Hidden Gems in the US | 2019

Hidden Gems in the US

In our most prestigious Hidden Gems list, we’ve featured the highest ranking gem school in each state—including Washington DC. These schools are truly diamonds in the rough!

At College Raptor, we help students find colleges that fit them financially, socially, and academically–which means looking at more than just big name universities. That’s why we’re drawing attention to smaller colleges across the nation which deserve consideration, but may be initially overlooked because they aren’t necessarily household names.

To qualify as a College Raptor Hidden Gem, a school meet have the following requirements:

  • Receive fewer than 5,000 applications a year
  • Have fewer than 7,000 undergraduate students enrolled

Note: This year Wyoming did not have any schools that met College Raptor’s Hidden Gem specifications, so it has not been included.

2019 Hidden Gems in the US

 

ALABAMA: Samford University

  • Flickr user Andy Montgomery

    Location: Homewood, AL

  • Student Enrollment: 5,471
  • College Type: Private

Samford students come from all over the southern United States, including many from Texas, Florida, Georgia, Alabama, and Tennessee. Samford’s school colors are blue and red, and they compete athletically as the Bulldogs in NCAA Division I sports. They have a student-to-faculty ratio of 12:1.

ALASKA: Alaska Pacific University

  • Wikimedia Commons user Zaereth (Note: Image is of Anchorage, not APU)

    Location: Anchorage, AK

  • Student Enrollment: 541
  • College Type: Private

An extremely small school, Alaska Pacific University recently started a partnership with the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium in order to better focus on the state and needs of Alaskan natives. Home to the Nordic Ski Team, the center was designed to be an Olympic cross-country skiers training facility. Each year, APU regularly sends at least one skier to the Winter Olympics.

ARIZONA: Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University – Prescott

  • Wikimedia Commons user Prestc74

    Location: Prescott, AZ

  • Student Enrollment: 2,439
  • College Type: Private

With many students studying majors such as Aerospace, Space Engineering, Aeronautics, and Mechanical Engineering, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University is known for its unique study and career opportunities. Courses allow the students to study both hands on and through theoretical analysis. Students come from all over the country and world to attend, where the university has a 84% first-year retention rate.

ARKANSAS: Hendrix College

  • Wikimedia Commons user Ronny Willhite

    Location: Conway, AR

  • Student Enrollment: 1,328
  • College Type: Private

Biology, Psychology, Economics, Biochemistry, and Health Services are the five most popular majors on campus. Hendrix sports the colors orange and black, and are known as the Warriors. Their ancient Greek motto (εἰς ἄνδρα τέλειον) translates to “Unto the whole person.” Hendrix has gone through quite a few name changes, including Central Institute and Trinity College.

CALIFORNIA: Harvey Mudd College

  • Flickr user CampusGrotto

    Location: Claremont, CA

  • Student Enrollment: 842
  • College Type: Private

Though small in size, Harvey Mudd has a strong reputation for academic excellence. They have a 92% six-year graduation rate, and a first-year retention rate of 98%. Engineering, Computer Science, and Mathematics are the top three most popular majors on campus. Black and gold are the colors worn by the Stags and Athenas—the men’s and women’s sports teams.

COLORADO: Johnson & Wales University (CO)

  • Wikimedia Commons user Jeffrey Beall

    Location: Denver, CO

  • Student Enrollment: 1,278
  • College Type: Private

Johnson & Wales University offers degree programs in Business, Arts & Sciences, Health & Wellness, Culinary Arts & Food Service Management, and Hospitality Management. This is a non-selective school with an acceptance rate of 84%. Though a griffin is featured on their school seal, the official JWU mascot is a Wildcat.

CONNECTICUT: United States Coast Guard Academy

  • Flickr user Coast Guard News

    Location: New London, CT

  • Student Enrollment: 986
  • College Type: Public

The USCGA offers 8 possible majors to their cadets: Business, Mechanical Engineering, Civil Engineering, Oceanography, Political Science, Operations Research, Naval Architecture / Marine Engineering, and Electrical Engineering. They have an 84% four-year graduation rate and an impressive 97% first-year retention rate.

