When students are considering colleges they often look at offerings outside of academics, like clubs and organizations, student government, and volunteer opportunities. For many students, being involved is what college is all about — they want to make a difference in their community and the world.
The Princeton Review recently published “Colleges That Pay You Back: 2016 Edition,” which includes a list of the top schools in America for making an impact. Princeton Review based the ranking on student ratings and responses to survey questions covering community service opportunities at their school, student government, sustainability efforts, and on-campus student engagement. They also took into account PayScale.com’s percentage of alumni from each school that reported having high job meaning.
From getting involved in green initiatives to taking on leadership roles in student organizations to volunteering in their local communities, the students at these 25 colleges are driven to make a difference.
25. Lewis & Clark College
Location: Portland, Oregon
Sustainability is a huge part of campus life at Lewis & Clark. “Many are very concerned about living a healthy and sustainable life style” and are “very active gardeners and composters,” said one student.
On campus, students can join groups like Students Engaged in Eco-Defense, the Sustainability Council, and Student Advocates for Business and Environmental Responsibility.
24. Tufts University
Location: Medford, Massachusetts
Students are politically involved and eco-conscious at Tufts. The school’s student-run environmental group, the Tufts Sustainability Collective, puts on campus-wide events like Earthfest and is organized into several branches that includes Tom Thumb’s Student Garden, Students for a Just and Stable Future, the Sustainable Action Squad, Food for Thought, and Green Team.
23. Lawrence University
Location: Appleton, Wisconsin
Lawrence University believes that community involvement is an integral part of a stellar liberal arts education. Lawrence students are a staple in the surrounding community — more than a thousand volunteered at local elementary schools last year.
The school also offers instruction and opportunities for the green-minded undergraduate —including research-based courses and internships — through its environmental studies major.
22. Stanford University
Location: Stanford, California
Meaningful extracurriculars are just as important to Stanford students as academics. Most undergraduates are “very driven, independently motivated and willing to seek out opportunities,” said one student.
The Woods Institute for the Environment, the university’s sustainability research hub, provides opportunities for students at any stage to create practical, interdisciplinary solutions to environmental challenges.
21. Westminster College
Location: Salt Lake City, Utah
Westminster College students get behind the environmental movement on campus by visiting the Katherine W. Dumke Center for Civic Engagement, which facilitates volunteer opportunities, student-run programs, service learning, and other civic engagement activities for the Westminster community.
In the 2014–2015 academic year, Westminster’s nearly 3,000 students contributed more than 95,000 hours of community service.
20. Emory University
Location: Atlanta, Georgia
It’s all about community at Emory. Students are “very involved,” “driven and motivated,” and committed to “mutual learning,” according to The Princeton Review.
There’s also dozens of student groups focusing on sustainability and green living, and the school holds an annual “Green Networking Night” for alumni and students to meet prospective green employers in fields ranging from politics to education.
19. University of Denver
Location: Denver, Colorado
The University of Denver’s vision is to be “a great private university dedicated to the public good.” DU offers dozens of volunteer and community service opportunities ranging from tutoring to construction.
The school’s Sustainability Council, comprised of both students and university staff, leads efforts to make the college more environmentally friendly. DU also offers a minor in sustainability, with more than 60 students representing 23 majors.
18. Mount Holyoke College
Location: South Hadley, Massachusetts
Volunteerism is an integral part of the culture at Mount Holyoke College, which was recognized last year with a community engagement classification by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.
The women’s college has several programs that incite social change, like the Community-Based Learning Program, where students participate in independent studies, internships, research, and service projects.
17. University of Dayton
Location: Dayton, Ohio
True to the school’s unofficial motto, “Learn. Lead. Conserve,” most University of Dayton students are “very conscious about community service” and eager to get involved.
Students can enroll in the Sustainability, Energy and the Environment minor or participate in several of the school’s organizations focused on environmental development projects on campus, in the local community, and around the world.
16. Wheaton College
Location: Wheaton, Illinois
At Wheaton, students are academically driven, community-oriented, and passionate about social justice and advocacy.
The student body’s Christian faith informs their community service agenda through organizations like the Office of Christian Outreach, which partners with organizations worldwide to help students combine faith, academics, and service.
15. Middlebury College
Location: Middlebury, Vermont
Middlebury makes great efforts to prepare students for careers with a focus on social responsibility. For instance, the Careers in the Common Good program has “dedicated speaker panels, skill building workshops, and featured employer information sessions with [an] emphasis on environmental careers and advice.”
The school’s graduates have started or led nonprofits like Seeds of Peace, Save the Children, 350.org, and the Alliance for Climate Education.
