Revisit: Skidmore College (NY)
I last visited Skidmore College more than six years ago. At the time I thought that it was an excellent liberal arts college in a very nice college town. After revisiting campus last week, I still agree. This school has approximately 2,700 undergraduates, but no graduate students.
I was impressed by how the college has managed in-person and hybrid instruction during the pandemic. The numbers of COVID cases are low on campus for positive tests as well as students in quarantine. Skidmore College started classes two weeks earlier than usual. But the school will have remote instruction from Thanksgiving break through final exams. Tourists could not go inside buildings, only tents (see picture above). Classes have been moved into tents as well. I have some photos of the campus on Pinterest to share.
Skidmore College does an excellent job of retaining and graduating its freshmen.
The freshman retention rate has been over 90 percent each year since 2006. At least 80 percent of each class that entered from 2006 through 2015 graduated within four years. Skidmore became test optional in 2017. For those who submitted scores since then, the average SAT was a 1300, the average ACT was a 29. About 30 percent of those who applied from 2017 through 2019 were accepted. Those who have excellent grades and can write well, but do not test well, should not be afraid to apply test optional.
Skidmore has become more selective, in part, because it is cross-shopped against more selective liberal arts colleges. Connecticut College, located near Long Island Sound, is probably the most similar school in terms of history, student body size and academic options. Skidmore also shopped again more specialized schools in the visual and performing arts. Ithaca College (NY), which has more than twice as many undergraduates, has similar opportunities.
Saratoga Springs has been the home to Skidmore College since it was founded as a women’s college in 1903. It’s a community with approximately 30,000 residents–and it does not really try to be a college town.
But the diverse mix of retail, eating and drinking establishments that supports the horse racing and concert season during the summer is quite appealing to the college students who arrive in the fall. You’ll find the same entrepreneurially focused coffee shops, sports bars, dessert shoppes and more that you find in a larger college town such as Burlington (VT). Saratoga Springs is also well connected to Albany and New York City by bus, highways and Amtrak trains. The Adirondack region of New York is also well known for skiing and hiking. Boston and New York are within three hours by car.
After taking my re-visit to Skidmore College, here are my thoughts about its strengths.
Choice of majors and minors
Skidmore College has 45 majors and a nearly equal number of minors. That’s more than you will find at other selective liberal arts colleges. Skidmore offers some majors that you would not expect, including combinations of Business with languages and Political Science. This is also one of the few liberal arts schools that grants a BS as well as a BA. The Dance degree is a BS, not a BA or BFA. It’s relatively easy to double major or carry more than one minor. Business is the most popular major. But the college also appears to be strong in the sciences, environmental studies, and the visual and performing arts.
Skidmore College has an exceptionally large and modern wooded campus, unusual for a selective liberal arts school. The campus itself is only 52 years old, but looks like it could have been built more recently. The college is completing the construction of a new Integrated Sciences building. It will bring all of the science programs under one roof for collaborative learning spaces and laboratories. Over a third of Skidmore College students major or minor in the sciences. The performing arts faculties, which I saw the last time I visited, are among the best that you will find at a school this size.
Skidmore houses nearly 90 percent of its student body on campus. The facades and common areas of the halls are exceptionally well maintained. Jonsson Tower, known as the tallest building in Saratoga Springs, adds a penthouse lounge on its 12th floor. Skidmore has theme communities and also offers Gender-Neutral, Substance-Free and All-Female living options.Upper-class students may live in two, three, four, and five person apartments. While students had the option to study remotely this fall, anyone who wanted to return to campus was offered housing.
Need-based financial aid
Skidmore tries harder that most private liberal arts colleges to meet full need. In 2018-19 the average need-based grant or scholarship covered 83 percent of tuition and fees. The college commits to meeting the full need of its freshmen. However, Skidmore, like any other college, makes its own calculations of costs that don’t appear on your bill as well as need. Direct charges that appear on your bill–tuition and fees, room and board–are well in excess of $70,000.
Access to jobs and internships
In addition to its own career development services, Skidmore is a member of the Liberal Arts Career Network with 38 other schools. These schools share postings and best practices in career development.
Skidmore does not has as long a history in operation as the more selective New England, New York and Pennsylvania liberal arts schools. Only Connecticut College, founded in 1911, is younger. But it has over 7,300 alumni in and around New York City registered in LinkedIn.com and nearly 3,100 in and around Boston. There’s also nearly 800 alumni in and around San Francisco as well as Washington DC.
Skidmore College’s major weakness is limited merit-based aid.
The only posted merit scholarships were in music and the sciences.
Aside from this Skidmore College is not a fit for someone who is looking for Greek life or football. Neither are on campus.
But Skidmore is more sports oriented than I thought during my visit. Women’s Field Hockey is probably the most successful sport. The field hockey Throughbreds have won five Liberty League titles since 2010. They appeared in the Division III Final Four in 2010 and 2013, as well as in the NCAA tournament 13 times. Men’s Golf and Women’s Tennis have also done well within the Liberty League. The community was also quite supportive of its Men’s Basketball team in 2018-19, when it won the Liberty League title. Skidmore also led the conference in home attendance by a considerable margin. They did last season as well, although the team’s record dropped to 7-18. Fans showed up whether the team was winning or losing, and the Liberty League has larger schools that could bring more fans to their venues.
Skidmore College might not be as selective as other liberal arts colleges that get to the top of published rankings. But it has strengths that I’ve come to learn that students and parents like to see in a smaller school.
It has a nice choice of majors, an attractive campus, a college town vibe nearby and access to three metro areas for entertainment. But it’s an expensive ride if you do not qualify for merit scholarships or need-based aid.
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