The College of Charleston is a rarity among colleges, a public mid-sized sized school within a historic, but fast-growing city. It’s also rare in that around half of the undergrads come from out of state. I’ve gathered a few photos on Pinterest for you, so you can get to know the city and this beautiful campus. About two thirds of the undergraduate students body lives on campus. Greek life is relatively popular, attracting a fifth of the men as well as 30 percent of the women.
The College of Charleston has 9,300 undergraduates, about half as many as there are at Clemson, a third as many as there are at the University of South Carolina. This school is in a tough market, competing not only against the flagships and more selective regional public colleges in state and the neighboring states, but also against private schools such as Elon, Furman, High Point and Mercer. Competition is one reason that I believe that undergraduate enrollment has actually trended down. While the college has 9,300 undergrads today, it had about 10,500 six years ago.
The acceptance rate has not been lower than 77 percent since 2015. But this school has also attracted students with an average GPA of 3.9 or better. Admissions are test optional. For those who submit scores, the average SAT has been around 1200, the average ACT Composite score has been a 25. Those numbers are below the average for the flagships in South Carolina as well as the neighboring states. The Honors College has its own application for admission. If you are seeking a more personal academic experience, closer to a smaller liberal arts college, it’s worth taking a shot at the Honors College.
You can also get degrees in Sustainability, Historic Preservation & Community Planning, Public Health, Marine Biology, Meteorology and more. Virtually every major is also available as a minor. Through the selection of academic programs the College of Charleston tries to strike a balance between a liberal arts college and a large state university.
Since 2010 this school has lost about a quarter of the freshmen within the first two years. But just over half of a class graduates on time. The student-faculty ratio is 15 to 1. That means less here than it would at a small liberal arts college, because 40 percent of the faculty are part time. However, there are far fewer graduate students than you might find at a school like Clemson or South Carolina. So, you’re not likely to have a teaching assistant as your primary instructor for introductory classes. Only seven percent of all courses taught at the College of Charleston in 2019-20 had 40 or more students. That’s really small compared to the University of South Carolina (19 percent) and Clemson (28 percent).
The College of Charleston’s requirements are similar to those of a smaller liberal arts college. You must take a First-Year Writing course as well as two semesters each in History, Humanities, Foreign Language (at 200 level or above), Mathematics, Natural Sciences and Social Sciences. I rarely see a History requirement at a college. But I can understand it when it comes to a college that’s in a historic place. But I have run into students who are scared off by the prospect of taking a language–and there’s a selection of 12 languages at this college. The Honors College has its own courses which cut across disciplines.
Charleston has no shortage of dining, entertainment and social opportunities for college students and their families. However, mosquitoes and heavy rainstorms can make life difficult at times and this is not an easy place to have a car. The College of Charleston shares the city with Charleston Southern University, The Citadel, the Medical College of South Carolina and the American College of the Building Arts.
Listening to students on YouTube, I felt that it was possible to strike a nice balance between an on and off-campus social life. To me the College of Charleston felt more like Tulane, a city-based school that’s very community oriented in a historic area, than Virginia Commonwealth University, where students lean more towards off-campus adventuring within a historic downtown, or a school like Syracuse that bonds around sports. The college competes in 20 NCAA D-1 varsity sports and calls itself Cougar Nation. However, the Cougars do not play football. The most successful sports are Co-ed Sailing, Women’s Volleyball and Baseball. The city is also host to minor league baseball (RiverDogs affiliated with the Tampa Bay Rays), hockey (Stingrays affiliated with the Washington Capitals) and women’s roller derby (Lowcountry Highrollers).
The College of Charleston is not likely to undercut Home State U for most students. But it can be a better value than Neighboring State U or many mid-sized private colleges. Next year tuition and fees will be just under $13,000 for residents, and just over $34,000 for non-residents. Room and board costs will be just under $13,000. Non-residents have an easier time qualifying for merit-based scholarships. Those range between $8,000 and $12,000. Need-based awards are available, too. This is one school where merit and need-based awards are “stackable.” A non-resident student can keep both awards as long as they maintain a 3.0 GPA or higher.
Nearly half of the graduates in the Class of 2019 did not need to take out student loans. But those who borrowed owed on average, just over $30,000. That’s $3,000 more than the maximum they could borrow through the Federal Student Loan Program.
Among the more than 60,000 alumni registered in LinkedIn.com, over 22,000 have remained in and around Charleston and more than half are in South Carolina. This school also has more than 3,000 alumni based in/around New York and more than 2,000 each in/around Atlanta, Charlotte and Washington DC. The base in/around New York is not much smaller than Clemson’s (3,400) considering that the College of Charleston has a much smaller student body.
I realize that I could only take a virtual look at the College of Charleston. It appears to be a good value for the money versus a school such as High Point or Elon, which are also mid-sized institutions, especially for those who can get into the Honors College. It might also be a good value for anyone who is also looking at Clemson or the U of South Carolina, but wants an environment where they would not feel as lost on campus. The added bonus: you get to live in a nice place where you might want to stay after graduation.
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