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

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. While students are only required to participate in three Jan Plans, often students elect to complete a fourth because the experience is so enjoyable.

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 are economics, natural resources conservation and research, and political science.

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. While Colby has one of the more expensive degree prices in Money’s ratings — the total cost of tuition, room, board and activities is about $80,000 a year — the average annual cost is brought under $20,000 by grants and scholarships.