As its name suggests, SUNY ESF is focused on environmental education and sustainability. Its Gateway Center operates on renewable energy; elsewhere on campus, there’s a small complex of glass greenhouses — located on a rooftop.

The SUNY ESF Campus is adjacent to Syracuse University, and student life is closely integrated with it. While freshmen are required to live in ESF dorms, they can eat in SU dining halls and have access to Syracuse's libraries and computer labs. ESF's roughly 1,600 undergrads can also join SU clubs and sports teams and take advantage of the Tennity Ice Skating Pavilion.

One notable feature of living in Syracuse is its cold winters. The temperatures typically hover around 30 degrees in January, and the campus can receive over 100 inches of snow in a single year. SUNY ESF sits on a collective 25,000 acres and includes campuses like the Ranger School, a spot further upstate in Wanakena that offers associate degrees in outdoor fields such as environmental conservation, forest technology and surveying.

SUNY ESF particularly stands out in quality and affordability. The university's six-year graduation rate of 73% is above average when compared to universities with similar student demographics, according to Money's analysis. Its recent graduates make a median income of $53,300.