Lees-McRae College - Colleges of Distinction - Colleges of Distinction
Lees-McRae College
Lees-McRae College students are inspired to achieve their greatest potential through a diverse community...

Lees-McRae College

Banner Elk, North Carolina

Lees-McRae College, founded in 1900, is a private, four-year institution that provides a well-rounded experiential education within the Blue Ridge Mountains of western North Carolina.


Offering a diverse array of undergraduate degrees on the all-residential campus, as well as five programs online and at an extended-campus site at Surry Community College, Lees-McRae College fosters personal growth and exploration while providing a platform for environmental and community stewardship.


As part of its core mission, Lees-McRae develops strong candidates for marketplace demands through creative, collaborative, and critical thinking with a focus on experiential learning.



Student Profile

Fall 2016 Enrollment
991 undergraduate students
99% of undergrad students are full time
34% male — 66% female
38% of students are from out of state

Faculty Profile

2016-2017 Academic Year
53 full-time faculty
86 part-time faculty
12 to 1 student/faculty ratio

Residence Life

Fall 2016
96% of first year students live on campus
58% of all students live on campus

School Location

At 3,720 feet, Lees-McRae College in Banner Elk, North Carolina, has the highest elevation of any college or university east of the Mississippi River. The college is 75 miles north of Asheville and 200 miles west of Raleigh in rural Avery County. Lees-McRae College is nestled between the Beech and Sugar mountains on 460+ lush and biologically diverse acres. Centered on the Elk River system, the historical campus and surrounding community boast numerous outdoor recreation endeavors such as mountain biking, rock climbing, fly-fishing, and hiking.

High-Impact Practices

Read more about the importance of High-Impact Practices

First-Year Seminars and Experiences X
Common Intellectual Experiences  
Learning Communities  
Writing-Intensive Courses X
Collaborative Assignments and Projects  
Undergraduate Research X
Diversity/Global Learning  
Service Learning, Community-Based Learning  
Internships/Coops/Practicums X
Capstone Courses and Projects/Senior Experience X

Retention Fall 2016

58.1% of students began in Fall 2015 and returned in Fall 2016 (full time, first time freshmen)


38% of students graduated in 6 years


Nonresident aliens 2%
Hispanic/Latino 4%
Black or African American 6%
White 72%
American Indian or Alaska Native 1%
Asian 1%
Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander 0%
Two or more races 1%
Race and/or ethnicity unknown 12%


Bobcat Athletics are home to 19 men’s and women’s National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division II varsity sports as well as the men’s and women’s Division I cycling team. The Lees-McRae athletics program is a member of the Conference Carolinas athletic conference.

Men’s varsity athletics include: basketball, cross country, cycling, lacrosse, soccer, swimming and diving, tennis, track and field, and volleyball.

Women’s varsity sports include: basketball, cross country, cycling, lacrosse, soccer, swimming and diving, softball, tennis, track and field, and volleyball. Intramural and club sports are available for several teams including ski and snowboarding, eSports, cheerleading, and clogging.  

The school mascot is Wily the bobcat, and the school colors are green and gold.   


Affiliated with the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), Lees-McRae is a co-educational private college accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges to award baccalaureate degrees.       

Academic Programs

May School of Nursing and Health Sciences:
The May School of Nursing and Health Sciences prepares individuals for a lifetime of service within various healthcare professions. Students complete rigorous coursework while logging clinical hours in the building’s state-of-the-art facilities.

The May School of Nursing and Health Sciences offers the following undergraduate programs: Pre-licensure Nursing, Emergency Medical Services, and Management. 

School of Arts, Humanities and Education:
Programs in the School of Arts, Humanities, and Education emphasize the importance of individual thought within a global scale, especially as it applies throughout history leading to current day.

