Beyond Campus: Why a College Town Matters When Picking a School

Don't forget about the college town when you're looking at schools

Flickr user Alan Light

Many things factor in to finding your ideal college fit, but one element that sometimes gets overlooked is the surrounding college town or city. Students and parents become so hyper-focused on the school and its campus, that they don’t take the time to explore the nearby town during a visit.

Here’s why it’s important to consider the town beyond campus.

Location, Location, Location

The location of your potential college town is likely something you’ve already considered. Do you want to live far from home, or nearby? In a big city, or a rural area? The location of campus in regards to the nearby towns also matters. For example, my brother decided one dream school was out of the running since the nearest town was several miles away and students were pretty much stuck on campus.

Nearby Opportunities: Jobs, Internships, Networking

Though your primary focus will be on academics, there are still other things that will be part of your college life. Part time jobs, summer internships, nearby industry professionals related to your major—these are all great things to have nearby. Opportunities and experiences outside the classroom can be just as important.

Personality and College Town Fit

When you visit a college, you’ll get a “feel” for it. You’ll sense its vibes and personality and see if it matches yours. Colleges can be made or broken by the visit “feel.” But a college town should get the same treatment. Visit the nearby shops, the restaurants, and get a sense for its speed and culture. What sort of events do they put on? What readings, shows, or bands visit? You’ll need to take a break from studying every once in a while, and leaving campus to visit the college town is an ideal way to do that.

Some people prefer the hustle and bustle of the cities. Others favor more intimate small-town fare. Still others want something in the middle. One of the reasons I chose the college I did was because the town was small enough to feel homey, but large enough that I was always discovering something new.

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