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Seeking a higher education? Want to focus on the environment, the whole environment, and nothing but the environment? Interested in a degree in natural resources management, environmental leadership, sustainability, or another area of academia where hitting the field (literally) is just as common as hitting the books? Just a hunch, but attending an environmental college might be in your future.

How to choose an environmental college

  • Sneak a green peak. Like you would at any college, arrange for a look-see at an eco-college that strikes your fancy. Grill students and faculty, sit in on classes, and soak in the green vibe. If you find the academics to your liking, why not mingle with the student body and test out the accommodations? If you're feeling only half-hearted about a school, don't bother driving five hours or flying across the country for a visit. Save those carbon emissions for a future spring break and take advantage of a school's virtual tour or other online resources geared toward prospective students.
  • The dreaded paperwork. The application process for most eco-colleges is pretty standard: a completed application, a personal essay, recommendations, high school transcripts, and standardized test scores. Often, in-person interviews are required as part of the admissions process. There are also opportunities for transfer and international students to apply. Check out Accepted.com, CollegeView, and College Confidential for tips and tidbits on the often daunting application process. And it goes without saying, if you have any prior eco-experience or passions, such as volunteer work or even organizing a neighborhood composting effort, highlight it!
  • Green grants. Seeking a scholarship, award, grant, fellowship, or the like? Head to EnviroEducation.com for guidance. Not only will an eco-scholarship win you a little extra green toward school, it may also give you the upper hand when you enter the environmental job market.
  • Staying local? When applying to potential schools, you may be tempted to fly from the nest to a far-flung locale (hello, EARTH University). While environmental colleges exist across the globe, consider how you can make a difference by attending a regional or state school with eco-leanings. If you hail from Iowa and are interested in marine biology, it may make sense to pursue an education at a coastal college. However, Iowans interested in sustainable agriculture should look into regional schools where a degree might impact your home turf. If seeking eco-exoticism on a more temporary basis, look into green study abroad programs. Living Routes and the School for Field Studies are just a couple of choices. Many environmental colleges have external programs that allow for travel while earning course credit.

Find it! Environmental colleges

Get the eco-enrollment ball rolling by perusing the sampling of green colleges listed below. You'll find each has a unique approach to learning, often with an emphasis on community building and experiential education.

Attending an environmental college helps you go green because...

  • It increases your knowledge of environmental issues, problems, and solutions. This sets you up for making green change both personally and professionally.
  • It can transform your passion for conservation, science, gardening, nature, and more into a marketable degree in the growing green job world.
  • Most colleges with eco-focused academics also make sustainable strides in various institutional operations from waste management to building to energy use.

Choosing a college is arguably the first concrete step one can take in building a committed, informed future. For those who know what they want and follow through with it—around one-quarter of Americans over the age of 25 possess a bachelors degree[1]—attending an environmental college is often on the college admissions wish list. And prospective students worried that attendance at a green college may result in four years of strictly environmental curriculum needn't fret. Most environmental colleges—there are about a dozen, many associated with two consortiums, the Eco League and the Northern American Alliance for Green Education—offer a broad liberal arts learning experience. For example, students at the College of the Atlantic all receive the same major—human ecology—but works like The Great Gatsby and the writings of Karl Marx are integrated into the curriculum.[2] In addition, students concerned that their tuition will go toward a lot of desk-sitting will be relieved that eco-colleges tend to lean toward experiential learning and time spent in the great outdoors.[2]

For prospective students seeking a more traditional collegiate experience, many large colleges and universities both public and private offer notable environmental programs. The University of Washington, a school with numerous environmental programs, is in the process of creating a distinct Environmental College within the university.[3]

As of 2005, there were 4,140 public and private, two-year and four-year—colleges and universities in the United States. Total enrollment was 17,487,475.[4]

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