School Profile: Develop Your Own Academic Path at Hamilton College

The college motto, Know Thyself, succinctly demonstrates the philosophy of education at Hamilton College. The core belief is that all students should explore their individuality and develop an academic path that leads to their greatest expression in the world.  Ranked #41 among colleges on the Veritas Prep Elite College Rankings, Hamilton College was chartered in 1812 and named after statesman Alexander Hamilton, one of its first Board of Trustees members. The beautiful 1,350 acre campus sits high on a hill overlooking the quaint village of Clinton, New York.

Over 1,800 students pursue Bachelor of Arts degrees in over 50 areas of study at Hamilton College. What is unique about the Hamilton academic philosophy is that they put the responsibility for course selection squarely on the shoulders of students. While each student is given an academic advisor to help them see the connections between disciplines and offer guidance, there is no required core curriculum that students must follow other than three writing intensive courses specific to their chosen field of study. Their reasoning for this approach is that students are choosing classes that make sense to them and move them toward their personal educational goals, therefore their attendance in class and what they get from their education is personalized and self-motivating.

Students may also choose hands-on internships from among three off-campus destinations: Washington, D.C., New York City, and Boston. Hamilton has international affiliates for study abroad in China, France, Spain, and India where students can choose immersion in the academic and cultural opportunities of their host school. The Hamilton promise to each student is, “At Hamilton you can study what interests you, be accepted for who you are and what you believe, and prepare to be the person you were meant to become.” The school boasts two Nobel laureates and 85 Fulbright recipients.

First year students at Hamilton have six housing choices among residence halls: Major, Keehn, South, North, Wallace Johnson, and Wertimer House. The college website has done an excellent job of giving an overview and personality description of the freshmen living choices, as well as details about the housing lottery system. Wertimer House houses 42 freshmen in 21 double rooms, so if you’re looking for immediate camaraderie with a small community, this could be a good option. There are also single-sex, substance-free, and other specialty housing options for students.

Greek housing does not exist on campus, although the Greek community thrives, but in an inclusive way. Greek parties are typically open to the entire campus. Students report that campus social life, like all aspects of life, is what you make it. The rural environment appeals to many students who feel it encourages community on campus; others, who are used to a more urban environment, could find it problematic. The Scroll is the school’s moderated social media aggregator, so students can keep up with what’s happening on campus.

Hamilton College is represented by 29 men’s and women’s NCAA Division III teams in the New England Small College Athletic Conference. In 2008, the women’s lacrosse team won the school’s first NCAA national title. Since then, Hamilton has accumulated 14 national titles, 13 of which are individual titles in track and field, swimming, and diving. Thirty percent of students participate in varsity, intramural, or club sports, even though it is not a requirement. This school offers the opportunity for student-athletes who play for the love of the game to continue playing through their college years at each of these levels. The Hamilton Continental’s biggest football rivalry is with Middlebury College. The winning team from the annual matchup takes home the Mac-Jack Rocking Chair.

Hamilton College traditions include the Citrus Bowl, which is the first hockey game of the season; FebFest, which is a mid-semester week-long music, food, and social event; and May Day Music Festival, which is an outdoor music festival. Each school year ends with Class and Charter Day, and the accompanying HamTrek tradition. On the last day of classes there is a campus-wide party with a picnic and school sponsored concert. HamTrek is a swim-bike-run triathlon on Class and Charter Day where students participate for prizes; it is also a charitable event that benefits the Shawn Grady Memorial Fund.

If you are looking for a college where you can be yourself and feel fully supported, you appreciate a small campus in a rural environment, and you know what you want out of your education, Hamilton College could be a good match for you.

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By Colleen Hill