Colleges That Change Lives: Opens New Doors for SMC

naBeing included in the 2013-2014 edition of Colleges That Change Lives and being part of a nonprofit organization of the same name has already heightened the impact of Saint Mary’s student recruitment efforts, according to Dean of Admissions Michael McKeon.

First published in 1996, Colleges That Change Lives: 40 Schools That Will Change the Way You Think About Colleges has become the go-to guide for students, parents and guidance counselors searching for liberal arts colleges that offer transformational educational experiences and have inclusive admissions standards.

Originally written by the late New York Times Education Editor Lauren Pope, the current edition was revised by journalist Hilary Masell Oswald. She visited 50 colleges to determine which would remain in the book and new ones to be added.

While many things impressed her about Saint Mary’s, it was her Seminar experience that proved the deciding factor. “The class of freshman was reading the Confessions of St. Augustine, and they were so gentle with each other, so civil, so honest and so earnest in their pursuit of huge ideas,” she said. “That 45 minutes sitting there listening to the tenor of their conversation made me realize that Saint Mary’s is a very special place, because that’s not how teenagers talk to each other.”

For Saint Mary’s, the book was just the beginning and became the entrée to membership in Colleges That Change Lives, a nonprofit formed eight years ago to promote the schools in the book. Together they host recruiting events around the world, and McKeon is already seeing the difference that participation makes.

“As a result of the book, being on the website and the outreach we’re doing with them, we’re seeing an increase in students from outside of our usual geographical range visiting campus,” he said. McKeon added that the number of entering students achieving honors status rose to 25 percent of the first-year class, while 37 percent were first generation college goers.

Beyond that, Saint Mary’s has distinguished itself, even among the Colleges that Change Lives.

“We’re an outlier,“ said McKeon. “We’re the only Catholic college ever to be in the book, the only one in California and the only NCAA Division 1 school. It’s wonderful to be an outlier.”