Founded in 1813, Colby is one of the oldest liberal arts colleges in the U.S. and prides itself on the opportunities it provides for undergraduate research.

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Each January, students complete a "Jan Plan," an exploratory term that allows them to focus on a single subject or experience. That can mean anything from learning the art of fly fishing in California to studying (and performing) West African music.

On campus, Colby's more than 2,000 undergraduates praise the close relationships they're able to form with professors, some of whom even invite students over for home-cooked dinners. Academically, the top fields of study include economics, natural resources conservation and research, and political science.

Although Colby has a high sticker price — its total cost of attendance is about $84,000 per year — Money found that it's actually one of the more affordable colleges based on its financial aid options. The average annual cost after accounting for financial aid is about $17,000 per year, significantly less than the national median. Students from low-income families pay even less. And graduates earn higher-than-usual salaries; the median early-career earnings after students leave Colby are over $84,000.

The campus has an idyllic, New England feel, with an on-campus arboretum and nature trails. But its location in central Maine is a bit off the beaten path, with the nearest large city, Portland, some 90 minutes to the south.