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Articles / Applying to College / Beautiful Campuses Beckon

Beautiful Campuses Beckon

Dave Berry
Written by Dave Berry | April 4, 2013

Now that college admissions decisions have been rendered, many high school seniors and some of their parents will be making campus visits to help make another decision -- where to go to college. A considerable portion of the cost of running a college or university comes from making the grounds and buildings look beautiful. You can imagine how much the landscaping alone can cost. There's all that grassy acreage to keep cut and tons of trees, shrubs, and flowers to maintain, not to mention fresh paint on buildings and even clean windows. The labor crew to do all this sometimes looks like a small army, and that's just for the external views. How about the housekeepers and custodial force needed to keep the students from destroying it all?

Anyway, let's talk about beautiful campuses (no, I just checked, and I'm using the plural "campuses," not "campi"). I've visited a number of campuses in my day, but the one I'll never forget is Princeton University. Our son was accepted there back in the '90s, so Mom, Dad, and son visited, with our son doing an overnight in one of the residence halls. My wife and I refer to Princeton as The Magic Kingdom. The Gothic architecture and pristine grounds can transport you into a completely different world. Adding to the magnificence of the campus during our visit was some of the most perfect spring weather imaginable: deep blue skies, crisp morning air, and brilliant sunshine.


Enough about Dave in The Magic Kingdom. I though that I would write today about what others think about beautiful campuses. Of course, the easiest way to discover where beautiful campuses are is to use your favorite search engine to find "America's most beautiful colleges campuses." I just did that and found this page of links on Google. Another great resource is, of course, College Confidential's discussion forum. Let's see what posters there have to say.

- I think it's a toss up between UVA and SMU

- Princeton is also nice, if you're into that type of gothic architecture.

- Bowdoin, Dartmouth

-University of Wisconsin-Madison in May or July. No question in my mind.

- I've visited a lot of schools on this college odyssey with DS #1 and Lewis & Clark College in Portland, OR was by far the most beautiful campus--like something out of a fairytale. [Or maybe a Magic Kingdom?]

- Wellesley is gorgeous.

- My vote for the most beautiful go to Middlebury and Stanford. Honorable mention to Syracuse, Cornell and Ithaca College.

- Santa Clara...especially when the roses and wisteria are blooming. BUT there is always something blooming. Buildings and facilities are very pretty too...as is the nice climate.

- University of Richmond, Dartmouth

- Stanford- the view up Palm drive is stunning-- and Princeton in the fall with the leaves changing.

- Notre Dame. Had the same experience as Kennedy2010. Runner up: Pepperdine. Would give honorable mention to Univ. of San Diego, Santa Clara, Clemson, St. Olaf...

- Loyola Marymount in Southern CA is stunning--white washed historic buildings, bougainvillea covered, campus is placed jewel-like upon high bluffs overlooking the Pacific.

- UVA, Pepperdine, Vanderbilt, and Princeton

- Stanford, Wellesley, Swarthmore

- My vote is for Georgetown, especially in late summer/early fall<3.

- Caltech's original campus is gorgeous. Lovely Spanish Colonial revival, with gorgeous arcades, walled in olive gardens. In the spring the iris, jacaranda and wisteria are all blooming. Just stunning.

- Colgate, University of Richmond, UVA, William and Mary, Marist

- William and Mary, UCLA, Stanford, Naval Academy and Notre Dame.

- UC Santa Cruz, Bowdoin, University of Puget Sound, LSU.

- Cornell and Duke are gorgeous! So is U of Chicago and Sarah Lawrence and Colgate!

- Two more that I think are lovely are Texas State in San Marcos and Hartwick College in Oneonta, NY. Both have pretty old buildings up on a hill.

- Smith College, designed by Frederic Law Olmsted, granddaddy of American landscape architecture. It reveals itself as you walk it, with wide vistas opening up as you round a corner or follow a footpath. The twists and turns are surprising and delightful.

- No one has mentioned Virginia Tech! Such attention to detail in using the Hokie Stone in their architecture... All against a blue ridge mtn background. Simply Gorgeous.

- U of Rochester was a pretty campus - too cold in winter though Gorgeous on a lovely spring day. Walked around Tufts right after a huge snowstorm - the campus looked lovely with trees covered in snow. Bucknell was also really beautiful - but very remote. No easy access and the town surrounding it was miniscule!

- My favorites fall into three catagories:

Red Brick/Georgian: Miami University (Ohio) and University of Alabama

Limestone/Gothic: Notre Dame and Indiana University

Southwest Style: University of San Diego

- Emory (Atlanta), Vanderbilt (Nashville) and Wash U (STL) come to mind and are peer schools of a few you mention, with beautiful campuses in warmer locales (maybe Wash U is not so much warmer).

- Among urban universities: McGill University in Montreal. Downtown location but a fairly green campus climbing up Mount Royal. Beautiful in the summer and after a big snowfall. (Not so much now as it is mud season.)

- Many campuses are nice, but the best I have seen are:

1. Indiana - Bloomington. the central campus area with limestone buildings, scattered around slight hills, mainly walking areas. Out by stadium not so great.

2. Miami - Oxford. uniform georgian brick arch, even new buldings, ie farmer school.

3. Notre Dame - Gothic.

- UCSB....yes, some of the buildings loudly proclaim their military heritage (was once a military facility) but...with the Pacific on three sides and the Santa Inez mountains on the other it is breathtaking. We visited a student in her dorm. She has a view of the sunset that most Million dollar condo dwellers could can only aspire too.


So, there you have some broad-ranging observations from the College Confidential posters. Naturally, you should keep in mind that these observations are subjective, just like my Magic Kingdom ravings.

Speaking of subjective, have you seen Forbes listing of the most beautiful campuses? You'll note names (and pictures of) schools like Florida Southern College, College of the Atlantic, Furman University, and Scripps College. These are names not commonly found in discussions like the ones cited above. So, broaden your beautiful horizons

If you have any thoughts about lovely campuses you've visited, feel free to comment below. Don't forget to mention why you think they're so beautiful.


Be sure to check out all my admissions-related articles and book reviews at College Confidential.


Admit This

Written by

Dave Berry

Dave Berry

Dave is co-founder of College Confidential and College Karma Consulting, co-author of America's Elite Colleges: The Smart Buyer's Guide to the Ivy League and Other Top Schools, and has over 30 years of experience helping high schoolers gain admission to Ivy League and other ultra-selective schools. He is an expert in the areas application strategies, stats evaluation, college matching, student profile marketing, essays, personality and temperament assessments and web-based admissions counseling. Dave is a graduate of The Pennsylvania State University and has won national awards for his writing on higher education issues, marketing campaigns and communications programs. He brings this expertise to the discipline of college admissions and his role as a student advocate. His College Quest newspaper page won the Newspaper Association of America's Program Excellence Award, the Pennsylvania Newspaper Publisher's Association Newspapers in Education Award, the Thomson Newspapers President's Award for Marketing Excellence and the Inland Press Association-University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Mass Communications Inland Innovation Award for the Best New Page. His pioneering journalism program for teenagers, PRO-TEENS, also received national media attention. In addition, Dave won the Newspaper Association of America's Program Excellence Award for Celebrate Diversity!, a program teaching junior high school students about issues of tolerance. His College Knowledge question-and-answer columns have been published in newspapers throughout the United States. Dave loves Corvettes, classical music, computers, and miniature dachshunds. He and his wife Sharon have a daughter, son and four grandchildren.

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