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Colleges in The Big Sky State

August 8th, 2012
Montana universities

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Colleges in The Big Sky State

Top-notch skiing, hiking, football games and school spirit, strong academic offerings, less selective admissions requirements, great value. If this list caught your attention then you may want to take a look at Montana universities including University of Montana in Missoula and Montana State University as part of your college search. I just returned from visiting these campuses so here is a brief overview of each:

University of Montana

University of Montana

Missoula, Montana is a classic, small western town. The wide streets boast a range of restaurants, coffee shops (Starbucks didn’t succeed here as the town was loyal to its own home grown venues), funky retail shops and places to listen to music of all kinds. Looking into the horizon, one’s eye is drawn to the “M” etched into the mountain tucked behind campus, a marker for those who might lose their way.  Just over 13,000 undergraduates are enrolled in UM and the campus is compact and easy to navigate. There are a number of new buildings including a new building to house the School of Journalism. The cost of attendance for out of state students is in the $26,000 range (not including books and travel) and merit scholarships are available beyond that, making the school a great value.

On my visit, faculty from Geology and Wildlife Management (a top ranked program) accompanied our group to a visit to Glacier National Park, two hours north of campus. Students at Montana use the park as a laboratory for their work in tracking wolves, grizzlies and a wide range of other applications.

Other notable programs include Sonic Arts (BFA Media/Animation), business, modern dance and pharmacy. The university also offers a two-year college and students who attend are integrated with the residential life and extracurricular activities of the university. Montana boasts that it ranks 5th among public universities in producing Rhodes Scholars.


Montana State University

Bozeman is the home of Montana State University—and what a charming town. If you have visited Boulder, Colorado or Burlington, VT it has a similar feel. There are many shops and restaurants (try Nova for breakfast), and a vibrant arts community. The residential neighborhood surrounding the university has attractive homes, many in the arts and craft style and quite a few on the historic register. I wonder if the attractive housing stock is related to the fact that MSU boasts a well-regarded architecture program.

Other strong academic programs include nursing, which boasts a 100% placement rate, paleontology, snow science, engineering, and film (offering the only degree in natural history filmmaking). Science students do research in Yellowstone National Park which is two hours away. Thermal research being conducted at MSU has strong implications for renewable energy. I sat in on a physics class where the professor gave a dynamic presentation of Newton’s Laws of Motion, complete with his laying a cement block on his chest while a colleague attempted to break it with a large axe.

Montana State


Big Sky Ski resort  (which rivals Vail) is an hour away and students get there through free university sponsored transportation and get great student rates on season passes (Two other mountains are even closer). The MSU Bobcats won the Division I AA Football National Championship in 2010 and 2011 and attendance at games is huge.

MSU has had a number of Fulbright and Goldwater and Rhodes scholars in recent years. They also have strong retention and support programs to ensure that students graduate. Visit

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