I would not personally recommend SUNY Potsdam, let me get that clear right away. Although I harbor a lot of resentment for this school, I will try to offer a complete analysis based on my experiences in a fairly objective fashion. (Although I do have some strong opinions).
First, the good things: The student body is generally very accepting and friendly. I hardly ever found any prejudiced/racist individuals or ignorant people. This created a nice and welcoming vibe.
Also, the way the classes are set up, it is possible for anybody to do well if they apply themselves (from my experience). Brighter students can challenge themselves if they want the tippy top grades, and average/poor students can work their tail ends off to do well.
It feels very safe on campus. I never once felt threatened while on campus. I never felt the need to look over my shoulder while walking home at 2 am from a party/friends house. Also, no buildings are too far away if you live on campus. It is generally less than a 10 minute walk from anywhere to anywhere on campus.
The food is VERY VERY good, especially for a state school. I was consistently impressed, and there are many options for food, including a buffet and a "fancier" lunch spot.
Now, the bad things:
I was a student at the Crane school of Music, and I have to say I regretted my decision to attend ever since the first month of classes. The music education department is considered one of the top in the state; I am honestly not sure why. The classes for music education were the most boring things conceivable, and consisted of nothing my spewing out digested information. I did not feel like I was learning in the least bit. I went through the motions and *tried* to soak all I could from them, but the courses were so non demanding I could feel my brain rot as I was sitting in class.
The students who attend Crane are generally extremely arrogant and believe they are God's special gift to the universe. I must admit, my first year in Crane I shared the same attitude, but looking back I could not have been more wrong. Some of the "top" performers (really just the faculty's favorites), walk around as if they were the top of the freaking world EVERY DAY. Granted, not everybody was like that, but it was enough to make the environment toxic. It seemed to me the most popular individuals were also the most conniving, bitter, and judgmental people I had ever met. They formed cliques, tore down others, and criticized those who also did those things. Hypocrisy much? Now, I have never attended another music school, but I might infer that most music schools may be like this. Meanwhile, those who considered themselves the best ended up back at Potsdam after graduating. Hm, curious isn't it? I think it is evident that even the tippy top performers here would be bottom of the heap at just about every conservatory in the nation. Every time I showed disgust or tried to defend myself against cruel gossip, the "popular" crowd would rush to my studio teacher and complain to try to get me in trouble. Meanwhile they are talking crap and wishing death upon people (Yes, it is that bad).
If you are not "in" with the "popular" people from the beginning, every mistake you make will be subject to ridicule and will be gossiped about incessantly. It is supremely immature and ridiculous to have to fear being talked about at a school where you are supposed to learn and grow. This made me feel depressed and like everyone was out to get me, and many other people including my boyfriend felt the same way. It is a supportive environment on a shallow level, but beyond that it was a toxic, hateful, and hypocritical place, especially with the voice students (Though the other departments were not too far behind).
Now, the level system. Regardless of your major, you are required to present a level A to your area's department. For voice, one must present 5 songs in contrasting languages as well as self-prepare a piece without your studio teacher's guidance. I think these are ridiculous. It is EXTREMELY subjective who passes and who fails the level, and often I suspect that personal ridicule on the faculty's end affects the outcome of a student's performance. Now, I do understand the need to gauge a student's performing level in music school, but I do not think it should be done in this way. I do not think the whole voice department should get a say in whether or not you are growing as a performer. As subjective as singing is, any professor could fail you for anything under the sun. One of my friends got a fail on the basis that a female professor did not like her dress. Yes, it can be that ridiculous. However, the comments from the levels can be very helpful. I think whether or not you continue on in school should be between you and your professor alone, because truly the other professors have no idea of your progress or your individual performing level based on one performance.
The gay male population is disgusting. Just disgusting. And slutty. If it weren't for my boyfriend I would have probably been single the whole time. There are very few diamonds in the rough in THAT department. If you are gay and don't want to get an STD, I would just refrain from doing anything sexually with anybody here. I overheard a gay man BRAGGING that he slept with another guy's boyfriend. Pretty representative of the character of the gay male population if you ask me.
Now that I've cleared Crane, I will finish up with the rest of the university.
Potsdam is VERY boring. And desolate. There is not much to do, and that makes students drink and smoke more. Pretty much everyone here gets trashed every weekend. And as for the weather.......just don't go outside during the winter unless you absolutely need to. It's a tundra.
For me, the classes were too easy to the point where I would not even hand work in because I was so unmotivated. However, the less bright students felt challenged and would often receive good grades and would BRAG about it on facebook or twitter. Now, kudos to them for getting great grades, but they should know that it is not reflective of their intelligence considering this a very easy school, academically speaking.
The ladies in the financial aid office are REALLY hard to get along with, avoid them unless you have to deal with them.
The accapella groups are overhyped and perform the same watered down arrangements of lame songs at every concert. No thank you.
There are a lot of clubs to choose from, although many of them accomplish absolutely nothing during the year. Be careful which ones you choose to devote your time to.
The buildings are all pretty ugly and composed of brick, except for the new performing arts center which is also ugly and doesn't match any of the other buildings. It sticks out like a sore thumb. To that I say LOL.
Overall, I would say that SUNY Potsdam is not a very good choice for school, even at it's fairly low price. I would recommend SUNY Geneseo or SUNY Binghamton, as they offer a greater value for education.