Washington DC: Gallaudet University

  • Flickr user Mr.TinDC

    Location: Washington, DC

  • Student Enrollment: 1,566
  • College Type: Private

Gallaudet is truly a unique school as it is for the deaf and hard of hearing and all courses are taught in ASL. Originally as a grammar school for deaf, mute, and blind children in 1857, it was seven years before the school was allowed to grant college degrees. Speech Communication and Deaf Studies are the most popular majors.

DELAWARE: Wesley College

  • Flickr user Mike Mahaffie

    Location: Dover, DE

  • Student Enrollment: 1,473
  • College Type: Private

Located in the capital of Delaware, Wesley is the home of the Wolverines and the school colors are blue and white. The vast majority of students at Wesley (a whopping 94%) study at the undergraduate level. Wesley has an acceptance rate of 62%, and admitted over 1,730 of the applications sent in last year.

FLORIDA: New College of Florida

  • Flickr user Larry Miller

    Location: Sarasota, FL

  • Student Enrollment: 875
  • College Type: Public

As its name would imply, the New College of Florida is a relatively young school, founded in 1960. New College is located on the Sarasota Bay. The college offers five total majors—Liberal Arts (general studies), Biological and Physical Sciences, Environmental Studies, Foreign Languages, and International Studies.

GEORGIA: Berry College

  • Location: Mt Berry, GA

  • Student Enrollment: 2,174
  • College Type: Private

Considered to have a stunningly beautiful campus, Berry College has a number of hiking, biking, and horse-riding trails. Animal Science is one of the most popular majors at the school. Berry has just over 100 graduate students studying there, while over 2,000 undergraduates make up the rest of the student body.

HAWAII: Chaminade University of Honolulu

  • Flickr user Markus Jobstl (Note: Image is of Honolulu, not CU)

    Location: Honolulu, HI

  • Student Enrollment: 2,277
  • College Type: Private

Located not far from Waikiki, a majority (63%) of Chaminade students come from Hawaii–others come from Texas, California, and Guam. Chaminade’s colors are blue, silver, and white, and their sports teams are known as the Silverswords. Criminal Justice is the most popular major on campus, followed by Psychology and Registered Nursing.

IDAHO: College of Idaho

  • Flickr user Jimmy Emerson, DVM

    Location: Caldwell, ID

  • Student Enrollment: 971
  • College Type: Private

The oldest private liberal arts college in Idaho, the College of Idaho was founded in 1891 with only 19 students. Today, it boasts nearly 1,000 and has dozens of majors, minors, and programs available. About a third of students are in an athletic program and the school is known for its skiing, basketball, and track. The Outdoor Program is a popular student organization which includes activities like hiking, fly fishing, stargazing, rafting, and more.

ILLINOIS: Wheaton College (IL)

  • Flickr user Teemu008

    Location: Wheaton, IL

  • Student Enrollment: 2,901
  • College Type: Private

A private Christian school, Wheaton College was actually a stop on the Underground Railroad and later saw one of the first African-American college graduates in Illinois. Focusing on academics and faith, almost all students choose to stay at the school after their freshman year (95%). Wheaton College also boasts a high four-year graduation rate (81%).

INDIANA: Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology

  • Wikimedia Commons user Cejeiler

    Location: Terre Haute, IN

  • Student Enrollment: 2,278
  • College Type: Private

Also known as RHIT, the Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology focuses on teaching math, science, and engineering. It has a first-year retention rate of 94%. A majority of students tend to study Mechanical Engineering with Chemical Engineering coming in second. The first Chemical Engineering degree in the US was awarded at RHIT in 1889.

IOWA: Luther College

  • Wikimedia Commons user Bobak Ha’Eri

    Location: Decorah, IA

  • Student Enrollment: 2,169
  • College Type: Private

A fairly selective school with a 65% acceptance rate, Luther College sports the colors white and blue and their athletic teams are known as the Norse. Students have more than 60 majors, minors, and programs to choose from and enjoy lots of exciting traditions, from snowball fights in winter to outdoor movie nights in summer.

