U.S. College Facts
U.S. College Facts

70 Interesting U.S. College Facts

Karin Lehnardt
By Karin Lehnardt, Senior Writer
Published March 29, 2017
  • In the United States, there is little difference between the terms “college” and “university.” However, the term “college” in other countries, such as Canada, refers to a junior college or trade college, where as a “university” is larger, more research focused, and usually contains multiple colleges.[12]
  • Typically, the worst paying majors are Social Work, Theology, Elementary Education, Music, Spanish, Horticulture, Education, Fine Arts, Hospitality/Tourism, and Drama.[14]
  • The majors with the best pay include Engineering, Economics, and Physics.[14]
  • Harvard Stadium was the first reinforced concrete structure in the world.[12]
  • The word “alumnus” is Latin meaning “a pupil” and, literally, a “foster son.”[12]
  • The term “college” is from the Latin collegium meaning “community, society, guild” and, literally, “association of collegae”. It was first used to describe an academic institution in the late fourteenth century in relation to Oxford and Cambridge.[12]
  • Interesting Harvard Facts
    Harvard died of tuberculosis on  September 14, 1638
  • Harvard was named after Reverent Mr. John Harvard. The surname Harvard is cognate with Hereward, literally “army guard.”[12]
  • “University” is a shortening of the Latin universitas magistrorum et scholarium or “a community of masters and scholars.”[12]
  • The term bachelor in “bachelor’s degree” most likely is from the Medieval Latin term baccalaureate, which is a play on the Latin words bacca lauri or laurel berries. The word is also a re-Latinization of the French word bachelor, which means a “youthful knight” or a “novice in arms.”[3]
  • Famous college dropouts include Reggie Jackson, Steve Jobs, Ben Affleck, Woody Allen, Hans Christian Anderson, Dan Aykroyd, Kate Beckinsale, James Cameron, and Mark Zuckerberg (founder of Facebook).[8]
  • Before the Civil War, disbelief in the in Bible or profaning the Sabbath were campus crimes at Yale.[12]
  • Harvard’s early published rules announced that the chief aim of the school was to know “God and Jesus Christ, which is eternal life . . . and therefore to lay Christ in the bottom, as the only foundation of all sound knowledge and learning.”[12]
  • Approximately 2.94 million U.S. students graduate from more than 27,000 high schools each year, meaning each college applicant is competing against 27,000 valedictorians, 27,000 salutatorians, 27,000 student government presidents, and 27,000 editors-in-chief.[18]
  • Yale selects a freshman class of 1,300 from nearly 20,000 applications each year.[18]
  • The “best” college for a student is not necessarily the most prestigious but the college that offers a student the most opportunities to develop a student’s interests.[18]
  • If one student has high grades but low test scores and another has low grades but high test cores, the first student is far more likely to get accepted into a better college. Colleges prefer the “bad test-taker” to students who don’t apply themselves.[18]
  • Yale has the second largest academic library in the nation, boasting 9.5 million volumes. Harvard's is the largest, with 13.6 million volumes.[13]
  • Lux et veritas (Light and truth)

