There’s always a lot of appeal behind college towns, but Potsdam, New York takes the cake. With two colleges within walking distance of each other, the town’s population more than doubles during the academic year. Potsdam has tons of small-town quirks that bring students back every year, despite the freezing climate and isolation from the rest of the world.
1. The wide variety of music
Potsdam is home to one of the highest ranked music schools in the country in both Music Education and Music Business, the Crane School of Music. As a Crane student, I might be a little biased, but it’s an amazing place to study music and it was my first choice school all throughout my high school career. But music in Potsdam isn’t limited to Crane - SUNY Potsdam brings in several renowned artists through the Community Performance Series, like six-time Tony Award winner Audra McDonald. This year, Arlo Guthrie and Patti LuPone are coming to Potsdam as CPS artists. SUNY Potsdam is home to four a cappella groups, while the neighboring Clarkson University has two. Bands and smaller ensembles perform in town at restaurants and parks to bring music to the entire community.
2. Elm Street
Every campus has its horror stories - haunted dorms and mysterious professors, but have you ever heard of a little franchise called “Nightmare on Elm Street?” Yeah, THAT Elm Street is rumored to be inspired by Elm Street in Potsdam, NY. A student film made by Wes Craven’s students at Clarkson University was filmed along Elm Street in Potsdam and the name of the town in that film is “Madstop” which is just “Potsdam” spelled backwards. Some of the houses on Elm Street are now home to several of Potsdam’s fraternities and sororities.
3. Greek Life
Speaking of fraternities and sororities, Potsdam has a huge amount of Greek life for such a small town. Clarkson University has nine recognized fraternities and four recognized sororities and Greek members make up around ten to fifteen percent of the student body. SUNY Potsdam has eight recognized sororities and two recognized fraternities. Many of the organizations will accept students from the neighboring schools as well, so the possibilities for joining Greek Life in Potsdam schools are practically endless.
4. The architecture
One of the things that I fell in love with at SUNY Potsdam was the way the campus looks - the buildings are red brick and in the spring, the ivy grows all over. It looks like something on a postcard and it’s absolutely beautiful. If modern architecture is more your style, SUNY Potsdam newest building, the Performing Arts Center (or PAC) is definitely the place to check out. It’s completely different from anything on campus - sleek, modern and angular. It was designed to represent the Adirondack mountains. Near the PAC is a circular statue made out of an old Winnebago as well.
5. Living off-campus
I never imagined I’d be the kind of person that wanted to live off-campus, but last semester, I moved into a house with three of my sorority sisters and I’ve never looked back. Potsdam is extremely residential with tons of places to live off-campus with friends and classmates. Many students rent houses or apartments within walking distance of either campus.
6.Bear Express and Knight Card
Several college campuses have a special form of payment that can be accepted at local business in their town and Potsdam is no different. SUNY Potsdam uses Bear Express and Clarkson has Knight Card, both of which are accepted at many small businesses in town, such as the music store, cafés and late night food stops. Many business in the town of Potsdam also accept two other forms of this payment from the two other colleges nearby, St. Lawrence University and SUNY Canton.
7. The Toilet Gardens
Who could forget Potsdam’s favorite form of protest art? I’ve been asked about toilet gardens by almost every prospective student and parent to ever visit Potsdam. While there are several theories floating about, most of the toilet gardens in the town of Potsdam were erected as a form of civil protest - there is one right across the street from my house that cropped up a few years ago after a house burned down and the owner of the property went through some legal troubles with re-purposing the property.
Potsdam, NY is one of the most entertaining small towns in this country. Many students who choose to attend school here love the quirks that make Potsdam unique and memorable, as well as the people who live in the town full-time. Our home away from home is a beautiful and loving place, despite the bitter winters and miles of farmland in between us and the nearest town. College should be an experience, and Potsdam definitely fits the bill.