The College of Wooster – First College Profiled in the 4th edition of America’s Best Kept College Secrets

The College of Wooster – First College Profiled in the 4th edition of America’s Best Kept College Secrets

Best Kept College Secrets – 2022

The College of Wooster – Wooster, Ohio

The Motley Fool, a highly regarded financial and investment firm, named The College of Wooster among “The top 5 schools with the smartest professors”. Every small college boasts an estimable faculty, loads of Ph.D.s, accolades and prizes; this powerhouse investment consulting firm (no fools, they!) puts The College of Wooster in the mix with Stanford and the University of Chicago. How has this impressive college remained among the best kept secrets  in college admissions?

The College of Wooster is one of the most attractive of the  “undiscovered” gems. Those in the know have long understood that this small college, set in a small town south of Cleveland and east of Akron, is a rarity. Not only is Wooster one of Loren Pope’s Colleges That Change Lives, a charter member of the Great Lakes College Association, and an active champion of international education, its traditional association with its Presbyterian founders allows it to proudly boast one of the few collegiate bagpipe bands, replete with highland dancers.  Once known as “The Presbyterian Steamrollers,” the unaffiliated Wooster teams are now the “Fighting Scots,” and they fight effectively in the North Coast Athletic Conference.

There is no way to truly communicate the warmth, loyalty, and good-hearted spirit on this campus; Wooster’s students feel at home from the very start and spend their four years making others feel as if they too have a place at Wooster.  

Like Davidson, Macalester, and Centre, Wooster was established by the Presbyterian Church, and like those colleges, that founding impetus had much to do with the direction and purpose of the college from the very start.  In 1870, much had yet to be worked out in the aftermath of the Civil War.  Wooster’s founding president was clear in stating the mission of this college:

“The sameness of our origin as men and women carries with it our original and essential equality. Had our national life been the true expression of our national creed, slavery would have been forever impossible. Caste, in whatever name, strikes at the soul of our humanity and liberty.”

In the same fashion, Wooster was established as a coeducational college from the start, clear in its expectation that it would hold women to the same level of expectation that it did men.

Although the college is no longer a Presbyterian college, one legacy of that affiliation is very much a part of the Wooster experience today – an uncommon commitment to a strong international presence on campus. Wooster reaches out into the world with a number of service and educational programs and has long enrolled a higher proportion of international students than most colleges of its type.

Missionaries left Wooster and traveled the globe, establishing strong ties with institutions and individuals.  The Wooster in India program, for example, was founded in 1930.  At that time, Wooster became connected with a sister school, Ewing College in Allahabad, India.  Today, Wooster enrolls students from more than thirty nations, having developed programs that have welcomed international students as few colleges have done.  Babcock Hall is a residence in which international students live in a cross-cultural living environment with students native to the United States.  Luce Residential Hall offers six separate foreign language living centers in Russian, Chinese, French, German, Spanish, and Classics

In addition, Wooster offers instruction in seven foreign languages and promotes study abroad in sixty countries.  As a side note, those travelers sent artifacts as well as students; the college has owned an Egyptian mummy since 1885 when it was donated by an alumnus who had purchased four in Egypt for the price of eight dollars each. 

In addition to nationally reputed programs in the sciences, especially Chemistry, Wooster is known for its Independent Study Program, through which all students work one-on-one with an advisor in completing an independent project.  This notion of a capstone academic experience has been copied by other colleges, but few have as successfully sustained a college-wide independent study program as Wooster has. Upon the successful completion of the Independent Project, students are awarded the coveted Tootsie Roll – yes, the chocolate candy.  Look for the Tootsie Roll on the college’s website; it stands for a job well done.

Other traditions help Wooster separate itself from the pack of Ohio colleges, none more stirring than the corps of bagpipers who appear at a number of the college’s most significant events.  Pipers lead the marching band onto the football field, and pipers lead the procession at graduation.

Few colleges have a solitary bagpiper; Wooster has a minimum of five who appear in kilts as do the one hundred and seventy members of the Fighting Scot Marching Band.  Pipers are attracted to Wooster, of course, but enticed as well by the Scottish Arts Scholarship that identifies and supports talented musicians.  

These aren’t the only musicians or performers at Wooster.  The Ohio Light Opera Company is the resident professional company of the College of Wooster, for example, and in continuous rehearsal and performance throughout the year.  In addition to the expected performances of Gilbert and Sullivan’s light operas, the company also produces musical theater, such as Camelot or Guys and Dolls.  Wooster has long offered a strong program in Theater and now enrolls students in a major in Theater and Dance. 

Two of the most significant traditions at Wooster involve the archway of Kauke Hall, at the center of the handsome campus.  Freshman march through the archway on their way to their first convocation and are led back through the arch by the aforementioned pipers on graduation day. The entire student body rises to the challenge when snow falls heavily as tradition has it that classes will be canceled if the entire archway can be completely packed with snow.  “Packing the Arch” is one of the moments that creates a bond of friendship in shared labor.

There are fraternities and sororities at Wooster, but they play a less prominent role than at many similar colleges, in part because they are not nationally affiliated.  Most social activity revolves around the residences, and most Wooster students have friendships that extend beyond fraternity or residence halls.  Wooster is simultaneously an active academic community, a workshop in international understanding, an impressive athletic power in the region, and a very comfortable social setting for varieties of students of every type.  Some fraternities and sororities live in sections of dormitories; some students join the College of Wooster Pipe Band, some belong to the Light Opera Company, some begin life work in theater.  This is a healthy and happy campus, filled with motivated and effective students.

One hallmark of school spirit at Wooster is the very high proportion of students who play intercollegiate varsity sports; almost half of the men at Wooster have played at least one sport.  The Fighting Scots excel in a number of sports for men and women, but the tradition of victory in basketball is particularly compelling.  Wooster has shared the North Coast Athletic Conference championship in basketball with only one other college during the course of the last decade.  The Wooster/Wittenberg rivalry in basketball is heated, and the games between these two teams always fill the stands.  These are the only two teams in the NCAC that have won more than fifteen hundred games, and they are the two teams that set the standard for the league.  Baseball, lacrosse, track and field, swimming and diving- all are good and well supported.

The other fifty percent of Wooster’s students jump into club and intramural sports, of which the cricket club, ice hockey club, equestrian club, cheerleaders, dance team, ultimate frisbee club, and WOODS (Wooster’s Outdoors Club) are most active.

Who ends up at Wooster?

The admissions process here is eminently sensitive and humane. Counselors and consultants appreciate the care with which applications are considered and the degree to which the college extends itself to ambitious students whose academic journey is still in process.  


In recent years, Wooster has received approximately 6,611 applications from which approximately 4,000 were accepted in order to enroll a first year class of 600.  The acceptance rate in the past few years has ranged from 59% to 62%.

Scores reported for the middle 50% of enrolled first year students have ranged from 620 to 720 on the Evidence Based subtest of the SAT and from 600 to 710 on the Math subtest.  ACT Composite scores for the same group have ranged from 25-34 English and 24-30 Math..

Approximately 52% of incoming students hail from Ohio, Michigan, and Pennsylvania, with New York, Massachusetts, Maryland, and Illinois providing another 16%.  Wooster’s enrolled student population is approximately 46% male and 54 % female.  Approximately 61% of enrolled students are White/Non-Hispanic.

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