College is most notably known as the best four years of our lives. It’s almost seen as a weird limbo where you have the freedom to live on your own and be who you want, while still having your parents to come to the rescue if you can’t figure out if that shirt goes in the “whites” pile while doing laundry. In reality, though, college isn’t all fun and games. The imminent stress that comes with higher level education, the pressure to figure out your future life and career and the desire to find your own personal niche can be overwhelming.
We’ve all heard that the college you go to will ultimately determine the course of your life (a little dramatic, I know), but we never really think about how the actual location of the college itself can impact our experience. It’s important to remember that each student is different and the environment that surrounds us can affect our study habits, moods and even our overall success. Here are some factors to take into consideration before you jump into applying to every school you see on the internet:
1. Make sure you can handle the weather
Although it may be a seemingly insignificant factor, it can have a much bigger effect on you than you may think. We know what you’re thinking—if it’s cold, I can just put a jacket on; if it’s hot, you wear shorts. Easy, right? Not always.
Things such as pollen count can also be a huge factor. Places that have a notably higher pollen count might not be ideal for those that are more sensitive to allergies. You don’t want to be the one with a running nose in class 24/7 and there’s only so much antihistamines can do to save you.
Actual weather is also a huge factor. Some people find rainy, cloudy weather soothing and rely on it to keep focus. For these people, looking for a college that fits this weather description is essential to their successes. On the other hand, if you are someone who loves natural light, sunny weather, clear skies and don’t mind the heat, move somewhere that doesn’t get a lot of rain. We know, it’s pretty self explanatory right? However surprisingly this is something most people don’t take into consideration because they get so distracted from the other factors. Nevertheless, it can have a huge impact on your overall happiness as well as your level of motivation. For people who thrive in sunny, bright environments, rain can have a detrimental affect on their mood.
For Marisa Pieper, a student from Arizona State University, this was the case. “I moved from cold, wet, grey Oregon to sunny, warm, desert Arizona because I would get seasonal depression in Oregon and wanted to get away from that for college,” she explains. “I do so much better in school and on a daily basis so living in the sunshine definitely helped me.”
Weather can affect people in very different ways. Some thrive in the rain because it provides a calming atmosphere, while some find their moods taking a hit because of the gloomy weather. Don’t ignore the kind of atmosphere that’s best for your own success—think about it when you’re doing research about colleges and visiting schools.
2. Do you want to move in-state or go out-of-state?
Depending on what kind of person you are, a school’s distance from home can also be a huge determining factor. Some collegiettes are eager to move hundreds of miles away from home, while others feel as if staying close to home is the best for them. One big thing to consider is whether you would like to stay in the comfort of your home state, or move far away to another state.
Keele Johnson, a student at Collin County Community College, says that going to a local community college might be a good choice for students who aren’t financially or emotionally prepared to go to a university. “I chose to go to a community college close to home for the first couple of years because I wasn’t quite sure what I wanted to do yet,” she says. “It’s a great way to save money and figure out what I really wanted to start doing before going on to the real deal.” Going to a college in your hometown gives you the ability to stay at home and avoid paying for rent while also being able to enjoy mother’s cooking. Sure, it may not be the “freedom” you’ve hoped for, but there are definitely still benefits. College can be a scary thing, and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with easing yourself into the process into adulthood.
If you still want to move a good distance from home but want to escape outrageous out-of-state tuitions, you could always move to another city that you aren’t very familiar with within your state. For Doan Nguyen, a student at the University of Texas at Austin, moving to Austin was just the right amount of change she needed. “Moving to Austin was the perfect combination of getting the new experiences I was searching for without having to throw myself into the complete unknown,” she explains. “Austin is definitely a completely different city than my old suburban hometown of Plano so it allowed me to experience a whole different world without moving too far away from home.” Moving to another city can still offer you a completely different environment than the one you have at home even if it is within the same state.
However, if you're someone who can’t wait to go off on your own, maybe a college further away from home is better for you. For you, out-of-state colleges are probably more your cup of tea. For some people, a drastic change is what motivates them and allows them to strive to be their best and moving to a completely different state is just what they need.
If this is you, it’s important to consider that being far from home may mean that you won’t be able to come home for every single holiday. If this is something that’s holding you back, one solution is to look up the percentage of out-of-state students vs. in-state students the college has. If it has a high in-state percentage, there will be a higher possibility that you’ll meet in-state friends that will be in town for the holidays so you wont be as lonely. On the other hand, if there is a high out-of-state percentage you have something in common with most people. It could make meeting people a lot easier knowing that they’re just as lost as you; you just won’t be able to tag along to their family holiday dinners. Both have many pros and cons depending on what you’re looking for. In addition, out-of-state colleges won’t allow you to run home for emergencies or forgotten items. However, if that’s not a big issue, then going out-of-state could be a great new experience.
3. Think about whether you prefer a more urban or rural environment
This is definitely one of the most obvious factors to take into consideration when choosing your ideal college. Many colleges are either in the middle of downtown in a huge city—or in a small town in a more rural area. This can have a huge impact on not only your overall success, but your overall happiness as well.
For college graduate Sojin Kim, the location of the School of the Arts in Chicago was perfect for her because the campus was sprawled across downtown Chicago.
“I visited and loved the city and fast-paced environment,” she says. “I am not someone who likes quiet or slow paced things. I like to get things done quickly and efficiently. The city motivated me to graduate because I couldn’t wait to get a job in the downtown.”
If you’re someone who fast walks everywhere and loves the hustle and bustle of a city, you might enjoy the urban college environment. If you’re the type of person who can’t stand crowded transportation and getting lost because you took the wrong subway, you may want to reconsider.
However, other people love quiet, tight-knit college communities. The benefit of being at a smaller college in a more rural or suburban area means that you could bring your car and have more chances to drive around. However, if you’re not bringing your car, you may want to consider if walking long distances is going to be a problem.
Rachna Shah, an incoming freshman at Dartmouth College, said rural life was for her. “In the fall, I'll be attending Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire which is notoriously known for being ‘in the middle of nowhere,’ she says. “I'm really looking forward to engrossing myself in nature and the tight community, though, despite the fact that I've grown up near Chicago.”
Living in a certain type of environment all your life can allow you to realize what kind of surroundings are right for you. Maybe you want to go to school in a location similar to your hometown, or maybe you want the complete opposite.
4. How much of a college town is your town?
There is no doubt that some towns are more school spirited than others. Places like Austin, Texas, have burnt-orange street signs the moment you enter the city because it's where the University of Texas at Austin is. Other towns are not so “hyped” when it comes to college spirit. This is something that most people may not even consider. However, it’s important to remember that you are not only going to school there, but you’ll have to step off the campus every once in a while.
If you’re the type of person that loves school spirit, find a city that loves it, too. Having a city that makes a big deal about football games, basketball games, swim meets, academic decathlons or even just simple school events will allow you to feel connected to your community outside of the campus.
School spirit is definitely not for everyone. However, if it is your cup of tea, find a place that will fill your kettle!
Related Article: Where You Should Go to College Based On Your Zodiac Sign
Although college is only four years of your life, it is undoubtedly one that will provide you with the best memories. However, choosing the wrong college can lead you to feel lost, hopeless and unhappy. When choosing your college, make sure to take into consideration other factors other than just how prestigious the name of your college is—such as the location of the school and the type of environment you could be living in for the next four years. Choosing the perfect college is more than just one step. Therefore, visiting colleges and getting a feel of the area is vital to your overall opinion of a school. You never know—you may fall in love with the most unlikely places!