No matter when you arrive at Hamilton College, your first drive up College Hill Road
will make a significant impression on you. If it’s summertime, you’ll probably be amazed by
the number of people you see bustling around. Many students choose to stay on campus during
the summer to conduct research with professors, work in one of the offices, or help out
with the various camps that Hamilton hosts. If your arrival takes place during the spring or
fall, you’ll likely be caught off guard by Hamilton’s breathtaking campus—the tree-lined paths
and stone and red brick buildings are especially
gorgeous when flowers are blooming and leaves
are either sprouting or turning an astonishing
blaze of reds, oranges, and yellows. And if it’s wintertime,
you’re definitely just praying your car triumphs
over the snow and makes it up the hill! But
whatever the season, you’ll probably be greeted
by at least one passerby on campus, and you may
begin to understand exactly what it means to be
a part of the community.
Hamilton is a small liberal arts
institution set atop a rather large hill in the middle
of Central New York. Because of its location,
the college almost demands that its students
become part of a vibrant and close-knit campus
community. At Hamilton, there’s no big city full of
distractions to pull you away from the dorms
(where you’ll likely live for all four years), and
there’s nowhere near enough people on campus to
let you even consider being anonymous. At times,
particularly during the winter, this situation can
be a bit frustrating, to say the least. But, because
it absolutely necessitates that students get to
know each other and become involved in campus
life, it is also precisely this situation that leads to
the creation of the unique Hamilton community
that many grads yearn for even years
after they’ve left the Hill.
History, Tradition, and the Future
As a newcomer walking around Hamilton’s campus, you’d probably notice that the parts
of campus you see on your left look quite different from those that you see on your right.
This is because College Hill Road once ran between two separate colleges. On the right lies
the north side of campus and the origins of today’s College. Founded by Samuel Kirkland
in 1793 as the Hamilton-Oneida Academy and chartered as Hamilton College in 1812, the
Hamilton of today (which was once all male) is the third-oldest college in New York State.
On the left lies the south side of campus, which used to be Kirkland College, an independent,
experimental, all-female college that was founded by Hamilton in 1968. The two schools
merged in 1978, but the vastly different architecture—stone and red brick vs. poured concrete—
makes their history hard to forget.
Hamilton does not encourage its students to forget its long history. The college has worked
hard to preserve and promote the ideals of both Hamilton and Kirkland Colleges. From the
Hamilton side comes the current emphasis on developing writing and speaking skills, and a
strong association with science, social science, and government service. From the Kirkland
side comes a keen interest in the arts, a more liberal view of what a college education should
include, and a strong emphasis on interdisciplinary studies. In many ways, Kirkland complemented
Hamilton very well, and students today benefit from a greater diversity of academic
offerings due to Hamilton’s continuous incorporation of both schools’ strengths.
Since 2000, the college has invested more than $125 million in new and renovated facilities
for science, the social sciences, and fitness. New space for the arts and student activities
are planned. One of Hamilton’s biggest assets is its careful blend of tradition and progress—it
is truly a college that knows where it has been and eagerly anticipates where it is going.
The Sacerdote Series: Great Names at Hamilton
Once or twice a year, participants in the
Sacerdote Great Names Series come to Hamilton
to give a speech, participate in a question-and-answer
session, meet with selected students,
and, generally, teach a class or two.
- 2008—Jon Stewart, The Daily Show
- 2006—Aretha Franklin, musician
—Al Gore, former Vice President of the
- 2005—Tom Brokaw, NBC News
- 2004—William Jefferson Clinton, Former
President of the United States
- 2003—Bill Cosby, Comedian, actor,
- 2002—Madeleine Albright, Former Secretary
of State (March)
—Rudolph Giuliani,Former Mayor of
New York City (September)
- 2001—Jimmy Carter, Former President of
the United States
- 2000—Desmond Tutu, Archbishop of
Capetown, South Africa
- 1999—Lady Margaret Thatcher, Former
Prime Minister of the United Kingdom
- 1998—F.W. de Klerk, Former President of
South Africa (April)
—B.B. King, Musician (October)
- 1997—Elie Wiesel, Author
- 1996—Colin Powell, Former Secretary of
—James Carville and Mary Matalin,
Political Strategists (October)
So, if Hamilton is moving rapidly toward the future, who is going to take it there? The
answer: its 1,800 students, 59 percent of whom come from public high schools and 41
percent of whom come from private high schools. Hamilton students originate in 49 U.S.
states and 45 countries, and the student body is 5.4 percent international, 3.9 percent
African-American, 0.9 percent Native American, 7.1 percent Asian/Pacific Islander, 4.6 percent
Hispanic, and 70.4 percent Caucasian.
