7 Quirks That Make Potsdam, NY The Best College Town

7 Quirks That Make Potsdam, NY The Best College Town

Why do so many students flock to this tiny town in Northern New York for school?

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.

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A Senior's Last Week Of High School

The bittersweet end.

Well, this is it. This is what we've worked so hard the last four years - who am I kidding - basically what seems like our whole lives for. This is the very last week we will set foot as a student in our high school's hallways. As most schools are getting ready to set their seniors free at last, it all begins to set in - the excitement, the anxiousness, and also the sentiment and nostalgia.

For seniors, the years since our first day as a freshman at the bottom of the high school totem pole have seemed endless, but as we look back on these last few weeks, we realize that this year in particular has gone by extraordinarily fast. It was just yesterday that we were sitting in our classrooms for the very first time, going to our 'last first' practice, and getting our first taste of the (very real) "senioritis". With all that's going on in our lives right now, from sports and clubs, finals, and the sought after graduation ceremony, it's hard to really sit down and think about how our lives are all about to become drastically different. For some it's moving out, and for some it's just the thought of not seeing your best friend on the way to fourth period English; either way, the feels are real. We are all in a tug of war with the emotions going on inside of us; everything is changing - we're ready, but we're not.

THE GOOD. Our lives are about to begin! There is a constant whirlwind of excitement. Senior awards, getting out of school early, parties, and of course Graduation. We are about to be thrust into a world of all new things and new people. Calling our own shots and having the freedom we have so desperately desired since the teenage years began is right around the corner. Maybe the best part is being able to use these new things surrounding you to grow and open your mind and even your heart to ideas you never could before. We get the chance to sink or swim, become our own person, and really begin to find ourselves.

Things we don't even know yet are in the works with new people we haven't even met yet. These friendships we find will be the ones to last us a lifetime. The adventures we experience will transform into the advice we tell our own children and will become the old tales we pass down to our grandkids when they come to visit on the weekends. We will probably hate the all night study sessions, the intensity of finals week, and the overpowering stress and panic of school in general, just like we did in high school... But it will all be worth it for the memories we make that will outlive the stress of that paper due in that class you absolutely hate. As we leave high school, remember what all the parents, teachers, coaches, and mentors are telling you - this are the best times of our lives!

THE BAD. The sentimental emotions are setting in. We're crying, siblings are tearing up, and parents are full-out bawling. On that first day, we never expected the school year to speed by the way it did. Suddenly everything is coming to an end. Our favorite teachers aren't going to be down the hall anymore, our best friends probably won't share a class with us, we won't be coming home to eat dinner with our families...

We all said we wanted to get out of this place, we couldn't wait, we were ready to be on our own; we all said we wouldn't be "so emotional" when the time came, but yet here we are, wishing we could play one more football game with our team or taking the time to make sure we remember the class we liked the most or the person that has made us laugh even when we were so stressed we could cry these past few years. Take the time to hug your parents these last few months. Memorize the facial expressions of your little sister or brother. Remember the sound of your dad coming home from work. These little things we take for granted every day will soon just be the things we tell our college roommate when they ask about where we're from. As much as we've wanted to get out of our house and our school, we never thought it would break our heart as much as it did. We are all beginning to realize that everything we have is about to be gone.

Growing up is scary, but it can also be fun. As we take the last few steps in the hallways of our school, take it all in. Remember, it's okay to be happy; it's okay to be totally excited. But also remember it's okay to be sad. It's okay to be sentimental. It's okay to be scared, too. It's okay to feel all these confusing emotions that we are feeling. The best thing about the bittersweet end to our high school years is that we are finally slowing down our busy lives enough to remember the happy memories.

Try not to get annoyed when your mom starts showing your baby pictures to everyone she sees, or when your dad starts getting aggravated when you talk about moving out and into your new dorm. They're coping with the same emotions we are. Walk through the halls remembering the classes you loved and the classes you hated. Think of the all great times that have happened in our high school years and the friends that have been made that will never be forgotten. We all say we hated school, but we really didn't. Everything is about to change; that's a happy thing, and a sad thing. We all just have to embrace it! We're ready, but we're not...

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The College Experience

A series telling the true experiences of modern day college students.


Everyone tells you to prepare for the best years of your life.

They tell you to prepare for all of the new challenges and new opportunities.

They say that you will meet your future people in college.

What they don't tell you is how much it will hurt.

Seeing old friends disappear because you are no longer home.

Watching your grades fall because the class is too difficult to pass.

Hearing and witnessing your family struggle and you aren't able to be with them.

Seeing all of the adventures that others are going on while you are stuck in your dorm room with the same stack of papers you have been trying to finish for three days now.

They don't tell you how difficult the transition will be.

They especially don't tell you how hard it is to live with someone.

The best of friends can live together and then grow to hate each other.

Complete strangers will move in and never speak.

You'll find friends that are simply just your "writing friend" or "band friend".

Many of the labels from high school can sometimes stick around.

If you're not out drinking or clubbing, then people think you don't have a life.

College is great, but don't think that it will be easy.

You have to make things easy in order for things to happen.

You can't just go around doing whatever and expect things to work out.

It takes time and it takes commitment to succeed in life, and in college.

The best way to deal with it all, find someone!

Find someone that you can get coffee with and watch sports with.

Find someone to eat dinner and lunch with.

Find someone to study religion and math before the next test.

Find someone!

Find your someone, a friend or someone special, to help you make it through everything that life throws at you.

If I had that someone I might have been better off my first year.


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