What is Colby College Really Like?

Hi! I’ve just been accepted to Colby, but after researching for a while online, I’m not so sure if I’m comfortable with what I’ve been hearing. It sounds like there have been a lot of racist incidents, incidents of bias, and just general insensitivity towards students of color. I’m honestly afraid at this point that I just wouldn’t feel welcome on campus because I am a POC. Is the student body just a lot of entitled white kids who don’t care about minorities and act like they own the place? Or is it as inclusive and friendly as they market themselves??

Although not a POC, my S has found Colby very different from its reputation and feels like he is surrounded by inclusive and friendly students. He has not witnessed or been aware of any incidents of racism.

The Pugh Center has resources for students of color. Maybe you could reach out to the school and they could put you in touch with a student who could speak to your concerns.

Karlene Burrell-McRae is the Dean of the College. She is a graduate of Colby and a POC. She may be able to address your concerns as well. Congrats on the acceptance and Good luck!


I’m also POC and I really feel like I’ve found a sense of home here on campus and support. Yes, there may be insensitive people and past racist incidents, but I honestly don’t think racial bias happens any more significantly at Colby than at other similar LACs. (For reference, Amherst, a very demographically diverse institution, had recent issues with racial discrimination on its lacrosse team…)

Keep in mind Colby is actively trying to diversify its student body through intense recruiting through QuestBridge, Posse, UWC and other means. The campus atmosphere is also extremely intolerant towards any acts of racial bias and progressive. Organizations on campus are proactive in trying to create more inclusivity as well.

This is my personal experience though, and everyone is going to have differing perspectives. But yes, don’t let the past incidents and history deter you from this school. You’ll be missing out on so much more.

For an extended perspective, search “Colby Life Documentary.” As you interpret the film, however, consider that it portrays Colby as it was six years ago.

^^ This is interesting and thoughtful – a bunch of 2013 grads reflecting on how they experienced their 4 years. There is definitely some wisdom here and definitely some truth. There are elements of the school that have changed significantly since their experience, others that have not.

@gardenstategal What are the significant changes since 2013?

First, congratulations on being admitted. My S is also an RD admit and we both watched that same documentary. Having had a few days to sit with it, I think it’s probably fair to say that these same stories could have been told at comprable colleges across the land, and especially in the Northeast. I also think, that if you think it through, most of the students concluded that Colby was, at the end of the day, a net positive experience for them even though there were some very painful, even traumatizing experiences along the way.

If only there were an morally and ideologically “pure” college to go to. Alas, there is not. Every comparable school will have a similar cross section of students, some of whom are going to speak and act inappropriately much of the time.

My S also has comprable offers from Colgate and Hamilton, but is still leaning Colby for other reasons. He thinks that same documentary could just as easily describe the experience of students at those other two colleges. So there has to be some other criteria for saying yes to one, and no to another given that people are people no matter where you go.

On a personal note, I hope you both choose Colby because the two of you would simply add to the many POCs (People of Conscience) who are already at there.
I am sure you will find many more who are working hard to conduct themselves with integrity and to make sure that others are genuinely included within the community.

As disturbing as it was at times, a documentary like that doesn’t incline me away from Colby–just the opposite. It shows that there are students there who are courageous enough to tell it like it is (or at least like it has been). Colby must be doing something right if it’s turning out kids with that kind of conscience.

Best wishes to you on your discernment!

@gotham_mom , there was a change in leadership since then, and the new president is a visionary. Truly. A top priority (backed by substantial gifts to support it) has been to expand the reach of the school and to diversify the student body in all respects. The student body was definitely more New England. affluent and white a decade ago, so the dominant culture created by that has been somewhat diluted. The school has strong partnerships with Questbridge and Posse, has created FA policies to make it affordable for middle and low income families, has changed leadership (not just President), to make this happen and is working hard at inclusion.

My sense is that having housing in Waterville has also created more options for activities. While there is a ton going on on campus, having a critical mass of students living in town has made going to dinner or a bar or a movie in town an easier option to whatever is happening on campus. Iow, it’s easier to opt out of campus activities if you are so inclined.

My kid is a senior now, and the school has evolved during his time there. Of course, it’s still in rural Maine, it’s still about 2000 students, it still is in the NESCAC, it still places a very high priority on engaged learning and academics, so those elements continue to influence who wants to be there and what kind of community they want to create.

Whatever the situation was a few years ago, Colby College deserves praise for its efforts to accommodate all students.

@gardenstategal I did not realize that your son is a senior. I hope he is doing ok!

@xyz123a , I think the seniors are feeling very sad. There is a strong sense of community and a lot of great friendships.
These soon to be graduates were looking forward to spring and to winding down their time together in a way that gave it closure, and instead, they ended up with 48 hours to pack up and leave. They are not alone in their loss!

I think it’s particularly hard at schools that are “bubbles” like this because the kids know that the life they are living bears little resemblance to what comes next, and they are smart enough to know to savor it. It’s a tough blow but they also had the privilege of a great education in a place they were genuinely attached to. That’s one heck of a silver lining.

And FWIW, the Colby dining halls very compare favorably to my house, apparently…

@gardenstategal My junior son was very glad that he was able to stay on campus until late Sunday so that he could say good bye to his senior friends. Truly a sad ending – my son had a great junior year and loves being there. Good luck to your son!

Yes, I’m not sure why the documentary has been perceived as consistently negative.

As an opinion, you may encounter differences in student culture across colleges of ostensibly similar characteristics, however.