Basically, regardless of their backgrounds, Hamilton students have several traits in common
and, as such, comprise a unique group. They tend to be fairly conservative people who
highly value a strong liberal arts education and a commitment to excellence. They appreciate
being seen as individuals, and not just as numbers, in a close-knit and vibrant community. And
they have a wry sense of humor about, and a curious appreciation of, their rural surroundings
and often less-than-favorable climate. Ultimately, they are intelligent, well-rounded people who
tend to look back fondly on their time “on the Hill.”
The bottom line is this: Your Hamilton experience is what you make of it. If you intend
to spend your four years shuffling to and from class with your head down, making the occasional
trip to the library or dining hall, and staring forlornly out your window at the snow, you’re
going to have a miserable and isolating time indeed. But if you’re willing to take some risks, join
some groups, go to some parties, and really, truly engage with some professors (inside and outside
of class), you’re almost bound to have a rewarding experience. You’ll grow from being an
uncertain freshman to a senior who has gained some incredible friends and experiences and
loves where you are.
It’s the things that weren’t expected or immediately perceived at
Hamilton that were the most important to me. It’s the four-hour-long dinners in
the dining halls that no one wanted to be the first to leave…the first walk in Root
Glen in the spring…the sentence that your professor casually tosses over her
shoulder that makes you adopt academia as your new religion…the omelet that
you waited 30 minutes in line for on a Sunday morning because the Omelet God
was working that day. It’s the late nights spent chatting with friends, the play
you buy tickets to so you can cheer on your friend who you ran lines with for
three months…I never imagined myself doing stand-up comedy, working in
Admissions, or majoring in a subject that would require me to learn another
language and use quantum physics, but four years on the Hill can encourage
you to take some bizarre, wonderful, and relatively risk-free challenges that can
change your life.
—Jane Simmons ’04
At the heart of Hamilton’s academic mission lie two main goals:
- Develop well-rounded, accomplished, critical-thinking individuals who continually
thirst for knowledge and who are ready for nearly any challenge the “real world”
might throw at them.
- Produce students who are able to express themselves clearly and effectively through
written and oral communication.
No small challenge. But Hamilton has a long history of accomplishing both of these
goals, chiefly through its dedication to the quintessential liberal arts education. At
Hamilton, students are encouraged to take a wide variety of courses in a number of disciplines
so that they may develop the most balanced, informed perspective on life they can.
In so doing, they become better prepared to meet life’s challenges because they are able to
examine and analyze almost any issue from a variety of viewpoints, which is far more effective
than seeing only one.
Consequently, although Hamilton students select their concentrations (typically one or
two subject areas out of about forty options) and their minors (one discipline out of about fortyfive
options) during the second semester of their sophomore year, many spend their first couple
of semesters—and many semesters beyond that—taking a variety of courses, a good
number of which probably seem entirely unrelated to their intended or declared concentrations.
An economics concentrator, for example, may take dance or biology classes, and a religious
studies major might find himself or herself in a calculus or a French class. The
excitement and challenge for most students is figuring out how these seemingly disparate disciplines
overlap, and the biggest reward tends to come when they realize they’re using information
or perspectives they gained in one area of study to inform or improve upon their work
The Open Curriculum
In a continuing effort to help students acquire the most solid education possible, Hamilton
recently examined its academic requirements and instituted the Hamilton Plan for
Liberal Education. Under this plan, Hamilton did away with distribution requirements and,
instead, established an open curriculum. In this way, students have more responsibility, as
well as more freedom, in obtaining the education they desire. Hamilton also began strongly
encouraging students to participate in a variety of first- and second-year proseminars. These
proseminars, which are comprised of no more than
sixteen students, introduce students to Hamilton’s
culture of close professor-student relationships and
emphasize the development of strong writing, speaking,
and study skills via these relationships.