    - Yale Univeristy Motto

  • The SAT was developed by Carl Brigham who, in the early twentieth century, felt that American education was declining due to racial mixing. The SAT was administered for the first time to high school students in 1926.[15]
  • If a high school student is passionate about going to a particular school but doesn’t have the grades, scores, or competitive credentials, he or she may try to apply with a major that is less popular or harder to fill.[18]
  • At Lincoln University in Oxford, Pennsylvania, students with a BMI (Body Mass Index) of 30 or higher are required to take a physical education class before they are allowed to graduate.[2]
  • The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights is currently investigating whether colleges are discriminating in favor of boys in order to achieve gender balance. Colleges have found that when a college has 60% girls, high school boys stop applying there.[16]
  • Colleges have rescinded admission offers based on applicants’ “bait and switch,” or when students register for a full load of classes to impress the college and then drop a few after the student receives Early Decision. Early Decision is a binding early admission to a university.[18]
  • Students often ask if it is better to get an A grade in a regular course or a B in an AP course. While an A in an AP course is important, grade average remains more important for college admission than the degree of challenge.[18]
  • The most difficult locations in which to qualify for a National Merit Scholarship are Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and the District of Columbia. The easiest states in which to qualify are Arkansas, West Virginia, Mississippi, and Wyoming.[18]
  • Radcliffe Heermance, director of admissions at Princeton from 1922-1950, developed a new admissions policy that included interviews, two letters of personal recommendation, and a social ranking of applicants in order to limit the admission of Jews.[11]
  • Interesting Rhodes Scholarship Fact
    The prestigious Rhodes Scholarship is named for the British mining magnate and South African politician, Cecil John Rhodes
  • Cecil Rhodes (1853-1902), a British imperialist who established the prestigious Rhodes Scholarships (first awarded in 1904) contended that the British were the “first race in world.”[11]
  • Oberlin College was the first college to grant degrees to women in 1841. It was also the first college to grant a bachelor’s degree to an African-American woman in 1862.[17]
  • There are sixty women colleges in the United States in twenty-four states. The state with the most women’s colleges is Massachusetts, with eight. Pennsylvania comes in second with seven.[17]
  • The first college established for African-American students was the Ashmun Institute on April 29, 1854. It was named after Jehudi Ashmun (1794-1828) an American ,minister who helped establish Liberia. In 1866, Ashmun Institute was renamed Lincoln University.[12]
  • The first intercollegiate football game took place on November 6, 1869. Teams from Princeton and Rutgers met in New Brunswick, New York Each team had 25 players. Rutgers won 6-4.[12]
  • The four remaining all-male, four-year colleges are Wabash College, Hampden-Sydney College, Morehouse College, and St. John’s College.[9]
  • The top three schools with the most males are United States Air Force Academy (82% male), California Maritime Academy (82.5% male), and Berklee College of Music (73% male).[9]
  • Yale was chartered in 1701 and was originally named the Collegiate School at New Haven. It was created by a group of Harvard alumni who were alarmed at their alma mater’s decline in Puritan orthodoxy.[12]
  • Costs associated with higher education constitute 3 percent of the gross national product.[10]
  • Columbia University (1754) was originally named King’s College, and Brown University (1764) was originally named the College of Rhode Island. Rutgers (1764) was called Queen’s College. All had the dual purpose of educating civil leaders and preparing a learned clergy.[12]
  • There are over 4,000 accredited colleges and universities in the U.S. which enroll over 15 million students and grants over two million degrees a year.[10]
  • As late as 1940, fewer than 1 in 20 adults held a B.A. degree. From 1945-2000, the number of B.A degrees awarded annually rose almost eightfold, from 157,349 to approximately 1.2 million.[7]
  • Individuals with bachelor’s degrees earn an average of 60% more than people with only a high school diploma, which adds up to more than $800,000 over a lifetime.[18]
  • Interesting College Graduate Fact
    Individuals with bachelor’s degrees earn an average of 60% more than people with only a high school diploma

  • Harvard is the oldest college in the United States. It is also the first and oldest corporation in the United States.[12]
  • In the seventeenth century, Harvard created the Indian College to educate and Christianize Native Americans. It was disassembled in 1693.[12]
  • A group of Harvard students were expelled in 1920 for homosexual conduct. The expulsion committee’s treatment of the students led to the suicide of two students and permanently ruined the reputation of others.[19]
  • Yale was named after Elihu Yale (1649-1721), a governor of the British East India Company who donated a crate of goods to the fledgling school.[12]
  • The U.S. schools with the highest rates of students who graduate in four years are St. Francis Medical Center College of Nursing in Peoria, IL (100%); Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, CA (94%); Davidson College in Davidson, NC (92%); College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, MA (92%); and Haverford College in Haverford, PA (91%).[4]
  • In 2006, the five colleges with the highest enrollment were University of Phoenix online campus (165,573), Ohio State University main campus (51,818), Miami-Dade (51,329), Arizona State University Tempe Campus (51,234), and University of Florida (50,912).[7]
  • U.S. colleges with the lowest acceptance rates, in order, are Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia, PA (4.0%); Jarvis Christian College in Hawkins, TX (4.5%); Rust College in Holly Springs, MS (7.6%); Juilliard in New York, NY (7.6%); and Harvard University in Cambridge, MA (7.9%).[4]
  • During 2008-2009, colleges were expected to award 731,000 associate’s degrees, 1,603,000 bachelor’s degrees, 649,000 master’s degrees, and 61,7000 doctorate degrees.[7]
  • Eight U.S. colleges make up the “Ivy League”: Brown, Columbia, Cornell, Dartmouth, Harvard, Penn, Princeton, and Yale.[12]
  • Interesting Ivy League School Fact
    Ivy League schools are viewed as some of the most prestigious  schools in the world