KANSAS: Benedictine College

  • Flickr user Tony Unruh

    Location: Atchison, KS

  • Student Enrollment: 2,312
  • College Type: Private

Benedictine College offers students a unique cultural experience by giving them the opportunity to study at their campuses at Florence, Italy and Dublin, Ireland. Students may also choose to study abroad at colleges in 50 other countries. Affiliated with the Roman Catholic Church, this college is located right on the Missouri River.

KENTUCKY: Centre College

  • Flickr user AIKCU

    Location: Danville, KY

  • Student Enrollment: 1,430
  • College Type: Private

Centre College offers all students study abroad, internship, or researching opportunities.They have an 11:1 student-to-faculty ratio and a 4-year graduation rate of 83%. Nearly 50% of all students on campus hail from Kentucky, but others come from all over the country. Economics is the most popular major.

LOUISIANA: Centenary College of Louisiana

  • Wikimedia Commons user Billy Hawthorn

    Location: Shreveport, LA

  • Student Enrollment: 549
  • College Type: Private

Centenary is the oldest chartered liberal arts college west of the Mississippi River, founded in 1825. 89% of the students on campus study at the undergraduate level, while the remaining 11% are graduate students. Centenary’s sports teams are known as the Gentlemen and the Ladies, whose team colors are maroon and white.

MAINE: Maine Maritime Academy

  • Flickr user Kevin Deveroux

    Location: Castine, ME

  • Student Enrollment: 1,045
  • College Type: Public

One of only six maritime colleges in the country, The Main Maritime Academy is also one of two that feature NROTC, the Navy Reserve Officers Training Corps. You do not need congressional recommendation to attend and about 80% of applicants are accepted to the school. Naval Architecture and Marine Science are two popular majors, but you are not required to join the military upon graduation.

MARYLAND: St. Mary’s College of Maryland

  • Flickr user Elvert Barnes

    Location: St Marys City, MD

  • Student Enrollment: 1,629
  • College Type: Public

St. Mary’s College of Maryland is actually located on the same land as Maryland’s first colony. The city and land has seen a number of changes, including the start of religious freedom (1640’s), the first women’s rights petitions (1648), and the founding of the college in 1840. A public liberal arts school, the most common majors at St. Mary’s College of Maryland are Psychology, Economics, and Biology.

MASSACHUSETTS: Franklin W Olin College of Engineering

  • Flickr user Sean Munson

    Location: Needham, MA

  • Student Enrollment: 378
  • College Type: Private

This college is truly unique. Known for its relatively young status (founded in 1997) and incredibly small student body, Olin has high standards for its applicants–a score of 32–35 on the ACT or a 1480–1570 on the SAT is the average. Olin has three majors available to study: Engineering, Electrical Engineering, and Mechanical Engineering.

MICHIGAN: Kalamazoo College

  • Wikimedia Commons user Gotanero

    Location: Kalamazoo, MI

  • Student Enrollment: 1,443
  • College Type: Private

A smaller school, Kalamazoo College has a high first-year retention rate of 88%. Kalamazoo features the K plan, where they focus on experiential education, study abroad opportunities, and community involvement. Students must submit a work intensive project or demonstrate a skill, such as proficiency in another language, in order to graduate.

MINNESOTA: Gustavus Adolphus College

  • Wikimedia Commons user Jlencion

    Location: St Peter, MN

  • Student Enrollment: 2,250
  • College Type: Private

Founded by Swedish Americans in 1862, and affiliated with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Gustavus Adolphus College retains both, its Swedish and Lutheran heritage. Black and gold are the school colors, and the mascot is Gus the Lion. Incoming freshmen score an average of 24–30 on the ACT and 1180–1400 on the SAT.

MISSISSIPPI: Millsaps College

  • Flickr user RebelNation1947

    Location: Jackson, MS

  • Student Enrollment: 866
  • College Type: Private

“In pursuit of excellence” (Ad Excellentiam) is the motto of Millsaps. Purple and white are the school colors, and the sports teams are known as the Majors (or Lady Majors in the case of the female athletes). This college has a 9:1 student-to-faculty ratio. Business is the most popular major on campus.

