Colgate combines a small-campus liberal arts education with the kind of serious athletic teams and active Greek life often found at much larger schools.

Student-athletes can play on one of about two dozen Division I teams at Colgate. Students can't rush one of the school's three sororities or five fraternities until sophomore year, but after that, about a third of the student body is active in Greek life. As far as academics go, students tend to gravitate toward careers in economics, political science and government, psychology and computer science, among other spheres.

Graduates of this upstate New York school enter the "real world" on steady financial footing, with early career earnings of $86,700 10 years after enrolling — significantly higher than alumni of similar schools, Money calculates. Graduates have lower-than-average levels of student debt, too.

Colgate encourages its roughly 3,000 students to use their liberal arts education in hands-on, proactive ways. The Thought Into Action Entrepreneurship Institute, for example, promotes entrepreneurial activities on campus, with a student incubator program, speakers, events and clubs for budding business owners. The school also has the Colgate Speaking Union, which hosts debates, mock trials and speaking contests on campus, and travels to tournaments elsewhere.