The School of Arts, Humanities, and Education offers the following undergraduate programs: Communication Arts & Design, Education (minor only), Elementary Education, English, History, Musical Theatre, Performing Arts Studies, Religious Studies, Special Education, Technical Theatre (minor only), and Theatre Arts Education.

School of Business and Management:
The School of Business and Management strengthens students for their futures by blending various interests, all while developing key business professional skills.

The School of Business and Management offers the following undergraduate programs: Athletic Coaching (minor only), Business Administration, Cycling Studies (minor only), Marketing (minor only), Sport Management, and Outdoor Recreation Management.

School of Natural and Behavioral Sciences:
Programs in the School of Natural and Behavioral Sciences deepen student appreciation of the natural world and its effects on the human condition. Students study and practice biological techniques, theories, and principles. With this, students emerge prepared for graduate or professional schools and careers.

The School of Natural and Behavioral Sciences offers the following undergraduate programs: Biology, Criminal Justice, Mathematics (minor only), Pre-veterinary Medicine, Psychology, Wildlife Biology, Wildlife Rehabilitation (minor).       

More Distinctions

  • The May School of Nursing and Health Sciences was ranked as the #2 up and coming nursing school in the south by Best Master of Science in Nursing Degrees.

  • Online Human Services degree named one of the top 25 human services program for 2017 by Affordablecolleges.com.

  • Named a top U.S. College for Mountain Bikers by Singletrack.com in 2017.

  • Among “Best Online Schools: North Carolina” by the Community for Accredited Online School in 2017.

  • Named a Silver Bicycle Friendly University by the League of American Bicyclists in 2016.

  • Named one of North Carolina’s Safest Colleges by Backgroundchecks.org in 2016.

  • Online programs named best in North Carolina by Affordable Colleges Online for the years 2016 through 2017.

  • Among “Best Regional Colleges in the South” by U.S. News & World Report in 2016.

  • Named a “Best Online College” by OnlineColleges.net in 2016.

  • Ranked as a Top 10 Pet-Friendly Campus by LendEDU.com in 2015.

  • Named a top pet-friendly campus by College Raptor in 2015.

Common Intellectual Experiences

All Lees-McRae students complete several general education and core curriculum courses designed to develop a cutting-edge mindset in critical, creative, and collaborative inquiry. Lees-McRae students think differently, see the world differently, and see themselves differently. As students progress through the core curriculum, they create a foundation on which to build their specific field of study. This foundation is what prepares Lees-McRae students for a lifetime of learning and success.

Each student who passes through Lees-McRae College is required to participate in four Core Liberal Arts courses designed to hone and further develop the skills needed to successfully complete an undergraduate degree.

  • CLA 199: First-Year Seminar – Self and the Environment: The first-year seminar challenges students to explore the role of the individual in their environment, including a college campus.
  • CLA 299: Sophomore Seminar – Career and Life Planning: The second-year seminar introduces students to principles and strategies necessary to navigate life after school. Topics of discussion include goal-setting, decision-making, resume writing, interview skills, internships, graduate school preparation, professional wellness, and finance management.
  • CLA 399: Junior Seminar – Global Citizenship and Ethics: The junior seminar challenges students to explore diversity and cultural issues within global themes and various contexts.
  • CLA 499: Senior Research Seminar: Within each student’s specific major, students develop and prepare a senior capstone project including a written thesis, oral presentation and, in many cases, a community service element.

Collaborative Assignments and Projects

Lees-McRae students work together to achieve larger goals. At the May Wildlife Rehabilitation Center, students work alongside expert faculty to nurture and rehabilitate injured wildlife. Wildlife rehabilitation students take part in a Summer Clinical, an intensive experience that sees students manage care around the clock.

Students from the May School of Nursing and Health Sciences participate in team-diagnostic practices as well as in events such as mock disaster simulations designed to teach students essential career skills in near-real-life scenarios.

In the School of Business and Management, a select group of Lees-McRae students conduct research and analyze survey results from the annual Woolly Worm Festival in downtown Banner Elk, North Carolina.

