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Attend an environmental college
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.
- Want to study underwater basket weaving in a LEED-certified building? If you aren't entirely interested in an eco-education but crave a progressive green campus scene, check out the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE)'s Campus Sustainability Profiles or other sources. Choices range from Ivy—Harvard and Yale—to a bit more hempy—Evergreen State College and Oberlin College; cosmopolitan—NYU and McGill University—to countrified—Deep Springs College and Middlebury College; all-American—American University and Duke—to international—University of Leeds and the University of New South Wales; Pac-10—Standford and Oregon State—to part-time—Mount Wachusett Community College and Cape Cod Community College.
- 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.
- For more ideas, take a gander at the Eco League and the North American Alliance for Green Education. Both organizations allow colleges dedicated to the "greening of education" to learn from and collaborate with each other and can be stellar resources for prospective students. Also head over to USNews.com, EnvironmentalPrograms.Net, EnviroEducation.com, or the Environment Directory for even more options, including traditional colleges and universities offering various eco-programs.
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.
Although it's the first of its kind in the US and fairly new—established in 2007—ASU's School of Sustainability is already making eco-headlines. The school was highlighted on NBC Nightly News in March, 2008 and boasts a top-notch faculty in areas such as urban ecology, environmental justice, and water conflicts.
College of the Atlantic, the first college to achieve carbon neutrality, is renowned for its marine biology and environmental science programs, as well as its striking locale: Mount Desert Island on, you guessed it, Maine's rugged Atlantic coast. Although the student body is small, it keeps an international flavor, with 20 percent of students coming from outside the US.
Founded in 1834, Green Mountain College is situated in Vermont's lakes region on a 155-acre campus. If the beauty of the area doesn't pleasantly distract on a full-time basis, enroll in one of the school's 20 majors, 24 minors, or two master's programs. Academics are in the liberal arts tradition while special programs include the Farm & Food Project, Service Learning & Sustainability, and the Welsh Heritage Program.
Northland College, "The Environmental Liberal Arts College," is a liberal arts school of about 700 full-time students with an outstanding Environmental Commitment. Established in 1906, Northland offers eco-degrees like geoscience and water science, environmental studies, and forestry.
Prescott College—a small liberal arts school with an eye toward the environment and social justice—offers a resident degree program, an adult degree program, a master of arts program, and a teacher certification program. Prescott students have the opportunity to join the Arizona Wilderness Coalition, a CSA program, and more.
Located in Vermont's Northeast Kingdom, only miles from the Canadian border, Sterling College learns from its local community in the historic Vermont town of Craftsbury Common. Available majors include sustainable agriculture, outdoor education and leadership, circumpolar studies, and more.
According to its website, the College of Environmental Sciences and Forestry is the oldest and most respected school in the US dedicated to the study of the environment, developing renewable technologies, and building a sustainable future.
A program of Lesley University (based in Cambridge, Massachusetts), the Audubon Expedition Institute emphasizes experiential learning in hopes of inspiring "informed and compassionate ecological leadership." Undergrads live out of a bus throughout the semester, spending most of their time in the great outdoors where they experience firsthand a certain bio-region and different textbook cases of environmental issues.
Looking for an intimate, eco-centric learning environment where the rugged wilds of Maine serve as the classroom? Look no further than Unity College. Since 1965, the school has been offering majors and minors ranging from Conservation Law Enforcement to Adventure Therapy to Marine Biology.
You know you're in for something special when a college's motto is "We're not for everyone.... but then, maybe you're not for everyone." With a student body of 800, a world-class faculty, a notable environmental commitment that dates back to 1894, various sustainability initiatives, and studies ranging from Environmental Studies to Archeology to Appalachian Music, WWC is indeed a special place.
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—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. 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.
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.
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.
- New York Times - Outside the Box
- TIME - Getting Schools to Think and Act Green
- Sierra Magazine - Cool Schools: 10 That Get It
- Princeton Review - Colleges with a Conscience
- National Association for College Admission Counseling
- American College & University Presidents Climate Commitment
- Sustainable Endowments Institute - College Sustainability Report Card 2008