Warren Wilson is a small, unique school on the outskirts of Asheville, in Appalachia’s Blue Ridge Mountains. A curriculum called "the Triad" requires students to, in addition to completing their requisite classes, work an on-campus job and do at least 100 community-service hours before they can graduate.
One of the college’s most popular majors is “Outdoor Leadership,” the idea of which is “to prepare graduates who will have the academic background, skills, and experience necessary to analyze, plan, implement, administer, and supervise outdoor-adventure education programs.” Classes include psychology, ornithology, astronomy, and top-rope site management, during which students learn belaying, rappelling, and how to rescue a partner.
WWC also offers a solid English program, plus an MFA for writers, which is what drew James Franco, star of 127 Hours, to spend time here studying poetry.
The club-sports program isn’t very extensive but it does includes ultimate frisbee, rowing, archery, and fencing. Mountain biking is a varsity team; last year, its members won a silver medal in Division II of the collegiate national championships.
In terms of recreation programs, there’s caving, rafting, canoeing, kayaking, orienteering, skiing, snowboarding, and winter camping—and some of those will even move you toward graduation. An eight-day Wilderness First Responder class, for example, culminates in certification and earns you one academic credit.
Gear rentals are often free and wilderness outings are affordable—though there’s much to get into right around the school: a river runs through its center, there’s a working farm on site, hundreds of acres of forest, and a network of hiking trails that lace through campus.
When you graduate, you can stay involved by beautifying the campus; alums have built a rock wall, a campus path, and more. Alumni also travel places together, like Costa Rica to help develop sustainable-agriculture practices there.
CONTACT: (828) 298-3325, warren-wilson.edu
STUDENT BODY: 924 undergraduates, 68 graduates
TUITION: $26,674, room and board $8,212