Undergraduate Research

In addition to research completed for each senior’s required capstone project, many students are invited to participate in individual research by Lees-McRae faculty. Many of those research projects are presented at conferences and events across the U.S.

Students within the Wildlife Biology program carry out research at the Elk Valley Preserve and Field Station. The college’s property provides students with the opportunity to conduct real-world research in a natural environment. While there, students complete long-term research and gather data on various mammals, salamanders, snakes, and various fish.

Diversity/Global Learning

From Wildlife Rehabilitation to Nursing, students can travel the world helping those in need all while exercising their acquired skills. Recently, a group of Wildlife Rehabilitation students traveled to New Zealand to learn about indigenous wildlife and volunteer in a rehabilitation center. Similarly, nursing students traveled to Haiti to serve in one of several area hospitals.


Campus Ministries  
Choral groups X
Concert band  
Dance X
Drama/theater X
International Student Organization  
Jazz band  
Literary magazine  
Marching band  
Model UN  
Music ensembles X
Musical theater X
Pep band  
Radio station  
Student government X
Student newspaper  
Student-run film society  
Symphony orchestra  
Television station  

As of recent, Lees-McRae College has grown in more ways than one. In 2015, the May School of Nursing and Health Sciences building was completed and, since then, has expanded and deepened its fleet of high-tech patient simulators, equipment, and tools. Both nursing and emergency medical services and management students practice essential skills on cutting-edge technology, which is equipped with video cameras and microphones to allow for later review and learning.

First-Year Seminars and Experiences

Throughout the course of a Lees-McRae student’s career, students have the opportunity to partake in a skills-building seminar each year. Each seminar course is designed to supplement each individual student’s field of study.

Writing-Intensive Courses

Lees-McRae College students complete at least 15 hours of writing-intensive coursework prior to graduation. Writing is a learning mechanism as well as a form of communication, and those students who engage in a variety of writing tasks throughout their college career are more successful in integrating their skills into both personal and professional settings.

At Lees-McRae College, students are equipped with the tools necessary to excel both within the classroom and in their post-graduation endeavors. Housed within the Burton Center for Student Success, services such as the Tutoring Center, Ratchford Writing Center, and Academic Advising have been designed to give each student the opportunity to become the best possible version of themselves.


Arts/fine arts X
Computer literacy  
English (including composition) X
Foreign languages  
History X
Humanities X
Mathematics X
Sciences (biological or physical) X
Social science X


Size 2-9 10-19 20-29 30-39 40-49 50-99 100+ Total
Number of Classes 127 160 64 9 1 0 0 361

A Lees-McRae College education is hallmarked by the foundational belief that learning happens both in and outside of the classroom. During the school year, students across programs participate in experiential opportunities to deepen and hone their unique and individual skill sets. From working backstage in Hayes Auditorium to the mock crime scene event put on by the Criminal Justice program, students are encouraged to practice and apply their skills.

Mountain Day of Service

During the academic year, students participate in two community-centered events celebrating the mountains of North Carolina. At the start of the fall semester, students partake in Mountain Day—a time set aside for all members of the Lees-McRae College community to celebrate the surrounding environment.  

During the spring semester, students, faculty, and staff volunteer their time and efforts during Mountain Day of Service. Both on and off campus, participants in the Mountain Day of Service work to improve and beautify the place in which they live, work, and play. In years’ past, students, faculty, and staff have worked to clear trash from nearby streams, clean cages at the Avery County Humane Society, as well as plant flowers and trees throughout campus.

Service and Social Justice

Over the course of April, students across campus participate in events for Sexual Assault Awareness Month, working in coordination with the Lees-McRae Campus Life; Delta Zeta Nu, a community service-based sorority; and OASIS, a local nonprofit that serves survivors of sexual and domestic violence. Students also participate in such projects as the Clothesline Project, including Tea Week, a week-long event filled with presentations, films, and games in order to learn about a variety of topics related to sex, sexuality, and gender.


