Jaclyn Baughman, a junior from Rochester, N.Y., came to Colgate University looking for a solid liberal arts education. She had no idea that geology, a subject previously unknown to her, would become her passion. At the urging of a professor, she spent last year studying the environmental impact of natural gas drilling in the region's rich shale formations.
Colgate's interdisciplinary focus, she says, has allowed her to consider the broader societal and political implications of the science. "It was a really great chance for me to learn how to use a lot of equipment and work on something people actually care about," she says.
[See photos of the New York college road trip.]
The university's 515-acre campus houses most of the school's undergraduates and sits on a hill overlooking the town of Hamilton, which offers two modest though charming areas of restaurants, bars, and shops. The college itself has pleasant dorms (upperclassmen get apartment-style housing) and modern facilities, which are all Wi-Fi enabled.
Students say that having Division I sports teams sets Colgate apart from other liberal arts schools in the region. Men's hockey has a particularly large student following. Both the student union and dining hall resemble luxury ski lodges with their woodsy vibe and giant fireplaces. The just-renovated library also provides welcoming, sunlit study spaces, and the fitness-conscious tend to gravitate to the campus's new workout facility.
[Read more about finding the right school for you.]
In 2007, Colgate opened the Robert H.N. Ho Science Center, which is equipped with a greenhouse, a geology museum, and a visualization lab, where students can watch films on an immense dome screen or create their own productions. These have included a planetarium show and a full-length play in which student actors performed in a digital rendering of Julius Caesar's bedroom.
Half of the school's approximately 3,000 students work with faculty members on research projects. These have ranged from analyzing Russian comic books to assessing the chemical makeup of barnacles. Undergrads can also take part in the school's Upstate Institute, which helps students serve the region by partnering on research projects with area nonprofits, like historical societies or residences for the handicapped.
As with many colleges, Colgate offers semester-long off-campus study options and special course extensions, which generally run between semesters and may include faculty-led trips to places like Bangladesh or Greece.
[Get tips and expert advice on how to pay for college.]
Monica Hernandez, a senior from Santa Rosa, Calif., says the Colgate environment encourages students to take initiative. "You see so many other people getting involved that you're not going to be the one person to just sit back and do nothing," she says. A year at Colgate rings in at $55,570, but students say the intensity of engagement with professors and fellow students makes it worth the money.
More From the New York College Road Trip:
Searching for a college? Get our complete rankings of Best Colleges.