as a group and get to know one another and their professors especially well.

Study abroad are programs that involve substantial academic work—a year or a semester or an intensive experience equal to a course—and considerable interaction between the student and the culture.

Service learning programs involve volunteering in the community and are a requirement of a student's coursework.

Writing in the disciplines is where colleges typically make the writing process a priority at all levels of instruction and across the curriculum.