MISSOURI: Rockhurst University

  • Wikimedia Commons user Jzsj

    Location: Kansas City, MO

  • Student Enrollment: 2,854
  • College Type: Private

“Sapientia Aedificavit Sibi Domum” translates to “Wisdom has found herself a home” and serves as Rockhurst’s official school motto. Registered Nursing, Business, Biology, Psychology, and Kinesiology are the most popular majors on campus. They participate in NCAA Division II sports as the Hawks.

MONTANA: Carroll College

  • Flickr user Cromley

    Location: Helena, MT

  • Student Enrollment: 1,308
  • College Type: Private

“Not For School, But For Life” is the motto of Carroll College. A private liberal arts school, the college is well known for its Pre-Med and Nursing majors. Although many students study Nursing and Health Services, Biology is also a common choice. The school’s Neuman Observatory is the oldest observatory in the state.

NEBRASKA: Bryan College of Health Sciences

  • Wikimedia Commons user Hanyou23 (Note: Image is of Bryan Medical Center)

    Location: Lincoln, NE

  • Student Enrollment: 703
  • College Type: Private

This college offers a grand total of 5 specialized majors—Registered Nursing, Cardiovascular Technology, Diagnostic Medical Sonography, Pre-Med, and Health Sciences/Services. Students are predominately female, with 91% of the undergraduate class and 75.5% of the graduate class being women.

NEVADA: Sierra Nevada College

  • Flickr user Ken Lund

    Location: Incline Village, NV

  • Student Enrollment: 1,057
  • College Type: Private

Royal blue and white are the official school colors of Sierra Nevada. Their college mascot is a bald eagle named Eli. It’s located not far from Crystal Bay on Lake Tahoe. Finance is the most popular major on campus, followed by International Business. There are a total of 109 athletes at Sierra Nevada, participating in golf, skiing, golf, soccer, and track.

NEW HAMPSHIRE: Saint Anselm College

  • Wikimedia Commons user Ericci8996

    Location: Manchester, NH

  • Student Enrollment: 1,930
  • College Type: Private

Saint Anselm College has had a lot of influence in politics since the 1950’s. Many politicians including John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon have delivered speeches at the college. With an absolutely beautiful campus (partly thanks to its greening movement), the school also has a first-year retention rate of 85% and an acceptance rate around 70%.

NEW JERSEY: Drew University

  • Wikimedia Commons user Jim.henderson

    Location: Madison, NJ

  • Student Enrollment: 2,129
  • College Type: Private

Known as the “University of the Forest”, Drew University is located in a serene wooded campus that is over 180 acres. About an hour away from the city, the school offers a unique mix of relaxing and urban experiences. It’s a liberal arts school and the top majors are currently Psychology, English, and Business.

NEW MEXICO: St. John’s College (NM)

  • Flickr user Josh Parrish

    Location: Santa Fe, NM

  • Student Enrollment: 400
  • College Type: Private

St. John’s school motto is “Facio liberos ex liberis libris libraque” or “I make free adults from children by means of books and a balance” a noble phrase for a liberal arts college. The average incoming freshman scores between a 24 and 30 on the ACT, or between 1180 and 1400 on the SAT.

NEW YORK: Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art

  • Flickr user Dan DeLuca

    Location: New York, NY

  • Student Enrollment: 964
  • College Type: Private

With its small student body and prestigious art program, it’s no surprise that Cooper Union’s acceptance rate is quite selective–13%. The most popular majors are Fine / Studio Arts, Mechanical Engineering, Electrical Engineering, and Architecture. For every 9 students, there’s 1 faculty member.

NORTH CAROLINA: University of North Carolina School of the Arts

  • Wikimedia Commons user William Davis

    Location: Winston-Salem, NC

  • Student Enrollment: 1,040
  • College Type: Public

This arts university consists of five schools: Dance, Design & Production, Drama, Filmmaking, and Music. 80% of the students on campus are undergraduates, but interestingly in addition to also having graduate students, UNCSA also teaches high school students. The university has an acceptance rate of 33%.

