This branding agency ranks the 33 best college mottos

The agency gathered votes from 250 branding, marketing, and ad agency professionals who were asked to pick their 10 favorites out of 400 nominations.

Think a branding agency can rank the 100 best college mottos? So do we.

Or at least, verbal brand agency Tagline Guru believes they can in their newly released Top 100 U.S. College & University Mottos.

The agency gathered votes from 250 branding, marketing and ad agency professionals who were asked to pick their 10 favorites out of 400 nominations based on whether the motto “embodied” the school, told its story in a compelling way, was original and “inspired” the reader. Only one motto—whether unofficial or official—was chosen from each participating four-year accredited, not-for-profit, private and public U.S. institution.

Oberlin College ranked first with its decades-old slogan, “Think one person can change the world? So do we.” Tagline Guru praised its timeless call to action toward self-determination and to be a contributing force to society.

“We hope this survey will encourage colleges and universities to reexamine their branding initiatives and opportunities, breathe life into their ancient mottos, or craft a persuasive and nuanced tagline that will gain traction beyond the hallowed halls of their institution,” said Eric Swartz, president of Tagline Guru, according to a press release.


More from UB: Can these colleges, accreditors breathe new life into a bachelor’s degree?


Of the 1,500 colleges and universities originally researched by the brand agency, ten common words stuck out from their mottos.

– Excel/Excellence – Learn/Learning
– Experience – Light
– Freedom – Truth
– Future – Wisdom/Wise
– Know/Knowledge – World

The best college mottos (top third)

  1. “Think one person can change the world? So do we.”
    • Oberlin College (Ohio)
  2. “A voice crying out in the wilderness.”
    • Dartmouth College (N.H.)
        • What the experts say: Drawn from The Book of Isaiah, the slogan has taken a more secular tone that implies the search for oneself. It also provides a sense of place considering the Ivy League school is located in rural New Hampshire.
  3. “Be ashamed to die until you have won some victory for humanity.”
    • Antioch College (Ohio)
        • What the experts say: The motto embodies the school’s spirit; Antioch has been associated with many social causes throughout its history. For example, it was the first college to become co-ed and offer the same educational opportunities to women and the first to appoint a woman to its board of trustees.
  4. “Splendor without end.”
    • Boise State University (Idaho)
        • What the experts say: It appears on the university seal in Latin (Splendor sine occasu) featuring Boise’s natural environment.
  5. “Be opened.”
    • Gallaudet University (D.C.)
        • What the experts say: Adapted from the Gospel of Mark in which Jesus Christ is quoted to say, “Be Thou opened,” when healing a deaf man, the motto has been adapted for Gallaudet, which is the first school for advanced education of the deaf and hard of hearing.
  6. “North of ordinary.”
    • University of Maine at Presque Isle (Maine)
  7. “We’re not for everyone… but then, maybe you’re not everyone.”
    • Warren Wilson College (N.C.)
  8. “Duty, Honor, Country.”
    • United States Military Academy (N.Y.)
  9. “The character of success.”
    • Bryant University (R.I.)
  10. “The wind of freedom blows.”
    • Stanford University (Calif.)
  11. “To know is not enough.”
    • Hampshire College (Mass.)
  12. “Let it all hang out.”
    • The Evergreen State College (Wash.)
  13. “Thinking at the edge.”
    • University of California at Santa Cruz (Calif.)
  14. “As an eagle towards the sky.”
    • Bowdoin College (Maine)
  15. “That our daughters may be as corner stones, polished after the similitude of a palace.”
    • Mount Holyoke College (Mass.)
  16. “Naturally inspiring.”
    • University of Alaska Fairbanks (Ark.)
  17. “Minds move mountains.”
    • University of Oregon
  18. “Creative thought matters.”
    • Skidmore College (N.Y.)
  19. “Investing in lifetimes.”
    • Radford University (Va.)
  20. “To the stars through difficulties.”
    • Campbell University (N.C.)
  21. “No one like you. No place like this.”
    • University of North Florida
  22. “Truth, even unto its innermost parts.”
    • Brandeis University (Mass.)
  23. “Wisdom has built herself a home.”
    • Rockhurst University (Mo.)
  24. “Knowledge to go places.”
    • Colorado State University (Colo.)
  25. “Rock solid education.”
    • Slippery Rock University of Pennsylvania
  26. “Let us dare.”
    • Champlain College (Vt.)
  27. “Great stories begin here.”
    • Adams State College (Colo.)
  28. “From confidence, courage.”
    • Dillard University (La.)
  29. “Start with a dream. Finish with a future.”
    • Central Connecticut State University (Conn.)
  30. “Above all nations is humanity.”
    • University of Hawaii
  31. “Why not change the world?”
    • Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (N.Y.)
  32. “Learning lives forever.”
    • Southern Utah University (Utah)
  33. “Greatness within our grasp.”
    • University of Vermont
Alcino Donadel
Alcino Donadel
Alcino Donadel is a UB staff writer and first-generation journalism graduate from the University of Florida. His beats have ranged from Gainesville's city development, music scene and regional little league sports divisions. He has triple citizenship from the U.S., Ecuador and Brazil.

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