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Location, Location, Location! Tips for College Research

For many students, college is a time of exploring new opportunities, learning more about themselves, and determining the impact they want to make on the world. Interestingly, where your school is located can have an effect on the opportunities available to you. Read on to learn how location plays a role in your college experience and the location factors to consider when creating or narrowing down your college list.

Five Factors to Consider When Building Your College List


Of the various location factors to consider, the size of the city or town where a school is located will likely have the most effect on its campus culture. For example, heading to the big city may seem like an exciting proposition, but the reality of crowded sidewalks and mass transit could be overwhelming. There are several considerations you should take into account, such as whether you enjoy being independent or like having the support of a community, or whether you’re more interested in being part of a city or a campus. Schools like New York University and Boston University are integrated with their city surroundings and don’t have traditional campuses or quads. These schools provide the chance to take in exciting sights and diverse cultures. The cities themselves offer unique aspects you may not find anywhere else, even in other big cities. Campus activities may be diminished though, as students at urban schools can easily head off-campus, particularly in places like Chicago, New York, and Boston.

If you’re looking for a stronger campus community, consider suburban, small city, and rural campuses. These are often more likely to have a cohesive student body. However, the surrounding area may present fewer opportunities off-campus and a more limited array of activities. If you want a mix of city life with a traditional campus feel, there are some big-city schools you may want to look into. Options include Columbia University or Fordham University’s Rose Hill campus in New York City, the University of Chicago, Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Rice University in Houston, or Tulane University in New Orleans. Despite being located in the midst of major cities, these schools facilitate a strong sense of community with features such as central quads, a gated or enclosed campus, and distinctive architectural style.


You may want to also consider the type of weather you enjoy and look for a school that fits your preferences. If you prefer warm weather to cold, then perhaps schools in the South and West should be higher on your list than schools in the Northeast. The climate in an area can also impact your lifestyle, such as the types of outdoor activities you will be able to pursue. For example, students at the University of Vermont head out to the ski slopes throughout the school year, and students at the University of Washington can hike nearly year-round with little worry of snow or extreme heat.

You can consider looking for schools that make it possible to pursue the activities that interest you. Similarly, you may find that a change of pace is refreshing. For instance, even if you are from the Colorado, you might enjoy trying your hand at surfing rather than skiing.


The culture of a city or town is also important. For example, the cultural differences between the North and South on the East Coast, and between the East and West Coasts, can be fairly vast. While these differences are neither bad nor good, they will shape your college experience and are important to consider. This means it’s not just the place that is important, but also the people who live there. Many public schools take the majority of their students from their state or local area. So if you like aspects of West Coast or Southern culture, for example, then a school in that area may be for you, even if you are not initially interested in or familiar with the location.

Career Opportunities

Sometimes students have to relocate to new cities after college graduation for their first jobs. You can get ahead of the game by focusing on schools that are located in areas that cater to or specialize in the career you’d like to pursue. Employers are often most familiar with students attending schools in their area or region. Your internships are also likely to take place at local businesses, so check out the surrounding area for companies and types of positions that interest you. For example, if you are thinking about pursuing a career in the music business, consider schools close to or in Los Angeles and Nashville. If you think you may go into media or communications, you might want to look at colleges on the East Coast, close to Boston or New York. If you’re a programming maverick, northern California might be for you. If politics is where your interests lie, check out schools around Washington D.C. You may find that your college search changes based on your career aspirations.

Family Ties

What about family? More and more students are deciding to leave town to attend school. Though it may seem as though that is an exciting option for college, carefully consider your relationship with your family and how often you’ll want to visit them. Do you have a younger brother or sister whom you mentor? Do you enjoy big family dinners? College is a time to explore and discover, and while you should take the time to get to know your campus and classmates, you might still want the option to visit home on school breaks and other occasions. Consider how far you’re willing to travel home during the holidays. For example, if your family lives on the East Coast, then attending school in California guarantees you’ll have a six-hour flight ahead of you every time you want to see family or high school friends.

While no one of these factors should exclude a school from your list, they are all important aspects of location that influence college life and should be taken into consideration before your list of potential schools is complete. It is important that your college fits who you are. Be realistic about what you need to thrive in a college environment, do your research and look for schools that suit your preferences. Remember, one of the best ways to learn about a school and its location is to visit. Once you’re on campus, you might find that snowy weather, suburban life, or study groups at the beach excite you more than you previously thought.

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