14. Carleton College
Location: Northfield, Minnesota
Students at Carleton are are politically and environmentally conscious. The Center for Community and Civic Engagement offers numerous ways for students to engage in local agriculture, education, energy, health, and sustainability initiatives through projects, fellowships, and volunteer work.
Academics at Carleton are also informed by civic engagement, with a curriculum of community-based learning, community-based research, and service learning.
13. University of Colorado – Boulder
Location: Boulder, Colorado
CU-Boulder is home to the nation’s first collegiate recycling program, first zero-waste athletics program, and first STARS Gold-rated campus, according to the Princeton Review.
Students take on leadership roles in sustainability efforts at the CU Environmental Center, the school’s nationally leading hub for sustainable practices, environmental research, and student and graduate leadership.
12. Pomona College
Location: Claremont, California
Pomona College has plenty of opportunities for students to volunteer and get involved, especially in environmental action organizations including the Environmental Quality Committee, Food Rescue, Green Bikes, and the Organic Farm.
In addition, Pomona pushes its students to be leaders in the community. The school offers a 4/7 Leadership Program, a four-year certificate program based on a social change model, which approaches leadership as purposeful, collaborative, and values-based.
11. Mercer University
Location: Macon, Georgia
Rooted in faith, Mercer is serious about their commitment to serve others. The Macon campus has a slew of student volunteer organizations and is home to MerServe, the student-run service leadership board that’s responsible for planning and implementing service and community engagement projects. Opportunities include Service Saturdays and alternative spring break trips.
10. St. Lawrence University
Location: Canton, New York
Volunteer opportunities abound at St. Lawrence, where all advocacy and service organizations are student led.
St. Lawrence University Public Interest Corps is an organization that connects students and alumni with service internships, jobs, and volunteer opportunities at local nonprofits to hone their leadership skills.
9. Whitman College
Location: Walla Walla, Washington
Whitman students are leaders in green living. Campus involvement opportunities include Campus Climate Challenge, Green Leaders, Organic Garden, Student Agriculture, and a dynamic environmental studies major.
The school’s award-winning outdoor program organizes trips to enhance students’ skills, risk management training, leadership development, and awareness of the environment.
8. Wesleyan University
Location: Middletown, Connecticut
Wesleyan‘s Patricelli Center for Social Entrepreneurship (PCSE) is a unique resource for students and alumni who are interested in creating businesses, programs, or organizations that advance the public good.
7. Brown University
Location: Providence, Rhode Island
Students at Brown say they “feel a sense of responsibility to serve society in meaningful, thoughtful capacities.” To that end, the Swearer Center for Public Service offers a vast array of programs, fellowships, internships, and project opportunities.
Past student initiatives include reducing the supply and demand of bottled water around campus and hosting A Better World by Design, an international conference on sustainable and socially conscious design.
6. Colorado College
Location: Colorado Springs, Colorado
Students at Colorado College are “largely involved with their community, environment, and academics,” according to one student.
The college offers a Community-Engaged Leadership certificate, which is made up of a cohort of 12 students every year who develop their interests in areas related to service, social justice, leadership, and public engagement.
5. Furman University
Location: Greenville, South Carolina
One of Furman‘s largest student organizations is the Heller Service Corps, which encourages an in-depth commitment to the community nd is supported by a $1.5 million endowment. Every year, the organization places more than 1,800 students in agencies serving the community, from building homes to working with people with disabilities.
4. Oberlin College
Location: Oberlin, Ohio
Last Spring, Oberlin held a competition on campus called Ecolympics where dorms competed with each other to save energy over a two-week period. During the competition, Oberlin hosted community events like film screenings, guest speakers, and how-to demonstrations.
3. Clark University
Location: Worcester, Massachusetts
The university also sponsors a Community Engagement & Internship Fair to connect students with local organizations and facilitate volunteer or internship opportunities. The University Park Partnership, an urban redevelopment effort between the campus and Worcester’s Main South neighborhood, is a just one example of how Clark students collaborate with the local community through education, volunteering, and service.
2. Macalester College
Location: St. Paul, Minnesota
Macalester is built upon a commitment to civic leadership and engagement. Students have several opportunities to get involved on campus through the Civic Engagement Center, primarily in community service, social action and advocacy, and political engagement.
As of the 2014-2015 school year, Macalester offered 62 academic community-based learning courses in 20 departments. The class of 2015 had a four-year volunteer participation rate of 96%.
1. The University of North Carolina at Asheville
Location: Asheville, North Carolina
UNC Asheville is a standout school in community engagement, student leadership, and sustainability efforts, priming its graduates for a life of social good.
This spring, the school will host its semi-annual Greenfest, a celebration of planting, harvesting, students, and community that kicks off with a huge farm-to-table dinner on the quad. The festival also includes a career panel featuring alumni who work in various fields of environmental sustainability.