There's a lot to potentially say here, but let me say the most important thing.
I spent a lot of time at Skidmore studying and cultivating lasting relationships with faculty in the English department. Socially, I struck to a small group of fellow students (who I'm still in contact with almost daily, in fact). Intellectually, I intuited that Skidmore—the library, the faculty, the sheer time I had available for study—was going to be totally unique in my life. It was.
While it's true when "they" say that your college years are meant to develop a professional network that lasts a lifetime (and they're right), the equation is slightly changed for those of us who knew we wanted to be academics all along. Going to a professor's office hours, attending special events, organizing public forums, and trying to expand my responsibilities as a student were crucial to honing relationships with faculty that have lasted me for years.
The English Department was and remains a special place, with incredible faculty that are as special to me now as then. They were so giving and supportive to me, and they more than tolerated my restless curiosity and sometimes obnoxious ambition. So listen to them when they speak on panels, or bring in speakers.
Go the extra mile on your papers. Do research that isn't required. Work at the Writing Center. Go to their office hours. Write them emails (within reason!). Join their clubs. Seek their advice. Hell, read their books. I did those things and it really pushed my imagination, and drew me closer to them as professionals.
What they taught me stuck with me; the classes I took I remember; the papers I wrote I still have, and sometimes glance at; the frameworks and values they advanced were accurate and productive; their insights were valuable, generous, and life-changing. And their support and later friendship didn't end when I graduated. More than a few later contacted me with projects large and small that have had incredible meaning for me in my current job, and which contributed not a little to my own tenure-track accomplishments: writing and researching articles for an encyclopedia on the New York school poets; reviewing recent books on nineteenth century literature (my own field); co-editing a special issue for a journal on William James (google it!), and more.
It's hard for me to separate my undergraduate study from my graduate study, and I can say that my mentors from Skidmore were certainly equal to my mentors at the Graduate Center (and I say this with great reverence for both; the faculty at the CUNY graduate center are quite incredible too!). While CUNY and Skidmore are different in some obvious ways, there is a common bridge between them at both places: they are seriously inventive, creative professionals with an excellent sense of the written word, and the magic of prose, and they are all really quite exceptional authorities on literary studies. They get it, and they're good.
When I asked a mentor at Skidmore my senior year where I should study next, she said, "The Graduate Center. You'll love it there." She was right, and her authority, both in the field and because she knew me so well (I took multiple classes with her), is why I was comfortable making the decision I did later, with all the risks it entailed.
I really want to impress anyone reading this, then, how crucial it is to spend time with faculty, to listen to them, and to let them stretch your mind. My mind and my writing was stretched constantly there, sometimes to the breaking point (they broke down my writing habits and rebuilt them again, and I was so much the better for it). I learned so much about academia from paying attention to my conversations with faculty in the English department, and even learning more about their own debates about curriculum, pedagogy, culture, and literature.
I suppose I should add that I still remember my classes outside the department, too—by investing so much in the faculty, Skidmore is really investing so much in us—in you and in me.
So if I had to distill a lesson from all this, it'd be: Skidmore is an opportunity as well as an education. Take advantage of it. It stays with you. You can trust what you learn, and the faculty are there to give you the tools you need to thrive afterward. My success as an academic is really based on a debt to the faculty at Skidmore that I cannot ever repay.