Getting to Know Earlham College (IN)
Earlham College is another one of the Colleges That Change Lives. A liberal arts college with about 1,000 students, it is aligned with Quaker values. Located in Richmond, Indiana, Earlham’s beautiful campus is equidistant to Cincinnati and Indianapolis, both less than 90 minutes away. It is one of only 16 Quaker colleges in the US, the best known being Bryn Mawr, Haverford and Swarthmore. The college has provided a large number of YouTubes for a small school. They’re worth checking out if you’re curious about the benefits of a liberal arts education. I also found a few photos on Pinterest for you.
Susan Hillmann, Director of International and Transfer Admissions, talked with me about Earlham College. Listen in now.
It’s not fair to call Earlham a “regional Midwestern college.”
Ninety percent of the undergraduate student body comes from outside Indiana. About a quarter of the freshmen who entered in 2019 came from outside the US. Freshman enrollments had started to fall off before the pandemic. But those who chose Earlham appeared to be happy with their decision. The college has retained over 90 percent of each freshman class since 2009. It’s quite common for over 70 percent of the freshmen to finish on time. Seventy-five percent of the class that entered in 2016 did.
Here are two reasons for this excellent performance:
- Earlham tries to be affordable. The vast majority of the students who entered in 2019 received need-based scholarships that averaged over $34,000. These covered over 70 percent of tuition and fees. Less than half of the class of 2019 needed to take out loans. Those who borrowed owed, on average, $26,000. They could have borrowed $27,000 through the Federal Student Loan Program. This is one of the rare private colleges that might cost a family less than Home State U. It’s already quite competitive vs> Neighboring State U.
- Almost every teacher teaches full-time. This school has also has a true student-faculty ratio of 10 to 1. Most schools count teaching assistants and adjunct professors among their faculty. Here you will learn from your professors. The average class has 12 students. You will never have a large-lecture class at Earlham.
Earlham is smaller than the honors colleges at many very large flagship state universities. Yet the academic experiences are similar, but available to every Earlham student.
Earlham’s “secret sauce” for academics is called the EPIC Advantage.
This connects academic coursework with Independent study, study abroad, community service and funded internship opportunities through five college centers. The college has even put this experience to song. EPIC, short for Earlham Plan for Integrative Curriculum, helps students to not only decide on their academic program, but also to build a resume through various experiences and co-curricular activities.
In addition to majors and minors, as most colleges offer, Earlham has “applied minors.” The applied minors allow students to combine their major, possibly another minor, with a skill set. There are more general education requirements than I have seen at other liberal arts colleges. However, students can “double dip” to fulfill major and minor requirements, including the EPIC experiences.
Earlham College is not exceptionally selective. Yet it does show up positively in rankings.
The college accepted over 60 percent of the students who applied to join the Class of 2023, the most recent year data was available. More interesting: the college wait listed 166 applicants, and 154 opted to stay on the list. Sixty-one were later offered admission. It’s fair to ask if applicants self-selected the school, and knew what it offered, when you see numbers like those.
Earlham was test optional before the pandemic . Test scores are only ‘Considered’ in the admissions process. The middle 50 percent of the Class of 2023 who submitted scores was 1120 to 1340 on the SAT and 23 to 30 on the ACT. That’s about the same as you might find for the school of arts and sciences at Indiana University and several other flagship state schools.
Nearly everyone lives on campus. Neither fraternities nor sororities are recognized by the college.
This might be a good thing for a school this small in population. It forces students to mingle more among each other for academics and extracurricular activities than they might if students moved into their own fraternity or sorority houses after pledging. But Earlham could be a difficult experience if you can’t make friends early in your education. It’s easy to run out of people to meet, and the college is located in a small community with fewer than 40,000 people. However, Earlham has also been listed among the Best Colleges for Introverts. One other thing to know: given the small size of the school and the number of sports (17), a fair number of students are also athletes. The college intended to re-start football last year, but plans are on hold due in part to the pandemic.
If a movie producer wanted to choose a setting for a small town college-focused love story, she would have a tough time finding a better one than Earlham and Richmond–especially if the story was around music.
Richmond’s claim to fame: it was the “Cradle of Recorded Jazz.” Genett Records, whose memories can be seen downtown, recorded for Louie Armstrong, Jelly Roll Morton and Hoagy Carmicheal, among other jazz legends. Their studios also recorded for ‘The Singing Cowboy’, Gene Autry. While Gennett closed its doors in 2009, there is a Jazz Walk of Fame in front of the former studio. Downtown Richmond has eating and shopping options parents and students would expect to find in a college town, though someone who is used to more choices near home might be disappointed.
While I could take only a virtual look at the college and the town, it felt like a comfortable place to spend four years. However, those who are more accustomed to city life might find less to do than they’d find in some urban college neighborhoods. Some might call this “an isolated place.” But I have been to colleges in Pennsylvania and New England that are further from cities than Earlham
Small schools have small alumni bases
As of today, there were fewer than 8,600 Earlham alumni registered in LinkedIn.com. However, if satisfied alumni are as tight knit as students are in their college life, a community of over 500 Earlham alumni in/around New York City or nearly 500 in/around Washington DC could be a valuable network. It depends on how well the school engages the population. My suggestion: ask about the nearest alumni clubs in your area, meet some younger alumni who care share their experiences before you commit to the school.
Earlham is one of the Colleges That Change Lives for good reasons.
This school could easily be compared vs. Grinnell (IA) and Carleton (MN) for rigor and post-graduate student success, though it is not as selective as either of those schools. It also helps to make the experience diverse as well as affordable for most of the student body. It’s very hard to fault a school like this, especially for academic offerings and rigor. However, this is one school where access to a car is helpful. You might not want to mix city life into a day-to-day educational experience, but you might want to get to Cincinnati or Indianapolis for entertainment.
Liston to my conversation with Susan Hillmann now!
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