Because one of Hamilton’s primary objectives is to
produce students who write well, all students
are required to pass at least three writing-intensive
classes, each taken during a different semester, during
their first two years of study. In these classes, the
majority of grades that students accumulate tend to come from writing papers, and students
generally have the opportunity to revise most, if not all, of these papers to ensure that
they understand the processes and principles behind good writing.
The Writing Center
In the event that students need or want more support in developing their writing skills, they
may visit the Nesbitt-Johnston Writing Center. At the Writing Center, students bring in any
piece of writing they’re working on—from essays for class to cover letters to senior theses—
and meet one-on-one for an hour with a peer tutor. Usually, these conferences focus on grammar,
organization, structure, ideas, or the writing process in general, and many students find
that their writing improves dramatically over their four years, provided they invest the effort.
The Honor Code
Because Hamilton is a school that takes academics quite seriously, all incoming students
must sign the school’s Honor Code, which basically says that students pledge to maintain academic
honesty at all times. Students are thereby treated more or less as adults and their honesty
is trusted and respected. As a result, professors do not generally feel obligated to police
exams and may assign take-home exams that students are on their honor to complete fairly.
At the same time, although the Honor Code is quite serious and academics are rather
rigorous, the general academic atmosphere on campus is far more collaborative than
it is competitive. Many students hold themselves to high academic standards, so a certain
degree of competition is created that way, but few, if any, students engage in the type of cutthroat
academics that are rumored to be typical of many academically prestigious institutions.
Hamilton students are much more likely to get together at Café Opus, the campus
coffeehouse, for a group study session or to lend each other their notes to study from than
they are to steal each others’ class materials. Because of this cooperative atmosphere,
many students make some of their best friends by working on group projects or having late night
I find my relationships with a lot of my professors to be collaborative. It
feels more scholar-to-scholar than teacher-to-student. This relationship keeps me
invested in my coursework because I feel like my professors truly value my
thoughts. —Ann Horwitz, ’06
And this cooperative atmosphere tends to extend to professor-student relationships as
well. In fact, as previously mentioned, close professor-student relationships are one of the hallmarks
of a Hamilton education. Most classes have twenty or fewer students, and some have fewer than ten. Students therefore have ample opportunities to engage in their education
and almost have no choice but to participate in class. After all, it’s hard to slip through
the cracks or fade into the background in a class of fifteen students!
Most Popular Fields of Study
Because Hamilton is so committed to the
concept of a liberal arts education, it
offers—and strongly encourages—a variety
of options to get students off the Hill
and out into the world.
Three of the most noteworthy are described
- Study Off-Campus
- Approximately forty
percent of each junior class studies away
from campus, and Hamilton has its own programs in Paris, Madrid, Beijing, New York
City, and Washington, D.C. Hamilton also
encourages its students to seek out other
schools’ programs if they wish to go elsewhere in the world. As Katie McLoughlin,
’05, a government concentrator, notes,
“Acquiring permission and processing the
paperwork for spending my semesters in
Washington, D.C., and Athens, Greece, was
one of the easiest things I’ve done at
Hamilton. The school is very non-bureaucratic, and there is very little red tape standing
between you and your abroad experience.”
- Alternative Spring Break
- To do something philanthropic with one-half of their
two-week spring break, several groups of ten
or so Hamilton students take school-owned
vans to poverty-stricken areas and work to
make a difference for a week. Regardless of
whether they are painting churches or volunteering with local Boys and Girls Clubs,
almost everyone who participates in these
trips comes back raving about the bonding
experiences they had, the people they met,
and how good helping out felt.
- Each year (since 1988), geology professor Eugene Domack takes several
students to Antarctica to conduct research
funded by the National Science Foundation.
Hamilton is the only U.S. college with this
type of program.
Hamilton is a small liberal arts institution that takes great pride in its commitment to
personal instruction and independent research. As such, the size of each entering class is kept
relatively small, with a target of fewer than 500 students. At the same time, because Hamilton is growing
in notoriety, the number of applications the Admissions Office receives each year keeps
increasing, and Hamilton’s acceptance rate has consequently declined
So, how do you get yourself noticed (and accepted!)? When making its decisions,
Hamilton’s Admissions Office looks first and foremost for students with a proven record of academic
achievement and for those with strong academic potential. In fact, eighty-seven percent
of accepted students ranked in the top ten percent of their high school classes.