NORTH DAKOTA: University of Mary

  • Wikimedia Commons user Jerald F Anderson

    Location: Bismarck, ND

  • Student Enrollment: 3,260
  • College Type: Private

A Christian, Catholic, Benedictine school, the University of Mary welcomes all students regardless of faith or background. Nearly 76% of applications submitted to UM will be accepted. There is a 15:1 student-to-faculty ratio on campus. Their sports teams are known as the Marauders.

OHIO: Cleveland Institute of Music

  • Wikimedia Commons user Daderot

    Location: Cleveland, OH

  • Student Enrollment: 431
  • College Type: Private

The Cleveland Institute of Music is one of only 7 independent conservatories of music in America, and one of only 3 devoted exclusively to classical music performance. Students get plenty of opportunities to perform at venues throughout the greater Cleveland area. Regular visits by world-renowned artists and conductors are highlights of the academic calendar.   

OKLAHOMA: Oklahoma City University

  • Flickr user Matthew Rutledge

    Location: Oklahoma City, OK

  • Student Enrollment: 2,968
  • College Type: Private

Starsky the Ram is the mascot of OCU, where the school colors are blue and white. Known as the Stars, OCU athletes compete in NAIA Division I sports, including rowing, soccer, wrestling, and more. Oklahoma City University offers over 70 undergraduate majors, the most popular of which is Registered Nursing.

OREGON: Willamette University

  • Flickr user Max Rae

    Location: Salem, WA

  • Student Enrollment: 2,556
  • College Type: Private

The Willamette Bearcats sport cardinal and old gold for their school colors, and are cheered on by their mascot Blitz. Willamette participates in 20 varsity sports, including baseball, basketball, and lacrosse among others. Biology is the most popular major on campus, followed by Economics and Political Science.

PENNSYLVANIA: Haverford College

  • Flickr user Roger W

    Location: Haverford, PA

  • Student Enrollment: 1,268
  • College Type: Private

“Non doctior, sed meliore doctrina imbutus” is the official school motto of Haverford, meaning “Not more learned, but steeped in a higher learning.” The average ACT score of incoming freshmen is between 30 and 34; for the SAT between 1410 and 1540. Haverford has a six-year graduation rate of 90%.

RHODE ISLAND: Rhode Island School of Design

  • Wikimedia Commons user DanielPenfield

    Location: Providence, RI

  • Student Enrollment: 2,477
  • College Type: Private

The Rhode Island School of Design’s campus is right next to Brown University, who they share resources and courses with. To apply, students must complete the “hometest” which requires you to create two responses with any medium you can think of to any of the prompts the school provides. The Rhode Island School of Design is looking for experimentation, especially in the portfolio, and only 32% of 3,420 applicants were accepted last year.

SOUTH CAROLINA: Wofford College

  • Flickr user Lorianne DiSabato

    Location: Spartanburg, SC

  • Student Enrollment: 1,683
  • College Type: Private

69% of students who apply to Wofford College are accepted into the school. They have a 77% four-year graduation rate that jumps up to 81% in six years. Wofford’s school colors are old gold and black, and they compete athletically as the Terriers in NCAA Division I sports, including football, soccer, tennis, basketball, and more.

SOUTH DAKOTA: Augustana University

  • Wikimedia Commons user David Huebner

    Location: Sioux Falls, SD

  • Student Enrollment: 1,937
  • College Type: Private

Augustana University is a liberal arts college affiliated with the Evangelical Lutheran Church. The school offers over 100 major, minor, and pre-professional programs with extensive study abroad, undergrad research, and internship opportunities. The top 5 most popular majors are Biology, Psychology, Elementary Education, Nursing, and Business Administration. This is a fairly selective school with a 68% acceptance rate.

