Ever hear somebody say that college life was one of their best experiences? Most likely, that has a lot to do with the friends they made along the way. Whether it’s in class or campus housing, part of the fun of college is meeting new people — and regardless of where you go, you are going to make friends.
Keep in mind that not all colleges are the same, and neither are their students, which means that student life will vary with each school. Large schools and those in large cities are more likely to enroll students from a wide range of ethnic, socioeconomic, and religious backgrounds. Others, especially small schools and those in rural locations, tend to have a more homogeneous student body.
Give some thought to the type of people you want around, where they may be from, or how many are male versus female. It’s also OK to think about what sort of values the students and the schools reflect. If you’re conservative, a more liberal college may make you uncomfortable (unless you’re looking for a chance to learn about others’ experiences and perspectives), or vice versa. The people you meet during your college years will influence you in ways you may not even imagine!
Campus vibe provides a perspective on college life
While on campus visits, take a good look around. Get a sense of how students are dressed, how crowded the common areas seem, and whether the campus seems lively or a little on the slow side. What do you see? Do you notice a lot of Greek life jackets, Birkenstocks, pink hair and nose rings, or a little of everything? If everyone seems cut from the same cloth, decide if you’re more comfortable with uniformity or individual expression. These are important things to consider — you want to find an environment where you can express your personality freely.
Student life and the gender ratio
Most schools are coed, with a balance of male and female students, but some still lean in one direction or the other. You may want to consider whether you want to go to a school with a fairly equal gender ratio or a school that has a significantly higher percentage of one gender than the other. Another option is a women-only or men-only college.
Another aspect to the gender balance that you may want to think about is how it affects college housing. Do male and female students live in different buildings or just on different floors? Do they live on the same floor in different rooms? Do they share bathrooms? The answers to these questions might help you decide how comfortable you are with a school.
College life allows you to experience cultural diversity
One of the coolest things about college is getting the chance to meet and learn from people of all cultures. Do you want to be around lots of different people with a variety of accents and traditions, or does familiarity make you the most comfortable? Most schools will have some level of diversity, but the bigger and more urban the school, the more diverse it is likely to be.
Meeting new people or seeing familiar faces
There are quite a few colleges that draw the locals, resulting in a larger amount of commuter students and a greater chance that if you’re a local too, you may run into some familiar faces. On the other hand, schools that enroll tons of out-of-state students may provide an opportunity to forge new friendships from the ground up with people from all over the country. Do you have a preference? Maybe you and your best friend want to stick close to home — or meet new friends at an out-of-state university.
Benefiting from familiarity and diversity
Many large universities, although diverse, have groups of people with similar backgrounds living together in campus housing, either by accident or by design. For example, one university places students majoring in certain areas into the same dorms. These living communities allow for easier studying and facilitate quicker social connections, since many of the students have classes together. On campuses like this, you can enjoy familiarity and diversity!
The student body can affect your college experience
It may not matter too much to you what types of people attend the college that you go to, but be sure that you check things out enough that you don’t find yourself surrounded by people that you just can’t relate to. College should be fun and full of great interactions, not spent holed up in your room avoiding people.