Saint Mary's College, in Notre Dame, Indiana, provides its roughly 1,500 all-female students with a solid liberal arts tradition. It is a Catholic institution, sponsored by the Sisters of the Holy Cross, who founded the college in 1844. The average class size is 22, and the student-faculty ratio is 10:1, giving undergrads a chance to build one-on-one relationships with professors.

Even though it's a small college, students can tap into the resources of a big neighbor. Saint Mary's is across the street from the University of Notre Dame, and full-time students are permitted to take certain classes there, plus take advantage of all the student clubs and organizations. The two schools also offer a five-year engineering dual degree program; students earn a bachelor's degree from Saint Mary's in four years, and a second Bachelor of Science in engineering from Notre Dame after a fifth year of study.

Student athletes — they’re called the Belles of Saint Mary's — participate in eight Division III sports, including basketball, cross-country and soccer. Students are required to live in one of five residence halls on the bucolic, 100-acre campus for at least six semesters. Nearby South Bend offers a mix of fine and performing arts and outdoor activities, including whitewater rafting on the St. Joseph River, which runs through the middle of downtown.