TENNESSEE: Rhodes College

  • Flickr user David Siu

    Location: Memphis, TN

  • Student Enrollment: 2,029
  • College Type: Private

There is no application fee at Rhodes, and students score an average ACT score ranging from 27–32 or an SAT score ranging from 1280-1460. Students from 48 states and 44 countries study on a small, cozy campus with a student-to-faculty ratio of 10:1. The school’s motto is “Truth, Loyalty, Service.”

TEXAS: Southwestern University

  • Flickr user Matthew Rutledge

    Location: Georgetown, TX

  • Student Enrollment: 1,489
  • College Type: Private

Southwestern University is a liberal arts college affiliated with the United Methodist Church. Students choose from 40 Bachelor’s degree programs in the arts, sciences, music, and fine arts, in addition to interdisciplinary and pre-professional programs. This is a highly selective school with an acceptance rate of 43%. The school mascot is the Pirate.

UTAH: Neumont College of Computer Science

  • Wikimedia Commons user Rob Duane

    Location: Salt Lake City, UT

  • Student Enrollment: 442
  • College Type: Private

The school offers 3-year degrees in Computer Science, Web Design and Development, Information Systems, Software & Game Development, and Technology Management. This is a somewhat selective school with an acceptance rate of 84%. It is one of the younger schools in the country, founded in 2003.

VERMONT: Saint Michael’s College

  • Wikimedia Commons user Jordan Wyatt

    Location: Colchester, VT

  • Student Enrollment: 2,226
  • College Type: Private

Unlike many other colleges, Saint Michael’s College offers students guaranteed housing for all four years of their education. While students are not required to live on campus, the housing is there if they need it. The school is somewhat selective, with 85% of applicants accepted, and just under 90% of freshman decide to stay at the college after they complete their first year.

VIRGINIA: Virginia Military Institute

  • Flickr user J. Stephen Conn

    Location: Lexington, VA

  • Student Enrollment: 1,713
  • College Type: Public

The Virginia Military Institute (VMI) is the oldest state-sponsored military institute in the United States. Located not far from Washington and Lee University, VMI sports the colors red, white, and yellow. They have a 53% acceptance rate and student-to-faculty ratio of 11:1. Nearly 59% of the students at VMI come from Virginia.

WASHINGTON: Whitman College

  • Flickr user Chuck Taylor

    Location: Walla Walla, WA

  • Student Enrollment: 1,493
  • College Type: Private

“Per ardua surgo”is the motto of this college, translating to mean “Through adversities I rise.” Whitman accepts just over half of all the applications they receive. On average, incoming freshmen score between 26 and 31 on the ACT, or between 1240 and 1430 on the SAT. Whitman has a cozy 8:1 student-to-faculty ratio.

WEST VIRGINIA: Wheeling Jesuit University

  • Flickr user Joanne C Sullivan

    Location: Wheeling, WV

  • Student Enrollment: 1,289
  • College Type: Private

“Luceat Lux Vestra” is Wheeling Jesuit University’s motto, which is Latin for “Let your light shine.” The school focuses on “life, leadership, and service” as well as the community. About 50% of applications are accepted with many students going on to major in Business or Nursing. Leadership, Psychology, Athletic Training, and Criminal Justice are other popular courses of study.

WISCONSIN: Lawrence University

  • Flickr user Roman Boed

    Location: Appleton, WI

  • Student Enrollment: 1,582
  • College Type: Private

A liberal arts college and conservatory of music, Lawrence University offers students an engaged learning experience that helps students hone their ability to communicate effectively, work collaboratively, resolve problems, and thrive in a rapidly-changing world. Lawrence has an 8:1 student-to-faculty ratio. The school is focused exclusively to undergraduate education.  

About our methodology

Colleges are ranked based on a combination of factors, including graduation rates, campus diversity, endowment per student, and other data as reported via the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) for the most recently-available enrollment year. Some colleges may have been excluded from rankings based on certain criteria, including specialization and classification. Learn about our full methodology.

Interested in any of these schools? Check out College Raptor’s free match tool to see if they’re a good fit for you!

College Raptor Staff

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Subscribe!