Choosing a college is no easy task. It feels like there are a million questions to ask, which means a million answers to weigh and compare cost, majors offered, student life—the usual. But have you ever thought about where it’s located?
Bustling metropolitan center, a cozy hamlet, or something in between—what fits your lifestyle?
Some students are looking for a big city experience, while others prefer a small-town feel. Which one is right for you? Here are a few considerations you may not have thought of:
Are you looking for something new?
College is a great excuse to try new things, including living in a new place. If you’ve grown up in a small town your whole life, maybe you’re itching to experience a big city. Or if you grew up somewhere more urban, maybe you’re looking for a more “intimate” experience. This is probably the easiest time in your life to experiment living somewhere new, so take advantage of it!
Do you want to take the bus or use your own ride?
Consider if you will have your own car or if you will require easy access to public transportation or bike trails. If none of those options sound appealing, perhaps a walkable urban campus could be a good fit.
Do you like the nightlife or cherish the great outdoors?
Would you feel bored without your pick of food and entertainment venues, or depressed without a place to stretch your legs and explore the outdoors? Asking yourself these questions will help you determine what kind of scene or culture is the right fit for your needs.
Do you want big city opportunities or a small-town student life?
Do you see yourself getting a foot in the door and earning professional experience while you’re in school, or is focusing on student life activities the only thing you want on your calendar until graduation? Perhaps you want a bit of both, and something in between could work for you.
A bigger city may have more potential for internships and professional learning experiences. If you choose a small town, you may find yourself commuting to other areas to get those opportunities. Maybe you’re looking for something in between that offers the best of both worlds.
What can you afford to spend on living expenses?
You may be used to certain luxuries or conveniences. Would you be willing to give those up to live in a larger, more expensive city? The cost of living varies depending on where you are. Expect big cities to be more expensive than college towns, both when it comes to housing and other living expenses (food, gas, going out, etc.).
For example, choosing a school on either coast will likely require that you pay more for housing, whereas the Midwest is known for its affordability.
Still not sure? Go visit!
If you’re having a hard time figuring out if you’d be happier in the big city or a more cozy town, pick a couple of schools in each and go see for yourself. Ask your tour guides what they think about the area, and what they like and don’t like about living there. And don’t forget to explore the town outside of campus as well, especially if you’re in a bigger city. Learn what you should be doing when you visit beyond taking the "typical" campus tour in our free College Visit Checklist.