First Impressions: Colgate University (NY)
Colgate University was the second school that I visited during my recent trip into Central New York. This was my second trip to Colgate. My first was several years ago when I “dormed” at a summer writer’s workshop. I’ve gathered a few photos of Colgate’s beautiful campus, and invite you to read on. There’s a lot of information to unpack.
Is Colgate University really a liberal arts college?
While Colgate has over 3,200 undergrads, it has only 12 graduate students who are pursuing a Master of Arts in Teaching. Everyone else works towards a bachelor’s degree. However, Colgate also has more majors than smaller schools like Hamilton, which I visited on the same day.. There are 57 majors, some you rarely see at other schools.
For example, Colgate combines environmental science and studies with Biology, Economics, Geography, Geology and health studies. Other unique majors: Astrogeophysics, Educational Studies, Mathematical Economics, Mathematical Systems Biology and Museum Studies. However, there are no undergraduate degrees in business or engineering as you will find at schools such as Bucknell or Lehigh. Colgate runs as many as 22 faculty-led study abroad programs in addition to having over 100 approved programs run by other institutions and organizations. Eighty percent of the student population is engaged in research, whether it be through work with faculty, summer programs or self-designed projects.
Everyone takes a series of five Core Curriculum courses as well as six courses in three Areas of Inquiry: Human Thought and Expression; Social Relations, Institutions, and Agents; and Natural Sciences and Mathematics. These make up about a quarter of the courses required to earn a Colgate degree. The major makes up between a quarter and a third and the rest is devoted to electives. A quarter of each graduating class will have double majors. It’s also possible to do more than one minor. But it’s easier to concentrate in multiple subjects at a school such as Hamilton or Wesleyan that has a more open curriculum.
Like other selective colleges, Colgate has its motivated pre-med, pre-law and pre-Wall Street students. However, Colgate is trying to up its game in the arts and humanities through a Middle Campus Plan for Arts, Creativity, and Innovation.
What would be a similar school?
Aside from academic requirements in religion and philosophy, I thought it was Patriot League rival Holy Cross (MA). Both schools are on a hilltop, emphasize residence life on campus and a rigorous undergraduate education that prepares students well for graduate and professional schools. The brand name is strong among graduate and professional school admissions offices and employers of choice among recent college grads. But there are not many opportunities to do an internship for pay or credit during a school year as you might have at a school that is within an easy commute of a major city.
Few liberal arts schools go D-1 in athletics like Colgate.
The university competes in 25 varsity sports, more than any D-1 school in New York State, except Columbia and Cornell. About a quarter of the students are varsity athletes, a much greater share of an undergraduate student body than you would find at a Power 5 school such as Syracuse or an Ivy. The athletic facilities would be the envy of many schools that compete at a higher profile. The athletic demands on Patriot League athletes are high. But the coaches are also more likely to consider their academic success than coaches in a higher-profile sports conference.
Patriot League rivals in all sports, excluding hockey, include Army (outside of football), Navy (ditto), Fordham, Lehigh, Bucknell, Holy Cross, American and Loyola-Maryland. Bucknell’s undergrad student body is about the same size. Lafayette’s is smaller. Colgate is defending conference champion in Men’s Basketball and won the 2019 titles in Men’s Basketball, Football and Men’s Soccer. Adonal Foyle put Colgate on the map in men’s college basketball and went on to a 13-year career in the NBA.
Colgate might not compete for a national championship in college football. But the Raiders play a schedule that includes games vs. Boston College, Brown, Cornell and Georgetown. Next season the Raiders will travel to Palo Alto to play Stanford. Come to Colgate and you can root against schools that might have denied you admission from high school. Current Green Bay Packers President and CEO, Mark Murphy, is a Colgate alum.
It’s getting tougher to get into Colgate.
The university accepted 27 percent of the applicants for the Class of 2024–and only 17 percent of applicants for the Class of 2025. The applicant pool grew because Colgate remained open for campus tours during the last cycle, became test optional and partnered with QuestBridge to attract applicants from low-income families. Colgate will remain test optional for the upcoming cycle and the one after that.
The university did not report the percentage of accepted students for the Class of 2025 who submitted test scores. However, among those who did, the middle 50 percent scored between 1370 and 1500 on the SAT and between 31 and 34 on the ACT. If you opt to submit test scores, Colgate considers them to be Important, according to the university’s 2020-21 Common Data Set. Submit them if you’re at the midpoint or better. The average GPA for the Class of 2025 was just under a 3.8. However, Colgate expects to see rigor on the transcript.
If you visit Colgate and you fall in love with the campus and community, apply Early Decision. The acceptance rate for those who did was 39 percent. Early Decision applicants made up just over half of the freshman class.
Those who get into Colgate tend to stay. Over ninety-four percent of the freshmen who entered each year from 2013 through 2020 returned for their sophomore year, exceptionally high for a liberal arts college. The average four-year grad rate recently reported to US News was 85 percent. For the class that entered in 2013 it was 88 percent.
If you’re concerned about costs, don’t let them scare you away from Colgate.
Colgate announced the Colgate Commitment, beginning with the Class of 2025. Click that link and you will learn that families earning $150,000 or less will have loans replaced with grants, and graduate with no student loan debt at all. The commitment is new, but Colgate has been more generous at keeping debts down than most selective colleges. Graduates in the Class of 2020 who borrowed owed, on average, just over $22,000. That’s $5,000 less than the maximum they could have borrowed over four years through the Federal Student Loan Program. Nearly 75 percent of the class graduated with no student loan debt at all. It’s quite possible that Colgate could be less expensive than Home State U for many families.
You can go anywhere from here, in school and afterwards.
The career development services are as extensive as you will find at much larger schools. Colgate has over 30,000 alumni registered in LinkedIn.com. Over 9,000 are based in or around New York City alone with significant communities in Boston, Washington DC and San Francisco. I always liked Andy Rooney’s commentary at the end of 60 Minutes. But until now I didn’t know that he went to Colgate.
But what are some other possible weak spots?
If you’ve gotten an impression that I really like what Colgate is doing to improve the quality of education and make it more affordable, you’re right. However, this school is located in a relatively isolated community compared with other schools in the Patriot League as well as the Ivies and near Ivies. The Village of Hamilton has only 4,200 residents, outside of the students, and the university is the major employer. The university’s bookstore, impressive for a small school, is located in a nice downtown. But there’s a limited selection of off-campus dining and entertainment options for college students.The social life is more likely to be campus based, though Colgate has the resources to bring any notable performer or speaker to campus. Greek social life is relatively important, attracting just over a fifth of the men and over a third of the women.. However, if you’re looking to make regular trips to a major city for entertainment or a paid internship during the academic year, Colgate will not be your school.
If your interests lean towards a liberal arts education and a campus-based college life, it’s tough to beat Colgate University for the resources and value. However, this school is going to take off in terms of selectivity, thanks to the Colgate Commitment. I expect the acceptance rate to get closer to single digits for this cycle and the next. This is not the “safe school” that you consider versus the Ivy, ‘Ivy-like’ or NESCAC that you really want. It’s the school that should be your first choice.
Report Card: Colgate University
- Four-Year/Six-Year Graduation Rates: A
- Freshman Retention: A
- Costs: A
- Curriculum: A
- Community: B+
- Comforts: A
- Connections: A
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