Colleges That Change Lives

40 Schools That Will Change the Way You Think About Colleges

The Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington is one of those colleges

Colleges That Change Lives Book Cover

In 1996, acclaimed education writer and former New York Times education editor Loren Pope released the first edition of his book Colleges That Change Lives to share his insights and observations with students, families and college counselors. The book was revised and updated for its second edition in 2006. The Evergreen State College was featured in both editions.

In the book, Pope notes that for students beginning their college search, it is significantly more valuable to consider a college's core characteristics, rather than to rely on rankings in the popular press. These characteristics are at the heart of a college's ability to enrich and empower students, year after year, generation after generation. He wanted to select colleges that stand up to such criteria.


He ultimately selected colleges where:

  • learning is collaborative, not competitive
  • there is a discussion of values in the classrooms and elsewhere on campus
  • there is a sense of community and connection that goes well beyond four years of attendance
  • students are there to learn, not to just get a degree
  • students want to tell the story about how the college has changed them
  • admission is holistic and the focus campus-wide is on the transformation between orientation and graduation.

In the original book, The Evergreen State College was the only public institution included. In the 2006 edition, Evergreen was one of only two public institutions and one of only three West Coast institutions included.

According to Pope, 80 years of official records testify that these colleges consistently outperform their very selective peers in producing the nation's scientists, scholars, and achievers. He asserts that they have long been proving that they are unparalleled in changing lives.

Pope notes that these schools share two essential elements: "a familial sense of communal enterprise that gets students heavily involved in cooperative rather than competitive learning, and a faculty of scholars devoted to helping young people develop their powers, mentors who often become their valued friends."