A guide to what college rankings don't tell you.

Hidden Gems

Hidden Gems are exceptional programs around the country that deserve the attention of students who want to get an outstanding education at a reasonable price. Many are honors programs or fellowship programs. These programs take a variety of different approaches: some join great books programs to students' programs of study, others focus on teaching American government and history, and some concentrate on the philosophy and theology that helped define Western civilization. They all share a dedication to fostering a community of engaged students and a proven record of supporting wide-ranging inquiry on questions of perennial human concern.

Ashland University

Ashland, OH

Ashbrook Scholar Program

The Ashbrook Center says, "The Ashbrook Scholar Program is a rigorous and top-rated academic program for a select group of undergraduate students majoring or minoring in Political Science or History at Ashland University. Ashbrook Scholars study with some of the finest faculty in the nation and undertake a program of courses and activities that challenge their mettle and bring out the best qualities of their character. It is a rigorous program for serious, public-spirited students with a passion for civic leadership. Ashbrook Scholars experience a learning environment far removed from a standard college education. They study the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, as well as everything from Homer and Aristotle to the Federalist Papers and the speeches and deeds of America’s greatest statesmen, and develop a deep understanding of America’s founding principles."


Azusa Pacific University

Azusa, CA

The Honors College at Azusa Pacific University

The APU Honors College says, "The purpose of the Honors College is to liberally educate the next generation of intellectually-gifted Christian leaders. The curriculum starts with the premise that good leadership requires the cultivation of moral and intellectual virtue—the habits of the heart and of the mind that enable one to determine what ought to be done and how best to do it. Students learn from authors such as Aristotle, St. Augustine, Shakespeare, and C.S. Lewis."


Belmont Abbey College

Belmont, NC

The Honors College at Belmont Abbey College

The Belmont Abbey Honors College says, "The Honors College at Belmont Abbey invites students to explore the Great Books in Western History, Science, Literature, Philosophy, and Theology which have profoundly affected contemporary life. Students experience playful camaraderie and high friendship in an atmosphere conducive to piety and principled living, grow in awareness of the foundational impacts of Classical, Christian, and Modern thought, and enter into the far-reaching disputes and controversies among some of history’s greatest minds."


Biola University

La Mirada, CA

Torrey Honors Institute

The Torrey Honors Institute says, "We have the opportunity to step into a great conversation that stretches from the writers of the Old Testament and the ancient philosophers to the thinkers and authors of the modern day. We read and discuss enduring works such as Dante's Divine Comedy, Milton's Paradise Lost, Tocqueville's Democracy in America, and Darwin's On the Origins of Species. These works push us to think harder, grow in humility, deepen our faith and practice love."


Carroll College

Helena, MT

The Honors Scholars Program

The Honors Scholars Program says, "Over the course of five semesters, students will study the great works of Western civilization, from Homer to Freud. By reading and discussing the most illuminating, provocative, and imaginative Western texts of the last three millennia, like Homer’s Odyssey, Dante’s Inferno, Galileo’s Starry Messenger, and Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, our students explore the claims and limits of knowledge, what duties humans have to their communities, and what most truly constitutes a human education."


George Fox University

Newburg, OR

William Penn Honors Program

The William Penn Honors Program says, "The William Penn Honors Program provides an excellent Great Books education that forms students to be Christian thinkers who will go forth into the world and strengthen the church in the 21st century. Students read the most influential works that have shaped – and continue to shape – human history and thought. Honors professors guide conversations in small Socratic seminars, as students consider the enduring imprint of human experience within the great works, ancient to modern."


Kentucky State University

Frankfort, KY

Whitney Young College Honors Program

The Whitney Young College Honors Program says, "The Honors Program develops intellectual skills that will help students deal with fundamental questions of human existence and make them better able to guide their own lives. The Honors Program also encourages the pursuit of knowledge for its own sake, since that provides one of life’s purest pleasures. Students discuss the Great Books in Western and Eastern civilization, and learn to reason well and communicate effectively, to understand rather than accept assertions blindly, to listen carefully and respond appropriately to others, to use evidence, and to discuss controversial subjects courteously and with insight."


Mercer University

Macon, GA

Great Books Program

The Great Books Program at Mercer University says, "Mercer faculty members who teach in the Great Books Program believe that students must sufficiently engage and confront the Western tradition before they can begin imaginatively to grasp other cultural traditions or before they can critically appropriate contemporary culture and its formative texts. The Great Books Program consists of eight courses and serves as one of two general education “tracks” in the College of Liberal Arts."


Morehead State University

Morehead, KY

George M. Luckey, Jr. Academic Honors Program

The George M. Luckey, Jr. Academic Honors Program says, "The George M. Luckey, Jr. Academic Honors Program is an enriched, challenging scholastic program. Its mission is to provide exceptional students with opportunities to accelerate and broaden their personal development so that they will be prepared to achieve success and make valuable contributions as citizens in the world of the twenty-first century. Students in the program will take specially-designed options for some of their general education requirements, will participate in service, undergraduate research, and international experiences and will have the opportunity to reflect on their experiences in the program in a substantial exit essay."


William Jewell College

Liberty, MO

Oxbridge Honors Program

The Oxbridge Honors Program says, "Students will spend their junior year studying in Oxford at the finest educational institutions in the world while taking part in university life and English and European culture. All six Oxbridge majors provide rigorous training in sophisticated interpretation, analytical thinking, critical evaluation, and strong writing and oral presentation. The Ivy League-status program combines the best of British higher education—intense and deep study, with great independence—with the American—broad background and close mentorship."