Colby College

To access Colby College, students fly into Portland, Maine and drive an hour and a half up the coast of Maine.  It’s a peaceful drive up I 295, assuming it’s not snowing, but it’s isolated.  The city of Waterville, Maine, and I use the term loosely, has a population of 15,722 people.  It has lovely homes and neighborhoods, but not a whole lot going on.  Wal- Mart, Home Depot, Staples and Ruby Tuesday make up the Elm Street Plaza.

Colby College has 1815 undergraduate students and no graduate students. The rural isolation of Waterville creates an especially intimate and tight knit community. Colby is a beautiful, cohesive campus comprised mainly of giant brick buildings with cream trim.  It’s hilly and bucolic and covers a nice expanse of land.  The chapel is particularly notable, at the top of a sloping lawn, looking very historical.  Colby is a wonderful place for students who are seeking the small New England liberal arts experience in a beautiful and isolated setting.  It’s not for the wimpy—the winters are brutal and long.  Many students enjoy the outdoor adventures easily accessible in Maine.  For students who are certain this environment appeals to them, Colby is an amazing place to spend 4 years.

Colby College is the first college I’ve come across that has a parents’ section on their website.  There are many resources for parents, including ideas on how to be involved and how to support their students. There are online portals for administration of students’ accounts, calendars of parent events and other helpful information.

Colby is committed to a broad liberal arts education and to making sure that its students are well-rounded and knowledgeable.  There are 54 majors and 31 minors offered. Colby is proud of 4 programs of distinction—as it refers to them on its website.  Jan-Plan is the shortened January term where students can study on or off campus for credit, take non-credit courses to round out their educations in courses like Emergency Medical Technician, participate in internships, or get involved in research.  Green Colby, Civic Engagement, and Internationalism are other programs of distinction according to Colby.

Colby prides itself on a strong international program. Many students study abroad wither through one of Colby’s 4 programs or with an affiliated program.

The Colby Plan outlines a core requirement that consists of very loose and basic distributional requirements.  Students can get a traditional and excellent education if they seek it. The most popular majors are area and ethnic studies, biology, and social sciences. Sixty-four percent of all classes at Colby have fewer than 20 students. Thirty-three percent have between 21 and 29 students.  Only 3% have more than 50 students. It’s impossible to blend into the scenery in class as professors really care about teaching and knowing each student.

Colby is a leader when it comes to incorporating research into undergraduate learning. The Colby Undergraduate Research Symposium is held each spring. It features research in all disciplines by 500 students.  The Senior Scholars Program allows seniors to devote time in their final year to research in a major project under the guidance of faculty. Credit is earned for this research.  There are other opportunities for research as well as grant money to fund it during the school year and in the summer.

The Office of Religious and Spiritual Life is thoughtfully presented on the website.  While not known to have a particularly strong religious presence, Colby describes itself: “Colby is home to a wide (and growing) array of student-centered religious communities, and opportunities for connection to the local community abound. All of our gatherings are open to all; doubts, and convictions are all welcome.”  Colby has multi-faith programs that provide an opportunity for students to build community across religious lines and to engage energetically with difference.  One Jewish orthodox student reported that it’s almost impossible to be Kosher at Colby. It is said that what Colby lacks in diversity, it makes up for in tolerance.  All types of students can find their niche here.

Colby’s first year experience has several components, although freshmen don’t live together in freshmen residence halls.  The College’s First Year Orientation is focused on the concept of healthy communities – what it means to be an active member of a healthy community and the rights and responsibilities that accompany the privilege. C2IT is a new program designed to show students that deep engagement in a community-based concern or issue enriches the experiences of all residents. C2IT gives First-Years Students the opportunity to learn about a particular topic important to Maine and to meet people who are actively engaged in those issues. The guiding concept for the day is “Meet, Learn, & Do”.  Students travel throughout the state, are met by a host – someone who is knowledgeable about and invested in a particular concern, meet with others who share that interest, learn about the topic, and then, where possible, do some relevant hands-on work. COOT is a pre-orientation program required of all students in August before freshman year.  Students participate in outdoor adventures of varying and appropriate skill levels to acclimate them to life at Colby.

Ninety-five percent of students live on campus. All residence halls except one are co-ed and house students from all 4 years. There are special interest groups (such as the Green House, the Art and Music House, substance-free housing, and quiet housing) and some academic residential communities available too.

Because Waterville is so sleepy, students remain on campus during free time for house parties and socializing in dorms. Colby banned Greek life in the 1980’s in order to have a more inclusive campus.  Parties can still easily be found on campus.  Hard drugs exist but are not prevalent nor are they a large part of campus culture.  Some students smoke pot or drink, but there’s no peer pressure to do so, and many students do not. Colby has its own on-campus pub. The college attempts to provide alternatives to alcohol; at least 50 percent of all social programming money must go into funding “dry” events. (In addition, a hard liquor ban was implemented in the 2010–11 school year.) Popular events include movie nights, and performances by hypnotists, comedians, and musicians. The student-run Coffeehouse brings in small-name bands every few weeks, and math professors lead a folk music night each week. Many students occupy their free time with activities in small niche clubs such as pottery or photography, politically oriented groups, or sports.

To better understand the community, I highly recommend Inside Colby…for students by students.

Some students are admitted to Colby with the condition that they will study abroad first semester freshman year.  They go either to Salamanca, Spain or to Dijon France where they live with a host family, have a Colby director who teaches one class, and attend local universities for their other classes.  Eighty-five to ninety students are admitted under these terms with the goal of getting a total of 40 students.  A lot of times, students deferred from the ED pool who are somewhat proficient in French or Spanish or other students who are qualified, but a little below academic standards for regular admissions, will be selected for this program.  Students offered this type of admission can decline the offer to study abroad and can begin Colby in January. I appreciate the candor and time from Steve Thomas, the director of admissions, who explained this program to me.  Colby has a clear focus on being globally minded. They like this quality in applicants.

Colby is test flexible in admissions.  You have to send scores, but they will take SATs, ACTs (writing recommended) OR 3 SAT Subject tests in different subjects. Colby offers Early Decision 1 and 2.

For 2012 Colby admitted 29% of applicants.  52% of Early Decision applicants were admitted for 2012.

48% in top 5% of graduating class

65.4% in top 10% of class

88.3% in top 25% of graduating class.


Mid range scores (enrolled):

ACT:                 29-32

SATr:               610-710

SATm:             630-720

SATw:              610-710

Colby meets full demonstrated-need with a no loan financial aid policy.

Cost of Attendance: $59,110








Leave a Reply