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Rural, Urban, or Suburban – What Turf Will Nurture You the Best?

where to go to college

When choosing your future college, what do you consider? Most students assess available majors, costs, prestige (directly tied to employability), facilities (labs or athletic centers), and so on. However, location should also be among your major consideration – not merely an icing on a cake.

Why? Because location directly shapes the environment, where you will spend the next four years – and one should never underestimate the power of the setting on one's mode of life and wellbeing.

Location is much more than mere geography. Apart from obvious things like climate and distance from home, one of the most impactful factors is where your college is situated: a bustling city, a small town, or a bucolic rural area. Each option has its unique allure and tradeoffs. The experience with these types of colleges can be so different, they border on incomparable. That is why in college rankings, instead of trying to match apples to oranges, they often break universities into categories based on location. This way, urban schools compete with other urban schools, while rural colleges are compared to their own ilk.

Confused? Don't be! This distinction is there to help you. As Meredith Woo, president of Sweet Briar College, puts it, "One of the most important things is to have a clear sense of what it is that you want out of your college experience, and see if the setting provides what you need." Here is what you should consider before zeroing in on the college of your dreams.

Rural College: Classic Campus Experience

Rural colleges usually are distanced from major metropolitan areas and surrounded by natural landscapes and farms. Some of the famous rural colleges you probably heard about are Dartmouth, Cornell, Clarkson, University of Connecticut, Miami University – Oxford, and the University of Rhode Island.

What to expect?

Rural colleges provide the most authentic traditional experience. They are campus-based, with the majority of entertainment and cultural activities happening within its walls. This promotes socializing and strengthens ties between the students, building a close-knit community and forging life-long friendships.

The quiet life of measured pace is also a major attraction of rural campuses. With studying being sometimes stressful and overwhelming, serenity and lack of distractions are definitely a plus.

Leaving in the country is also cheaper than in a big city. It also has fewer temptations to splurge on shopping sprees, clubs, and sophisticated cuisine that may be hard to avoid when you are in the middle of a vibrant metropolis.

What are the tradeoffs?

The downsides, as usual, are the extension of the advantages. Rural colleges may be seen either as delightfully secluded or cut off from civilization – depending on whom you ask. They might feel isolated, with limited opportunities for both entertainment and employment. Suppose you plan to supplement your budget by working or you believe that an internship is indispensable for your future career. In that case, a rural college has less to offer. Significant athletic events, Greek life, and entertainment might be scarce as well.

Also, accommodation opportunities are limited in a rural area, so if, for some reason, life in a dorm won't appeal to you, finding an alternative would be a challenge.

Infrastructure can be less developed deep in the country, so you should plan your trips more carefully, get a car, or depend on your friends to give you a ride to the station.

Whom they fit best?

Rural colleges offer a wide variety of activities and experiences that will suit outdoorsy people or those who plan their careers in biology, farming, or preservation. If you like hiking, biking, rowing but do not necessarily see yourself as a competing athlete, a rural college will be most accommodating.

Also, if you want a quiet atmosphere that will help you concentrate on your studies and a supportive community where everyone knows you by your name, rural college is such an idyllic place for you.

Urban College: Diversity and Opportunity

Urban colleges are situated within major metropolitan areas. They are rarely campus-based and often spread across the city, so you will commute and immerse in the urban atmosphere daily. Some significant urban colleges include Harvard, Columbia, MIT, Yale, Brown, University of Chicago, University of Pennsylvania, and the University of California – Los Angeles.

What to expect?

The biggest advantage of an urban college is access to opportunities. With big businesses concentrated in larger cities, jobs and internships abound. The same applies to entertainment and cultural events: museums, galleries, concerts, theatre performances, public lectures, and shows come in all flavors.

The student body is typically more diverse in urban colleges since they attract many international students. There are plenty of networking opportunities that might be helpful in the future.

Infrastructure is highly developed, so both shuttling within the city and catching a flight home is never a problem.

The dynamic metropolitan environment is stimulating and is an attraction in itself. If you have always dreamed of living in a big city, studying in an urban college will be an adventure of a lifetime. If you come from a small town, this exposure to diversity will prepare you for venturing out into a bigger world.

What are the tradeoffs?

Life in a big city is more expensive, so saving money can be tricky even with a job. Plus, there are all sorts of temptations to spend even more – delicious takeaways, clubs, movie shows, seasonal sales.

Living in a city with all its crowds, traffic, noise, and pollution can be stressful and overwhelming for some people. Even if you appreciate the bustle and fast pace of life, the city environment can be distracting if you struggle to prioritize studying over fun and socializing. Based on our statistics, students from urban areas get online paper writing help more often than their rural counterparts.

The student body is usually high in numbers and doesn't provide the same level of strong personal relationships. Moreover, with most activities happing off-campus, there are fewer opportunities to build this affinity.

Whom they fit best?

Urban and city colleges are best suited for career-oriented students. For art majors, they also offer much more opportunities to study through exhibitions, shows, galleries, collections, libraries, and archives. Driven, motivated, highly organized, ambitious students will thrive in the urban environment.

Suburban College: Best of Both Worlds

Suburban colleges are usually situated in residential areas of large cities or in small towns adjacent to metropolises. They offer both access to the city's opportunities and the quieter ambiance of a campus-based university. Some well-known suburban colleges are Princeton, Stanford, California Institute of Technology, Duke University, Northwestern University, University of California – Santa Barbara, and the University of Florida.

What to expect?

Suburban schools combine the peace and quiet of a rural college with access to urban amenities. The student population is more prominent than in rural colleges. This may prove to be a goldilocks option since it's engaging enough but also comfortable and friendly.

Overall, suburban schools offer a healthy balance of on-campus and off-campus life. There is always anything for everyone. Jobs, internships, and cultural attractions of a large city are also accessible, if not exactly on the doorstep.

What are the tradeoffs?

However, it doesn't mean that it would suit anyone. For those undecided, it does provide benefits of both options. For others, it may feel like a compromise – not peaceful enough or not dynamic enough. Moreover, to access all the big city benefits, you must prepare for a lengthy commute.

What to do, then? First of all, visit. The campus atmosphere is made up of myriad components, and every college is unique. Sometimes our expectations and reality can be vastly different. For example, some suburban colleges boast stunning scenery and spacious green campuses. That gives them a genuinely rural feel. On the other hand, "not all big city schools have campuses that spill into the downtown area. It's another reminder to always take the time to visit the schools you are most interested in rather than make assumptions based on location," advises Eric Nichols, vice president for enrollment at Loyola University Maryland.

Note that every type of college has its share of prestigious Ivy schools, so there isn't one best option. They all are equal in their capacity to set you up for success. Which one to choose depends only on your personality, goals, and the kind of environment you are most likely to thrive in.

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