Are people at northeast liberal arts colleges happy?

Hi, I’m considering applying to Middlebury, Bowdoin, Colby, Williams, and some other LACs in the north. But I’m worried that the cold combined with so few people in isolated places is conducive to a depressed mood on campus.

Should I be worried about this? And how different will it be from my experience if I go to a big university in the north?

We do not find the weather in the northeast of the US depressing. Living in the Northeast (not too far from the schools that you mentioned) both daughters nonetheless stayed in this area or went even further north for university.

One issue is that we are used to it. Another issue is that we ski. In general however people find activities that are conducive to the climate, whether this means skiing or skating or means indoor activities in the winter.

I think that you will get used to it reasonably quickly.

My son just graduated from one of those and loved it. There is a lot to do on campus, great outdoors activities, and the community is tight. Take a look @Lindagaf recent thread. Her D just graduated from Bates.

Read through some of the social media these schools have and you’ll get a sense of how students are spending their time. I think they are very happy.

No, they are not depressed. Far from it. These colleges have very high retention rates.

The thread mentioned is this one:
https://talk.collegeconfidential.com/parents-forum/2188340-the-original-average-excellent-student-graduates-today-p1.html

Also, tell us more clearly what you mean by big NE university? Urban, like BU and Northeastern? Or U Conn and U Mass Amherst? Big differences between all of those schools too. None of those will be like attending an LAC.

Are you concerned about being in the northeast, or about being in a small school in a small rural town? Lots of people live in the northeast and are not depressed. But, small schools in small towns aren’t a good fit for everyone. While some people love it, other don’t. You have to figure out if its right for you or not.

I always felt for me personally. A big school in a small town or a small school in a big town would be the perfect fit.

A small school in a small town, for someone from NYC would be too small for 4 years. Depends on where your from. Also, those schools seem to have happy students, high retention.

PS…I love the Northeast …not cold at all!! (maybe I’m used to it)

@Luckyjade2024 , there are a lot of students from NYC at Bates, which is a small school in a small town. It very much depends on the person.

Forbes used alumni giving as an indication of the degree to which alumni are satisfied and successful. Graduates from schools that place highly in this ranking were presumably happy with their college choices: https://www.forbes.com/sites/sarahhansen/2018/08/21/grateful-grads-2018-200-colleges-with-the-happiest-most-successful-alumni/. With respect to Northeastern schools, note that smaller colleges, including the majority of the NESCAC LACs, appear amid larger, often Ivy League, alternatives near the top end of this nationally-based list.

Yes, folks are happy at NE LACs, but that does not mean that you will be happy there.

Because you raised the issue, there should be some concern.

SAD–seasonal affective disorder–is a significant concern for some.

Your post suggests that you live in a different area of the country.

Your other thread indicates an interest in mountain biking (which is not enjoyable on ice).

Consider schools in North Carolina, Virginia, & Tennessee. (Smokies)

Colorado as well.

I totally agree, that’s why I said for me personally…coming from NYC.

SAD is a thing, but it doesn’t affect everyone equally. Regular exercise outdoors during daylight hours helps, but people’s schedules don’t always make it possible.

Some people hate the cold. I am one of them, it makes me feel physically threatened. Paradoxically, I love snow and snow sports! As long as I can control how and why I go out, for how long, in what gear, I am fine. Improperly heated dorm rooms and offices, cold beds, waiting for trains on icy platforms, make me miserable. Again, you may not like the cold at all, or have particular needs how to control your own exposure, which may or may not be met.

That said, having spent a winter in the American North East, I have always wondered why colleges in the area do not invest a little more in mitigating facilities such as warm leisure pools, hot tubs, saunas, steam rooms, infrared cabins and daylight rooms. It’s all natatoriums and gyms. Is it the Puritan heritage?

Northeastern locations vary in temperature, of course. Of the schools you mentioned, the winters at Williams wouldn’t be quite as cold as at the other three colleges, for example:

Average January Low (F)

Williams: 12.1°
Bowdoin: 9.0
Middlebury: 8.8
Colby: 8.1

(Data from Sperling’s.)

I bet most kids are happy there. Some aren’t.

For me, at that age I would not have wanted to be in a small, fishbowl sort of environment, especially if the campus were very rural and isolated. But everyone is different!

If you’re from a warm climate and really hate the cold weather and have no inclination to just “go with it”, the answer to your question is: yes. You should be worried. You need to visit and see how the climate that differs from what you prefer affects you.

OP: Are you willing to share in what area or region of the country you live ?

Do you like any winter sports ?

If you attend any of the cold weather LACs listed in your original post, you are likely to see guys wearing short pants outside when it is well below freezing. My point is that for many, the cold is a non-factor, while for others overcast days & cold weather lead to feelings of depression.

In short, it depends upon the individual.

Have you ever been to Boulder, Colorado ? There is a serious mountain biking & hiking culture there. Lots of sunshine.

My New Orleans born sister-in-law traveled to Maine to view a huge, largfely undeveloped lake surrounded by mountains. The views took her breath away and I thought my brother would be making his summer home in Maine.

The next morning she awoke, stepped out to get a better view of the mountains and could not return back to her room fast enough! Imagine, it was August and the temperature at 7AM was 40 in the Maine hills.

To Mainers, this was neither a surprise nor a discomfort. The quiet beauty and fresh air were everywhere. We dress for it!

Our kids grew up in warm weather locations and both went to NE schools. In terms of winters, they both had to adjust to cold weather and snow (the one inland more than the other who is closer to the ocean). Can’t say they are fans of cold weather, but that has had very little impact on their college experience. D went to a typical LAC in the boonies, but she enjoyed the intimacy of the school. She made some very close friends, and as far as I could tell, had an enjoyable social life. Really depends on your personality and how important being a part of a large student body or proximity to an urban center is to you.

@BKSquared raises a key point: intimacy.

Intimacy is arguably the dominant characteristic of remote / rural LACs.

Some folks want intimacy & an intimate, totally non-anonymous environment at this point in their lives, while others do not.

A type of “intimacy” can be found in the Greek system at large universities, although it might be better labeled as “familiarity”.

You may be right. For most of their history, it was expected that even students from affluent families would live rather ascetic lives while they were students. And there’s no real tradition of saunas, hot spring bathing etc in the region.