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Hippie Haven Colleges


Every college has some social outliers, but at these unique schools, alternative is mainstream and mainstream is practically nonexistent! These hippie havens promote student-designed majors, growing their own organic food, social responsibility and environmental sustainability. These schools’ laid-back, nature-loving students are all about peace, love and being as counterculture as possible. Here is our list of the top 10 hippiest, most free-spirited colleges in the country!

10. SARAH LAWRENCE COLLEGE (Bronxville, New York)

Considering that Sarah Lawrence’s unofficial school slogan is, “You are different. So are we,” it comes as no surprise that Yoko Ono’s alma mater attracts some quirky individuals (and scored a spot on the Princeton Review’s best colleges for hippies). The school was famously known for its Coming Out Dance, originally created to celebrate sexual diversity, which was canceled in 2005 after students partied a little too hard.

 “Everything about Sarah Lawrence is unusual because students make that their goal every morning when they get out of bed,” says Anna, a student at Sarah Lawrence. “I will always remember the night last April 20th when I walked to main campus to get a late-night snack and saw people running around naked.” Enough said!

9. HAMPSHIRE COLLEGE (Amherst, Massachusetts)

Hampshire College, one of five colleges in the western Massachusetts consortium, is “made up entirely of those strange kids you knew in high school,” according to Rachel, a student at the college.  

The school’s educational philosophy eschews letter grades and majors, giving students the freedom to design their own academic path and participate in plenty of, um, extracurriculars (let’s just say that April 20 is a widely celebrated holiday at Hampshire). In fact, the legendary yearly Hampshire Halloween celebration, which is big enough to close down campus, is fondly known as “Trip or Treat.”

As if Hampshire needed further hippie cred, the school’s radio station even broadcasts out of a yurt in the middle of a wooded area. Groovy, man!


Not only is Berkeley one of the most prestigious public universities in the U.S., but it was also a center of student activism and social change in the 1960s and ‘70s. Today, the school still boasts a liberal, free-spirited population committed to changing the world one protest at a time.

“Protests are a part of daily life, you can buy local … produce from the student-run Berkeley Student Food Collective and many students live in giant co-op houses that feature student artwork painted on every available surface,” says Zoë, a senior at Berkeley. “Whether you're a barefooted hippie or the frattiest frat boy, it's assumed here that you're politically progressive, concerned with ecological sustainability and are interested in the world around you.”

Berkeley’s location in the San Francisco Bay Area gives students the opportunity to soak up an abundance of arts and culture. The peace-loving environment draws old-age and new-age hippies alike (which may have something to do with Berkeley being named one of the top pot-smoking cities in America.

7. OBERLIN COLLEGE (Oberlin, Ohio)

Northern Ohio probably isn’t the first place you’d expect to find a hippie haven, but Oberlin College is as liberal and left-leaning as they come. According to one student, “If you’re a liberal, artsy, indie loner who likes to throw around the phrase ‘heteronormative white privilege,’ then Oberlin might be the place for you.”

Known for its competitive Conservatory of Music, Oberlin boasts challenging academics and a nonconformist student body.  “I've never heard a student talk about learning for the sake of a job later or making money,” says Leigh, a freshman at Oberlin. “Most people want to ‘change the world.’”

On another hippie note, Oberlin is committed to environmental sustainability, whether it’s by offering sustainability-themed student housing or serving locally grown products in the dining halls. The school even has a bike co-op on campus so that students can rent bikes for the semester and learn how to fix their own. Nothing screams hippie like eschewing gas-guzzling cars in lieu of fresh-air transportation!

6. THE EVERGREEN STATE COLLEGE (Olympia, Washington)

Located between two of the most liberal cities in the country, Seattle and Portland, Evergreen State’s geographically diverse campus offers both forests and beaches, making it the ideal school for outdoorsy students. Instead of grades, academic progress is determined by professor evaluations, and students have the option to design their own major, whether it’s botany, theater or outdoor leadership and education.