Hamilton also seeks out well-rounded and involved students, so a strong activity resume
demonstrating your leadership skills, extracurricular involvement, athletic accomplishments,
or community service may make up for a slightly lower GPA. Additionally, it never hurts to showcase
your special talents or interests, so if you have tapes of your athletic, theatrical, or dance
performances, or if you have samples of your art, photos, poems, stories, or music, feel free to
send them along. (Contact the Admissions Office or check the admissions pages on Hamilton’s
web site for the preferred format of these submissions.)
In terms of actual admission requirements, Hamilton is like most colleges in that it
accepts the Common Application and requires an application fee, which is waived for
those who apply online. Also required are a school counselor evaluation, a teacher evaluation, a personal
statement, your choice of standardized test scores, and a midyear grade report. Hamilton
also asks that students submit a graded sample of their expository writing, such as an
analytical essay or a research paper (but not lab reports or creative writing), and that they
complete Hamilton’s own supplement to the Common Application. An interview is not
required, but is strongly recommended.
Because Hamilton believes that students can demonstrate their academic potential in
a variety of ways, it no longer requires that applicants submit scores from the SAT test (though
roughly seventy percent of all accepted students have submitted scores, with the middle fifty
percent scoring between 1350 and 1500, based on 1600). Instead, Hamilton now simply requires either the SAT, ACT, or three AP/IB, or SAT Subject Test scores:
one that reflects quantitative skills, one that reflects verbal and writing skills, and one test of
the student’s choice. (The Admissions Office can provide a list of tests that satisfy the quantitative
and verbal requirements.) And when in doubt, you can submit a variety of tests and the
Admissions Committee will select the best scores from among them.
Admittedly, Hamilton is an expensive school.
Very expensive. Fortunately, though, every year,
Hamilton offers financial aid to about fifty percent of
its students via scholarships, loans, and campus jobs.
Student budgets should take into account
expenses such as books, personal needs, and travel, in
addition to tuition, room, and board.
Student Financial Aid Details
Hamilton students know that mixing work and play is the key to a rich, fulfilling college
experience, and it is this universal commitment to balance that makes Hamilton the vibrant
community that it is. Although Hamilton students take their studies seriously, most are
involved in at least one extracurricular activity that gets them out of the library at crucial times
and allows them to meet other students with similar interests.
Some of the best conversations I had at Hamilton took place in my professors’
homes. Professors became more friends than teachers at times like these,
and discussing academics, careers, or life in general tended to be easier and
more interesting outside the formal atmosphere of classrooms and offices.
Meeting a professor’s family is a very pleasant and personal aspect of a small
college—and when I discovered that my French professor’s nine-year-old twins
spoke French ten times better than I did, it motivated me to work much harder
in her class.
Clubs and Organizations
Other students occupy their time by joining one
(or several!) of Hamilton’s approximately 110 clubs
and organizations. These groups cover just about any
interest under the sun, so there really is something for
everybody. These clubs and organizations plan and
participate in their own events, and many also hold a
variety of social functions—both with alcohol and
without—that are open to the entire campus.
In addition, because Hamilton is so small and non-bureaucratic, if a particular interest
isn’t already represented by a club or organization, a dedicated student should have no trouble
starting a group to reflect that passion. Within the past several years, for example, over two
dozen new groups have cropped up. In fact, Hamilton students are so open-minded about
extracurriculars that interested students have started up a “varsity streaking team” that actually
travels to other colleges and (for better or worse!) has gained national attention. On the
other hand, though, because the school is so small, when interest in some of the smaller organizations
begins to wane, certain groups may go dormant until someone new revives interest.
Activities are very accessible to everyone on campus. Unlike at larger
schools where you can’t work on the newspaper unless you’re a journalism
major or you can’t debate unless you’re pre-law, at Hamilton hard work and
interest can usually make up for no prior experience. —Alex Sear, ’05
Alex Sear, ’05, a philosophy concentrator,
says, “I actually picked Hamilton over other
NESCAC schools because the students
seemed to have such active social lives
with many networks of friends, and the
college encouraged them to do so.” And
she’s right—in any given year, Hamilton
students can choose to participate in
around 110 different clubs and
Because Central New York is not exactly an entertainment mecca, many groups work to
bring diversions to campus. The Emerson Gallery, Hamilton’s on-campus art gallery, for
example, spices up its regular offerings of primarily American, British, and Native
American work by bringing lecturers and special exhibitions, and the Department of
Theater and Dance brings a variety of solo performers and ensemble groups. (Note, too,
that student exhibitions in art and performances in theater and dance are also quite common, either as part of class requirements or as part of the fun had by some of the more artistic
extracurricular groups.) Moreover, a variety of student groups work to bring guest lecturers
that pique their own interest and that might not correspond with the offerings of any
one particular department.