  • U.S. colleges with an acceptance rate of 100% include Baker College in Flint, MI; West Virginia University at Parkersburg; Mountain State University in Beckley, WV; and Northwest University in Kirkland, WA.[4]
  • U.S. colleges with the most students in sororities are Clearwater Christian College in Clearwater, FL (100%); University of the South in Sewanee, TN (88%); Washington and Lee University in Lexington, VA (77%); DePauw University in Greencastle, IN (68%); and Wofford College in Spartanburg, SC (57%).[4]
  • U.S. colleges with the most transfer students are University of Phoenix online campus (35,515); Excelsior College in Albany, NY (16,541); Arizona State University in Tempe, AZ (5,446); University of South Florida in Tampa, FL (4,623); and University of Central Florida in Orlando, FL (4,455).[4]
  • Of the 3.2 million youth who graduated from high school from October 2007 to October 2008, 2.2 million (68.6%) were attending college in October 2008. College enrollment rates were 71.5% for young women and 65.9% for young men.[5]
  • U.S. News & World Report recently ranked the top four national universities as being (1) Harvard University, (2) Princeton, (3) Yale, and (4 - tie) California Institute of Technology, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Stanford, and University of Pennsylvania.[4]
  • Several members of the Harvard class of 1767 were sent home to be cured of “The Itch,” the outcome of “associating with, countenancing, and encouraging one or more lewd women.”[4]
  • In hard times, early colleges in the U.S. were forced to accept payments such as cotton, sheep, pewter, and food rather than hard currency. Most U.S. colleges were constantly on the verge of insolvency.[4]
  • Interesting Skull and Bones Fact
    Skull and Bones is the most prestigious of Yale’s senior societies
  • Skull and Bones is the most prestigious of Yale’s senior societies. Its members have included William Howard Taft, William F. Buckley, George H.W. Bush, John Kerry, and George W. Bush.[11]
  • College enrollment varies by race and ethnicity. Nearly 41% of white 18- to 24-year-olds were enrolled in college in 2008, compared to 32% of African-Americans and 26% of Hispanics in the same age group.[6]
  • In the fall of 2008, there were a projected 18.2 million U.S. students enrolled in college, more than any previous year except 2007. Between 2007 and fall 2017, enrollment is expected to increase by 10%.[5]
  • In 2008, the unemployment rate for high school graduates not enrolled in college was 26.7%, compared with 14.9% for graduates enrolled in (either two- or four-year) colleges.[5]
  • Fifty-four percent of full-time students at two- and four-year colleges last year were female.[5]
  • The number one country of origin of foreign college students in the United States is India, followed by China and South Korea.[16]
  • For the seventh year in a row, the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) leads U.S. institutions in international student enrollment, with New York University in New York City coming in second.[16]
  • The oral defense of a dissertation or thesis is a direct descent from the obligatory oration of the colonial college and from the medieval university disputation, or conventus, and even of oral interrogations of the Mesopotamian tablet-house.[12]
  • The term “Ivy League” was officially used in 1954 to describe an athletic conference involving the schools. The term “Ivy” was first used by a sportswriter in 1933. Ivy League schools are also called the “Ancient Eight” or just the “Ivies.”[12]
  • Harvard receives the largest financial endowments of any institution in the world at $26 billion.[11]
  • The first Greek student society, Phi Beta Kappa (“Love of learning is the guide of life”) was founded by John Heath in 1776 at the College of William and Mary. Heath was initially declined admission in Latin-Letter fraternities. The society chose Greek letters because Heath was the best Greek scholar on campus.[17]
  • Interesting Academic Regalia Fact
    An academic "hood" is believed to date back to the Celtic time when Druid priests wore capes and hoods to symbolize their intelligence
  • The graduation cap was initially a “hood” and is believed to date back to the Celtic time when Druid priests wore capes and hoods to symbolize their intelligence. Historically, academic dress for faculty or students was clerical dress.[12]
  • The first national fraternity was Sigma Phi (1827) at Hamilton College in Clinton, NY. It is the second oldest Greek fraternal society after Phi Beta Kappa.[17]
  • The first sorority, Adelphean Society (now Alpha Delta Pi), was created at Wesleyan Female College in Macon, GA, in 1851 as a secret society for women. Phi Mu (the Philomathean Society) followed in 1852. They did not take Greek names, however, until 1904.[17]
  • Kappa Alpha Theta (1870) was the first women’s organization founded with Greek letters and Gamma Phi Beta (1874) was the first organization to use the word “sorority.”[17]
  • In 2009, the Delaware Attorney General’s office charged University of Delaware fraternity Sigma Alpha Mu with hazing after Brett Griffin, 18, died after the fraternity allegedly pressured him into drinking excessive amounts of alcohol. Fraternity brothers did not call for medical assistance for hours.[1]

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