With undergraduate enrollment well under 3,000 the student body at Colgate University is a tight-knit, if not entirely cohesive, community of preppy achievers.
Most students come from affluent backgrounds and it shows in their clean-cut attire and liberal recreational spending habits. Colgate students seem proud of the fact that they can obtain a stellar liberal arts education while partying most nights out of the week. Tradition is important at Colgate, from the significance of the number 13, dating back to Colgate’s origins, to the senior year pre-graduation trip to Hilton Head, South Carolina, where outgoing Raiders spend a week sunning, boozing, and reminiscing about their undergrad careers. On campus, students tend to be involved in many extracurricular activities and sports, with which they must juggle their rigorous class load. Luckily professors at Colgate are reliably helpful and accessible to students who want or need additional help. Politically, students tend to lean right of center, if they have a preference at all. The rural, isolated campus means most activity is contained within the community and everyone knows what’s going on. Even so, students usually mingle with their own social circles.
What students appreciate most about Colgate is its size. With just under 3,000 students it is a small liberal arts school that really feels like a community. “We call it the Colgate bubble. It's the perfect size in the sense that wherever you are you always know someone, yet you never stop meeting new people,” writes a senior economics major. However tight-knit students are many acknowledge a lack of racial and socioeconomic diversity. The typical student is white, preppy, wealthy, and athletic. A vast majority of students also strive to maintain or improve their appearances. Perhaps this is due to the “perceived pressure to be perfect,” remarks a sophomore psychology major. Students at Colgate are diligent in whatever they do, whether it’s their school work, membership in a student organization, playing on a sports team, or having fun.
When it comes to academics, professors at Colgate are accessible and friendly. “Professors definitely know you. I had a professor for an intro sociology class my sophomore year and he still knew my name and how well I'd done my senior year.” says one senior. There are no graduate students at Colgate so the focus is entirely on the undergraduate education. Even though the core liberal arts curriculum is not popular with all students, they credit their dedicated professors for their satisfaction with the distribution requirements for each major.
Teaching often goes beyond the classroom, with professors going the extra mile to get to know their students.“Professors are accessible, many taking students out to class dinners at the Colgate Inn or Merrill House,” writes a sophomore mathematics major. Competition among students certainly exists, especially in classes where there’s a grading curve, however it doesn’t dominate the academic scene. Some students want to learn for learning’s sake but a growing minority is competitive because they want the prestige of a high-paying job. “Getting a job after school is a big reason for coming to Colgate; we have a great alumni network for that, and Colgate is a good name to have on your side if you're looking for a job,” observes a freshman psychology major. The common denominator among all majors, however, is that classes are tough and students must decide for themselves how to strike a balance between school work and their social lives.
“Overall pretty homogeneous. White, upper-class students that come from the New England area.” observes a senior psychology major. Indeed it seems if you aren’t a white polo-and-khaki clad guy or an Uggs and Vera Bradley bag-toting girl, you will stick out. Politically, students say there’s a general apathy and lack of involvement, perhaps an extension of the “bubble” that separates Colgate, both literally and figuratively, from the outside world. However, students are aware that there’s more going on than at their self-contained campus. “I think it's easy to turn a blind eye and say that I haven't experienced or really witnessed any racial, religious, LGBT, or socio-economic prejudices or discrimination, but that doesn't mean it doesn't exist,” says a senior art and art history major.
At night, on the weekends, and especially during the bitter cold months of winter, Colgate students focus on one thing: drinking. With so many good-looking people and alcohol-induced decisions, there is a small to non-existent dating scene at Colgate. “The main thing is for people to go to the Jug in town at night and come back with random hook-ups for the day,” divulges a freshman chemistry major. The Jug is the most-frequented of the local bars. Students head there most nights out or to one of the fraternity houses for a party. The Greek system has a large presence on campus. Students don’t rush until their sophomore year, allowing them time to attend the parties and see which house best suits them, and vice versa. In recent years the administration has worked hard to diminish the fraternity and sorority influence on campus, but Greek life continues to dominate the social scene.
The students take pride in their school’s status. “Having the Dalai Lama as a guest speaker speaks to the prestige of the university,” says one sophomore. Indeed while students scoff at their peers for their lack of school pride at athletic events or how little aware they are of the world around them, there is no shortage of value in Colgate’s academics and their campus community.