For those in high school still debating which college to attend, or even which to apply to, consider whether the school is a closed campus college or an urban campus. To compare the two, Her Campus writers from The New School and the University of Portland have teamed up to bring you an article weighing the perks of both settings. And for those already in college? You girls can judge if we accurately described the benefits of living in each campus style. For context, both schools are private, liberal arts schools. The New School is located in Downtown Manhattan while the University of Portland is situated just outside of the city hub, overlooking the Willamette River.
Community vs Independence
Community – A sense of community is hugely emphasized in small schools, and is definitely something that should be taken advantage of! As cheesy and cliché as it sounds, it’s true that the relationships you build in college and how you spend your time truly shape your experience. Get to know your professors and the people you live with and see every day. When you take the time to connect with those who might just be nameless faces or stern adults, you get to see them as people. Reach out to people who have similar interests as you and you could find yourself with new friends and new exciting adventures to go on. You never know, maybe a connection with someone might lead to a future job or unique experience you never could have imagined! Having a network of people is a great comfort to have. Being surrounded by supportive individuals who care about you and want to see you succeed can boost your self-esteem and encourage you to grow as a person. Even as a freshman, I’ve already met so many interesting people on campus that want to see me do my best, and it helps to boost my own morale on days when I’m feeling discouraged.
Independence – Here’s the amazing thing about urban campuses—you get to do whatever you want whenever you what with whomever you want! My first year of college is wrapping up, and I’m already looking for an apartment with a friend! How’s that for independence? Also, you get to take charge of what to keep in and out of your life, and that rule applies to both friends and hobbies. Unlike a college town, your social circle doesn’t have to stop growing after adding the people you see at school. Go to other events to meet students who attend colleges near yours! Not only can you meet more friends of your own age, but you can also participate in things like volunteer work and lectures to surround yourself with people of other age groups. It might sound sketchy, but you can even meet the love of your life waiting for a rush hour subway. So, relish in your new-found independence, walk the busy streets, and expand your circle!
Convenience vs Options
Convenience – Living on a closed campus means everything you could really need is less than a thirty-minute walk away, depending on how big your campus is. Personally, from my dorm in the East Quad at UP, I can get to any of my classes, the library, the gym, or places to eat relatively quickly. With the gym so close, it doesn’t feel like a workout in and of itself to get there. And the close proximity of the library means there’s an alternate place I can go to study when I can’t focus in my dorm. It’s also nice to know that if I snoozed my alarm five times, I could probably get ready, stop for a smoothie from Mack’s Market, the on-campus grocery store, and still get to class with time to spare. And when it comes to food, whenever I get hungry, it’s just a short walk to the Commons or the Pilot House to grab a meal. On the other hand, because these places are so close and I can buy food with meal points, I don’t make a huge effort to change up where I eat. And because there are really only three places to eat on campus and the same food is more or less offered every day from these locations, it gets old pretty quickly. If you don’t have a car, like me, or aren’t a huge fan of taking public transportation, getting off campus food can seem like kind of a hassle. Of course, there are ways around this problem, like making your own food or ordering something from GrubHub.
Having facilities nearby means less time is spent getting from place to place which gives you more time to study or doing other meaningful things. And of course, it also means that when you’re done with classes, you can get back to that well-deserved nap.
Options – You have an entire city at your disposal. When your campus is intertwined with the city itself, you can go to a different restaurant for dinner each night and not run out of places to go for your all four years there. This is certainly the case for New York City. The New School’s University Center is smacked right on 5th Ave in the heart of Greenwich Village, and I walk from Stuyvesant Park and past Union Square Park every single day on my way to class. I remember sitting on the steps at Union Square that one summer night during orientation; and looking up, seeing all the bright lights spilling out of the store windows, and being in awe that THIS was going to be my new neighborhood. MAC Cosmetics, Forever 21, Whole Foods, DSW all fitted into a single glance. That moment at Union Square was the exact moment that I knew I had chosen the right home for me. It’s comforting to know that Joe’s Pizza is always open during those nights that were meant to be forgotten. And guess what? You won’t be a local until you’ve got all the food trucks and vendors pinned on a mental map.
Campus Events vs. City Life
Campus Events – When the week is over or you have a couple of hours when you’d rather not think about that essay due in two weeks (we’ve all been there), take that time and relax! There’s lots to do on campus. Whether it’s sports games, orchestra concerts, or theater performances, all of these various forms of entertainment are close by and can provide a much-needed reprieve from school and life stress. Showing support for your sports teams and arts programs is a great way to increase your sense of school spirit and get involved in the community. Make sure you sign up for notifications from student organization pages and follow social media accounts that will keep you up-to-date on all of the events happening on campus. Academic departments will often have guest lecturers come and speak, and they want a good turnout. If you find yourself with time to spare and the topic interests you, go! A few weeks ago, I went to a campus-wide discussion on what sustainability is like on our campus. It was incredibly eye-opening to hear from both faculty and students about the steps we should take together as a school. If you’re like me and not quite sure what exactly you want to do with your degree once your graduate, these lectures are a great way to narrow down your field of interest to something more specific. And as far as off-campus stuff goes, I believe that living on a closed campus makes them all the more fun! During the week when it seems like you’re being buried alive by homework and other responsibilities, the monotony of campus can feel smothering – like there’s nowhere new to go or nothing exciting to do. But that’s what makes going off-campus that much more fun! Whether it’s a concert or a dinner out or a trip into the great outdoors, the fact that it’s not part of your usual routine makes it all the more memorable and exciting. With all of this, there are more than enough ways to fill your spare time.
City Life – Forget about the tailgates and sports championships; it’s all about rooftop parties and basement kickbacks here in New York. Going to an urban campus flings you into the adult life way faster than if you were to go to a school in Indiana (no offense to Indiana). And I’m not just talking about the drinking and partying—that’s a part of the general college experience away from home. What’s important is HOW you do those things. Joining several different friend groups will open your social life to new settings. I once found myself at a lecture by art director George Lois at Chandelier Creative, and another time, at some an indie concert in Williamsburg on a rainy day. Your activities are not limited to the ones hosted by your school. Do a quick search on Eventbrite, and you will find yourself RSVPing for things you can never do in a small town.
We hope this comparison is helpful for your college-decision making.
[Feature image by Unsplash.]