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Change the direction of your child's life

Students invited to learn about lesser-known colleges

Colleges That Change Lives, Loren Pope,

One might describe the late Loren Pope, a former education editor at the New York Times, as the grand master student of higher learning.

In addition to his journalistic work, Pope took it upon himself to visit and explore many of the lesser-known colleges in the country. He became a great advocate of students choosing a college based not on prestige or rankings, but on elements tailored to what would benefit their interests, pursuits and goals.

He penned several books on the subject, with the final one being Colleges That Change Lives.

Pope believed that Ivy League schools and large state universities didn't necessarily provide the best education for students.

Smaller can be better
In the book, he describes how undergraduates can go largely ignored at larger universities, as there is little incentive for professors to teach them and that due to large student populations, advisors didn't know that much about individual students. Also included in the book is a brief analysis on why Ivy League schools might not encourage the risk-taking that is integral to developing minds.

READ MORE: 5 questions to ask when choosing a college

"Judging the quality of a college by the grades and scores of the freshmen it admits is like judging the quality of a hospital by the health of the patients it admits. What happens during the stay is what counts," Pope wrote in the book under a section titled "Why You Can (and Should) Ignore the Rankings."

Pope also wrote that the colleges listed in the book far exceeded national averages in the number of their graduates who were accepted to medical, dental, law and graduate schools.

Polly Castor of Fairfield County in Connecticut says that the book changed the direction of her children's lives.

Castor homeschooled her three children and when the time came to start looking at colleges she began to do some research. Very quickly, she came across "Colleges That Change Lives."

"My oldest and my youngest ended up at schools that are in that book," she says. Castor's eldest daughter graduated from St. John's College in Annapolis, which makes an appearance in "Colleges That Change Lives."

Her mother said her daughter is an avid reader. But, being that she was schooled from home, she craved interaction and discussion with her future fellow students - which St. John's more than provided. It's an "all required" program, meaning all students have to take all classes.

Another success story
Her youngest daughter is a sophomore at Juniata College in Pennsylvania that also makes an appearance in the book.

"I took her on a college tour to about 10 places and it was the last place we went. It was totally clarity. She said, 'This place is for me!'" she says of her daughter's reaction during their initial visit.

Her youngest daughter has a great interest in the sciences - but she also has an artistic bent.

At Juniata, she majors in physics and minors in mathematics and ceramics. Over spring break, she stayed to build a kiln at school. She will spend her summer doing a fellowship with the National Radio Telescope.

These are experiences, both on campus and off, that Castor says haven't fully presented themselves for her middle child who is attending a much better known, prestigious university.

"We would have never have known about [Juniata] if it wasn't for this book," she says.