Evergreen State is also home to the Flaming Eggplant Café, a student-run café that focuses on providing affordable, local organic food options to students, such as tempeh, falafel and magic kombucha.

“If you want to study something specific, I would recommend going to a different sort of college,” says Eli, a student at Evergreen State. “But if you are looking to find yourself without all the hassle of backpacking around Europe, then by all means come to this bizarre campus.”

Who needs a semester abroad to find your inner hippie when you can just spend a semester at Evergreen State?  

5. NORTHLAND COLLEGE (Ashland, Wisconsin)

Northland, called “the environmental liberal arts college,” is the epitome of a small, artsy college – we’re talking just under 600 students total! Needless to say, students here get to know one another pretty well over the four years they spend in Ashland (a city known for its sizeable hippie population). The typical student is described as being a friendly, “environmentalist tree-hugger” with a penchant for activism and outdoor activities. In fact, life at Northland begins with a required Outdoor Orientation trip, in which first-year students participate in five- to 12-day adventures in the Wisconsin wilderness. Trip options include kayaking, sailing, camping, canoeing and astronomy-themed backpacking. Sign us up!

4. WARREN WILSON COLLEGE (Swannanoa, North Carolina)

If there’s one thing students at Warren Wilson care about, it’s sustainability. The school, which was named one of the top 10 greenest colleges in America by Popular Mechanics, supplies students with food from its own organic garden, uses hybrid cars, has a cafeteria compost program and uses sustainable farming practices (the campus is home to 300 acres of farmland). The most popular majors include English/creative writing and, of course, environmental science, for all of the nature lovers who call Warren Wilson home. Students love participating in activities such as yoga, poetry readings and community service.

As if that wasn’t enough, downtown Asheville, known as the hippie capital of the south, is only a 15-minute bus ride from campus, giving students the opportunity to check out the city’s farmer’s markets, live music scene and even a weekly drum circle.

3. LEWIS & CLARK COLLEGE (Portland, Oregon)

Lewis & Clark College is a modern-day hippie’s dream come true; what else would you expect from a college located right outside the city where Portlandia is set and filmed? The college boasts a popular College Outdoors program, which gives adventurous students the opportunity to participate in activities like hiking, backpacking and kayaking in Oregon, California and Washington. Students believe in promoting community-supported agriculture and are described as being “very concerned about living healthy and sustainable lifestyles.”

Off campus, students can explore all that nearby Portland (ranked one of the 17 best U.S. cities for hippies!) has to offer, from vegan cafés to obscure indie-rock concerts.

2. BARD COLLEGE (Annandale-on-Hudson, New York)

This small school in upstate New York, known for its strong liberal arts focus, is a haven for hippies, hipsters and other “eccentric intellectuals.” One student describes the typical Bard coed as a “radical hyper-intellectual philosopher/artist who is too hip for his/her own good, and can frequently be found dragging on cigarettes in ironic T-shirts and skin-tight jeans, discussing Hegel with their equally hip friends.”

Between the school’s location “out in the middle of the woods” and the politically active, socially conscious students, it’s no wonder Bard took the number two spot on The Princeton Review’s list of best colleges for “Birkenstock-Wearing, Tree-Hugging, Clove-Smoking Vegetarians. Mainstream students need not apply!

1. BENNINGTON COLLEGE (Bennington, Vermont)

Ever wished that grades in college could be optional? At Bennington, they actually are. The school’s curriculum allows students to explore their interests without restrictions or annoying core classes (because academic requirements are so not groovy). Named the number-one college on the Princeton Review’s list of best schools for “Birkenstock-Wearing, Tree-Hugging, Clove-Smoking Vegetarians”, Bennington draws an assortment of nature-loving, free-spirited students to its campus in the farmland and woods of southern Vermont.

“Exotic hair colors, face paint, dreadlocks, piercings, homemade clothes or no clothes at all are fairly common sights,” says Bennington student Emma, who also cites didgeridoo-building, poetry readings, tree-climbing and interpretive dance as typical extracurricular activities.

Check out the rest of Her Campus's 2014 College Rankings here!

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