If the silver screen is your thing, the Samuel Kirkland Film Society brings both classic and
relatively current movies to campus several times a semester and shows them multiple
times over the course of a given weekend. Many students enjoy recruiting their friends, popping
a bag of popcorn, and going to watch these free films, which are shown movie-theater
style in one of the larger lecture halls on campus.
The Campus Activities Board (CAB) generally brings comedians and larger-name musical
acts to the Tolles Pavilion, and those coordinating the Acoustic Coffeehouse series
ensure that interested students can sip free coffee while taking in the soulful stylings of
well-known artists as well as up-and-coming stars. Within the past few years, the likes of
Guster, The Kooks, Jason Mraz, Ben Folds, Dar Williams, Dropkick Murphys, Howie Day,
Citizen Cops, Jamie Lidell, and Ellis Paul have all graced the Hamilton stage.
Music makes its way to the Hill in a variety of ways outside of CAB and Acoustic
Coffeehouse events, too. The Music Department brings visiting artists and lecturers,
the school runs eight different ensemble groups that perform regularly, and students
taking classes in the music department also give the occasional recital. Additionally,
Hamilton is home to four student-run a cappella groups that perform several times each
semester: Special K (all female), the Hamiltones (coed), Tumbling After (all female),
and the Buffers (all male).
Currently, the school recognizes ten fraternities and seven sororities, some of which are
national and some of which are local. Unlike at many colleges, though, frats and sororities
at Hamilton do not have their own houses, a situation that some students feel is beneficial
for Hamilton’s social life because it means that societies do not tend to isolate
themselves from the rest of the campus community by having friendships, living arrangements, and social events that revolve entirely
around the society. On the other hand, some students
do feel that there is a real divide between
Greek-affiliated students and Independents. This
ongoing debate creates an interesting Greek/non-
Greek dynamic on campus at times, and conversations
revolving around fraternities and
sororities can become quite heated. Regardless,
fraternities and sororities do tend to contribute
substantially to Hamilton’s social scene by throwing
parties, coordinating lectures, and organizing
In terms of the late night social scene, there are
usually a variety of parties—both with and
without alcohol—that students can attend. As
mentioned before, many different clubs and organizations
hold parties, and most of these gatherings
tend to be open to the entire campus. They
also very often have a theme, and many Hamilton
students seize the opportunity to venture out to
the local Salvation Army for appropriate (and
cheap!) attire for the evening.
You might not think about it much—or you
might not have considered it at all—but the
quality of the food in the dining halls is a very
important aspect of college life. After all, you’re most likely going to be eating this food two
or three times a day, at least five or six days a week, for four years. That’s a lot of meals.
Fortunately, Hamilton’s food service provider, Bon Appétit, does a great job of making a variety of fresh and largely healthy dishes for the
Hamilton community. Sure, they have some
“misses,” but the majority of the time the food is
quite good, particularly for college standards.
But what’s even more impressive about Bon
Appétit is its connection to the students. If you
have a favorite recipe from home that you’re just
dying to have on campus, bring it in and Bon
Appétit will look into making it. If you’re sick of
seeing only apples, oranges, and bananas as your
fruit options, let them know and you might walk in
to find kiwis, mangos, plums, and pears the next
day. And if you and your friends want to have a picnic
in the pavilion, just give Bon Appétit the meal
card numbers of everyone involved and they’ll set
you up with hamburger patties for grilling, buns,
chips, sodas…the whole shebang.
It’s a small detail, but it’s just one more
aspect of Hamilton that makes the on-campus
community feel a little more like home.
Student Enrollment Demographics
Student Graduation Demographics
For about thirty-five percent of the student body, the extracurricular activity of choice is
playing on a sports team. Hamilton sponsors twenty-eight varsity sports (fourteen
men’s, fourteen women’s), which are affiliated with the NCAA Division III, the New
England Small College Athletic Conference, and the Liberty League.
