Colby: Not just a cheese

Think back to the May of your senior year of highschool: every social media platform flooded with announcements of college acceptances and hallways crowded with students chatting about their plans for the future. The excitement in the air was palpable, and you probably were excited to share your decision to go to Colby. For many Colby students, however, their announcements were met with bewildered stares.

“Where is that?”

“Is it a community college?”

“Did you say Columbia? Wow, good for you!” “Oh, I’ve never heard of that school,” they may have said.

This is the reality of going to Colby. Despite it being ranked as one of the best liberal arts colleges in the country, its name recognition is low. While much of this comes with the territory of being a small school in such a remote location, although one might expect it to at least be a somewhat familiar name on the East Coast- it is a part of NESCAC, after all. However, even in New England, the name “Colby” often rings hollow.   “A lot of people didn’t know where the school was,” said Connecticut native Catriona McIntyre, a freshman here at Colby. “I would have to describe it to them and say ‘It’s a small school in Maine’.”

While it seems like a minor thing, name recognition often ends up being an important factor in where students choose to go to college. After the 50th time reciting exactly where your school is (and often having to repeat the name multiple times), you get a little bit tired of explaining yourself to everyone- and you really do have to do it with almost everyone, from family to friends and even to employers. Students at schools with hard hitting names, such asNYU, UCLA, UMich, Harvard, Yale, etc- have the luxury of simply letting the prestige that comes with the name itself do all the work.

“There were a lot of times when I wished I was going to a bigger, more well known school,” claimed McIntyre. “A lot of times when my friends were asked where they were going to school they’d be able to say ‘UMich’ or ‘Notre Dame’ and automatically people would be like ‘Oh my god that’s amazing!’, but when I was asked people never really knew Colby or just how good of a school it is, which kind of sucked.”

This sentiment is one echoed by many Colby students. Colby is a difficult college to get into, and many students worked hard in order to be here, yet, this isn’t something that often gets recognized. Even Waterville natives, such as freshman Hanna Bouchard, get frustrated with the lack of awareness.

“When I decided to come here, some people were really impressed and were like ‘Wow that’s great!’ and other people weren’t…. Some locals definitely know that it’s a selective school but also I don’t think all the people of Waterville are really aware of just how prestigious it is. They don’t know it’s that good of a school compared to other places.”

Colby’s lack of name recognition ultimately boils down to a few things. The size and location are definitely a crucial component after all, Waterville is not exactly a tourist hot spot and Colby itself is smaller than many high schools. The absence of any particularly strong sports teams is a factor as well, considering that many of the most recognizable universities became so because of their victorious football teams. Colby is also glaringly absent from the media. While well known schools like Yale have been featured in hundreds of films, TV shows, books, and more, Colby’s sole claim to fame is a brief feature in The Sopranos– so it’s easy to see why so few people are aware of the college’s existence. However, despite the fact that not everyone knows about it, Colby is undeniably an excellent school. We are ranked as the 12th best liberal arts college in the nation, which is no easy feat when competing with other highly prestigious institutions like Williams and Pomona- and even though it may often seem like no one has heard of Colby, those who have usually only have good things to say.

“People not often knowing [about Colby] was annoying, for sure,” said McIntyre at the end of her interview. “But when they did know what it was, they were always impressed.”

With the advancments that that College is making in terms of academics, programming, and infrastructure it will not be surprinsing if Colby is a household name in the coming years. Nevertheless, it remains one of the best colleges in the nation, whether or not anybody knows its name.