Coed dorms X
Men’s dorms X
Women’s dorms X
Apartments for married students  
Apartments for single students X
Special housing for disabled students  
Special housing for international students  
Fraternity/sorority housing  
Cooperative housing  
Theme housing  
Wellness housing  
Other housing options X


Other: Houses

Career Preparation

Within Career Services at Lees-McRae College, students can begin exploring the possible career paths that fit their individual values, skills, and passions. At the Career Center, students can explore majors and programs, develop strong resumes and cover letters, participate in practice interviews, search for job openings, and explore the graduate and professional school application process.

Students are also invited to participate in a formal dinner to practice important business-meeting etiquette. Other annual events include a Job Fair as well as the Career and Leadership Connections event, at which students participate in mock interviews and attend speaker sessions.

Student Success Statistics

84% of main-campus students find placement in major related careers or graduate school within six months of graduation. Additionally 91% of extended-campus and online students find placement in major-related careers or graduate school within six months of graduation.



1,531 Total Applicants 
965 Total Admissions
 187 Total Freshmen Enrollment

63.03% of applicants admitted

Admissions Deadlines for 2017-18 Admission

Rolling admission? Yes

Admissions Factors

Very Important
Academic GPA

Rigor of secondary school record
Class rank
Standardized test scores
Application Essay
Extracurricular activities
Character/personal qualities
Level of applicant’s interest


  25th Percentile 75th Percentile
SAT Critical Reading 440 580
SAT Math 450 560
SAT Writing    
SAT Essay    
ACT Composite 18 23
ACT Math 17 23
ACT English 16 23
ACT Writing    


Lees-McRae College approaches admissions holistically, taking into consideration many factors when reviewing applicants. Students are required to submit official transcripts and engage with admissions specialists throughout the admissions process. ACT/SAT scores are not required for students who feel that these exams do not adequately represent their academic abilities. Personal interviews are recommended and can be conducted in person, by phone, or via Skype.

Application Deadlines
Lees-McRae College offers three options for submitting an application—early decision, early action, and regular decision.

  • Early Decision: To be considered for Early Decision, one’s application and accompanying documents are due by November 1. An admissions decision notification will then be sent by November 15. Students must apply for Early Decision in order to be considered for pet-friendly housing.
  • Early Action: To be considered for Early Action, one’s application and accompanying documents are due by December 1. An admissions decision notification will then be sent by December 15.
  • Regular Decision (non-binding): Student who aren’t interested in receiving an early notification may submit their application and accompanying documents by April 10. An admissions decision notification will be sent by May 1—National College Decision Day.


Admission Requirements

Steps for High School Seniors  
Lees-McRae College accepts AP, IB test, and coursework from dual-enrollment or early-college programs.

To be considered for freshman admission:

  • Submit a completed application (see deadlines)
  • Submit an official high school transcript
  • Submit official SAT or ACT scores (optional, click here to learn more about Lees-McRae’s test-optional admissions policy)


Steps for Transfer Students
Students who have attended a regionally accredited institution and who have satisfied the Comprehensive Articulation Agreement are considered as having met the College’s general-education core requirements.

To be considered for transfer admission:

  • Submit a completed application (see deadlines)
  • Submit an official high school transcript or recognized equivalent showing proof of graduation
  • Submit official transcripts from all colleges attended





Tuition $24,878
Fees $1,320
Total $26,198
Room and Board (on campus) $10,758
Estimated Total On Campus $36,956


Average Financial Aid Packages 2016-2017 ESTIMATED

$23,931 First year students
$9,137 All undergrads

Financial Aid Breakdown 2016-2017 ESTIMATED

69.9%  on average, the percentage of need that was met
1% of financial need students that had need fully met

$9,137 Average need-based scholarship or grant award
$5,492 Average need-based loan