One group that always makes its presence known at sporting events is a rambunctious
crowd of students known as the Dawg Pound. This group, which is comprised largely of other
athletes, dons ridiculous costumes, amps up Continental spirit, and heckles the opposing team.
To be honest, though, despite the Dawg Pound’s enthusiasm and the talent of many of
Hamilton’s athletes, Hamilton’s athletic events are generally not that well attended. True, some
sports, such as men’s hockey and basketball, tend to be a little more popular than others, and
the women’s lacrosse team won the 2008 national championship, but, on the whole, Hamilton
is not known for having throngs of people at football or field hockey games. That being said,
however, student spirit has seemed to be on the upswing in recent years and the games are free
and open to the public.
And even though Hamilton’s organized athletics do not dominate life on campus,
approximately sixty percent of students participate in intramurals at one point or another.
Hamilton sponsors about fifteen intramural activities and over a dozen club sports each year,
and because Hamilton is such a small school, it is relatively easy for anyone to set up an intramural
league or pick-up game.
Thanks to their broad liberal arts backgrounds,
Hamilton graduates go on to engage in a wide variety
of pursuits. In terms of statistics, in recent years,
around seventy-two percent of graduating seniors
chose to take jobs and about twenty percent chose to
enter graduate or professional school immediately
after graduation and three percent pursue fellowships
(Watson, Fulbright, etc.). About fifty percent entered
graduate school within five years of graduation.
The Career Center
One resource that helps prepare students for
their post-Hamilton pursuits is the Career
Center. Students may make appointments at the Career Center at any point during their
time at Hamilton and, in fact, are encouraged to do so as early as their first year of studies.
During these appointments, students meet one-on-one with either a career counselor or a
Career Center intern, depending on their needs, and they discuss a wide variety of topics,
including career assessment materials, graduate school applications, cover letters, interview
strategies, finding an internship, and networking to find a job. If students so request,
they may schedule a “mock interview” to prepare for either graduate school or professional
The Career Center also arranges lunches featuring Hamilton alumni who have returned
to campus to talk about their current careers, how they have gotten to this point in their
careers, and the industry in which they work in general. The lunches not only help prepare students
for continuing their education or entering the professional world, but they provide valuable
networking experiences as well.
Alumni Relations and the “Hamilton Connection”
These meetings are not the only way that members of the Hamilton community network
with each other, however. Hamilton has alumni associations that plan outings and
events in many large cities throughout the United States. And because Hamilton is such a
tight-knit community, alumni actually attend these events, which is not always the case
with alumni of larger colleges and universities. These events are great ways for recent grads
to make contact with older, more established alumni, and they provide a venue in which
newer alums can network to find a job, make new friends, or learn about the city to which
they have just moved.
Other times, older alumni will simply make the effort to connect with more recent grads
on their own. When Elizabeth Backer, ’04, a public policy concentrator, began her first day of
work at a market research company in Boston, for example, the company’s HR department sent
out an e-mail introducing her as a new hire. Within hours, Liz received an e-mail from Andrew
Stockwell, ’96, a new colleague who wanted to take Liz out to lunch based purely on their
- Elihu Root, 1864, U.S. Senator, U.S.
Secretary of War, Secretary of State,
Winner of the Nobel Peace Prize
- James S. Sherman, 1878, Vice-
President of the United States
- William M. Bristol, 1882, cofounder,
- Ezra Pound, 1905, poet
- B.F. Skinner, 1926, behavioral psychologist
- Paul Greengard, 1948, 2000 Nobel
Prize Winner in Physiology or
- Thomas E. Meehan, 1951, Tony
Award-winning playwright (The
- Robert Moses, 1956, Leader of the
Civil Rights Movement (1960s), currently
a pioneer in algebra education
(The Algebra Project)
- Edward S. Walker, Jr., 1962,
Professor at Hamilton, Former U.S.
Ambassador to Israel, Egypt, and
the United Arab Emirates
- A.G. Lafley, 1969, President and
CEO, Procter & Gamble
- Kevin Kennedy, 1970, Managing
Director, Goldman, Sachs & Co.
- Melinda Wagner, 1979, 1999
Pulitzer Prize in Music Composition
- Mary Bonauto, 1983, Civil Rights
Attorney (gay marriage amendment)