Best Colleges: Programs to Look For

The quick way to find schools that offer study abroad, internships, undergraduate research, and more.


If you are looking for colleges that have unique academic programs, visit the Programs to Look For section of our website.

We felt that it was important to look at innovative things that schools do that go well beyond the America's Best Colleges rankings. With the help of education experts, including staff members of the Association of American Colleges and Universities, for the seventh consecutive year we identified eight such types of programs that have been shown to enhance learning experiences. We then 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 nominated the most times as having top programs in these areas:

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 in which 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 in which students typically take two or more linked courses as a group and get to know one another and their professors especially well

Study-abroad 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 that involve volunteering in the community and are a requirement of a student's coursework

Writing in the disciplines means that the college makes the writing process a priority at all levels of instruction and across the curriculum.