Seeking Cool, Out-of-State Schools: College of Charleston

We had heard about College of Charleston for years, and with the rising number of students in our program seeking cool, out-of-state public schools, we decided to take a look in person. Here’s what we found: College of Charleston merits serious consideration.

College of Charleston is a liberal arts college. As such, it offers a wide array of majors, including business, but all majors require a core set of classes from a variety of disciplines. At the same time, College of Charleston has a few unique majors that some kids might want to consider. The Arts Management program is second-to-none, with students getting behind-the-scenes experience in the arenas of nonprofit and gallery work. Students have a set of well-connected professors who help them score internships at museums, galleries, and festivals, so students graduate with the experience to go out and get real jobs in the industry. Additionally, the Historic Preservation major is for students who want to learn how to maintain historical architecture and art. It’s a wonderful program, especially in Charleston, because of the antebellum and turn-of-the century homes in the Battery. Finally, the Hospitality and Tourism major is excellent, not only because of the tremendous faculty, but also because of Charleston’s great touristic value. This school contrasts with Houston’s Conrad Hilton School of Hotel and Restaurant Management because the exposure is so different; Charleston has far more leisure tourists, while Houston has many corporate travelers, just in town for business. As a result, students who hope to work in the resort industry would likely find greater opportunities here, considering that Kiawah and Hilton Head are so close by.

With respect to social life, there is a small Greek life – about 19%. Students not participating in sororities and fraternities enjoy multiple cultural and social opportunities, more so than at many other public colleges, primarily because of the location in Charleston – this place is just fun, and the city itself just breathes good times.

Housing is interesting because aside from the standard freshman dorms, Charleston also has a collection of historic homes on campus where students live. Theme-based housing, such as gender studies or foreign language or the Medical Manor, is located within these gorgeous old homes, and although they’re probably rickety, they are amazing places for college kids to call home. Many kids also live off-campus, and we visited one of our students at his off-campus home. It was beautiful, and all he had to do to get to school was jump on his bike. The streets are safe and slow, and it would be a crime not to ride here – besides, it makes parking issues evaporate.

For our students who need accommodations for learning differences, Charleston can take care of most issues. They have a program called SNAP (no one can really put a finger on what the acronym stands for), which works with students who need extended time or notetaking or textbook accommodations. Also, in the Center for Student learning, students will find tutoring labs in every area, and if they don’t have a tutor in the subject you need, they will find one! It’s pretty awesome.

Now for the nitty-gritty: getting in. Charleston is getting more competitive, but the test score ranges are still doable. The average ACT score range for out-of-state students is 24-28. The average range for SAT Math and Critical Reading is 1100-1240. However, test scores don’t carry the highest weight here; grades and academic rigor are far more important. That means you should stick with those harder classes and put your nose to the grindstone. The truth is (always) that it’s better to aim for A’s than to strive for the cheerleading squad. And, if your numbers fall on the lower side, you should definitely fill out the optional personal statement. Yes, it is optional – but I make all of my students do it. Why? Well, because it’s a poor choice to forgo any chance you have to show your merit.

The final word:

Charleston is beautiful, low-key, and classy. I’m a clear supporter of the school because I think it’s big enough that you can see a new face every day, but small enough that you can get to know faculty members. I like the internship requirements here because it’s becoming more and more obvious that students without internships have a very hard time finding work in the long run.

However, Charleston doesn’t offer every major, a fact they readily admit. So, if you’re committed to engineering, this isn’t your spot. And, if fashion management or merchandising or design is in the cards for you, then look elsewhere. The reps here will be completely honest if they feel like your needs will be better met at a different college, so call them and ask before you invest time and energy in a visit or application. What you study is far more important than where you study (unless we’re talking Ivies or Stanford), so get your ducks in a row before making a decision.