Washington Square Park in New York, N.Y., April 5, 2010.
The typical college campus is speckled with green quads and dotted with shrubbery. There are not skyscrapers and concrete as far as the eye can see. Most college students walk between their classes. They do not tackle the intricate subway system.
However, students often pass up the seemingly traditional college-town experience to study in one of America’s major metropolises.
City schools typically dominate Princeton Review’s College Rankings “Town Life” section with cities such as Washington D.C., New Orleans, New York City and Boston annually leading the top 10.
There are two types of city colleges: the universities with campuses within the city and the universities whose campuses are the city. Universities such as Columbia University in New York City’s Morningside Heights neighborhood are located in a self-contained campus within a major city. The school offers green spaces and classroom and residential buildings within close proximity to each other. Schools like New York University (NYU), on the other hand, utilize public space as its central campus. The college is based around Washington Square Park in New York City’s Greenwich Village neighborhood and features buildings spread throughout the various surrounding neighborhoods and areas.
Studying in an urban environment allows for opportunities that rural or suburban landscapes cannot lend to. One of the primary reasons that students are attracted to schools located in major cities is the bevy of opportunities these cities hold.
“A big factor in my decision to apply early decision to NYU was the large number of internship opportunities available in New York City. I think that going to school in a big city gives us a chance to work with some of the most experienced professionals in the jobs that we want to work in when we graduate,” said Ashley Alenick, a junior at NYU. “I didn’t know what field I wanted to go into when I started college, but through various internships I was able to figure out where I want to work. New York City has provided me with internship opportunities that I don’t think I could have gotten anywhere else.”
Internships in virtually every field imaginable are available for students to schedule between their classes. Studying in the city eliminates the worry of planning the perfect route to get to your classes and make it to your internship or job on time. Most students in city colleges are able to intern during the fall and spring semesters, as opposed to only the winter or summer as visiting students do, which also reduces the amount of competition when applying.
Despite the plentiful positives in choosing to study in an urban center, many feel they are missing out on a traditional college experience by forgoing the quads. Many city schools do not have as flourishing of a Greek life system as their suburban or rural counterparts. Many do not have football games, or even teams, since there is likely not the space for a sports field. Many have dorm buildings spread city blocks apart housing their massive student bodies, thus alienating students.
One option for students who want to take advantage of the opportunities a nearby city offers without the constant pressures or costs of city life is commuting from either home or a cheaper apartment in the surrounding suburbs.
“Living in New Jersey and commuting to New York City allows me to truly have the best of both worlds,” said Caroline Saba, a junior at NYU. “I live for the excitement and opportunities. But for those times when the excitement is too much, I go home to my small, suburban town in New Jersey, which is quiet and quaint and I love the feeling of complete relaxation this gives me.”
Attending college in a large city can be an exceptionally gratifying experience for many students. Learning how to navigate the public transportation systems, better balance your course schedule and survive and thrive in a major metropolis forces students to mature quickly and learn how to handle new experiences on their own. Urban universities offer a multitude of opportunities that are not available to students at other schools. It may not be traditional but the sacrifices do not compare to the prospects that come along with trading in the greenery for the concrete.
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