Going to College in a City Isn't Worth It


Every day for 10 months, I fumbled for my alarm clock, got my books together, and wearily met the same avenue and block of academic buildings. I chowed down at the same local restaurants and dining halls, sprawled out on the same patch of greenery, and visited my girlfriend in the same dorm. I wouldn't have had it any other way.

I go to Northwestern University, a midsize school that's cozily ensconced in Evanston, Illinois. Though I'm just a few miles away from Chicago, I have everything I could possibly need on my campus and in its surrounding college town. And though there are dull nights when I lament not being in Chicago, Northwestern is the perfect distance from the Windy City.

Being stuck on a campus can feel constraining at times, but I can't imagine going through college without having my own stomping ground. Living on a campus allows for more communal gathering than my friends at New York University or Boston University have ever experienced, and seeing the same faces and architecture gives me a distinct sense of belonging to my school. That hackneyed college brochure photo of frat bros tossing around a Frisbee and hippies strumming their guitars on the lawn is, ultimately, cooler than you think.

I realized my adoration of my college's campuses when my mom innocuously asked my sister, who's applying to schools this fall, if she wanted to be in a city or on a campus. Without hesitation, my sister immediately said that she didn't want anything to do with an urban school. She needed a campus environment, and while I initially laughed at just how adamant she is about it, I came to realize how right she is.

My friends in city schools boast about seeing more, doing more, and even being more. Going to school in the heart of New York, Boston, or Chicago allows you to go to more bars, clubs, and entertainment venues, and is less socially regulated. As one of my friends put it, "We're not college kids. We're real people."

What's the rush to be real people, though? What's wrong with a sorority row, a statue of some former university president, and a football stadium that's within walking distance of your health center? What's wrong with waiting until I have a job and an apartment to hit every single bar in a city? And since when is buying a school sweatshirt from your college bookstore discernibly lamer than purchasing whatever Urban Outfitters-inspired look is popular in local clubs?

Having a college town with its own familiar, quaint pubs is more than enough for me. In smaller towns, students are an integral part of the local community. In Ann Arbor, Michigan, for instance, the fact that 30,000 of the town's 113,000 residents attend the University of Michigan is a source of pride and cohesion. In contrast, New York University's 22,000 students don't make a dent in Union Square, let alone Manhattan, or the city as a whole.

Growing up too quickly remains a pressing concern for recent college graduates, many of whom desperately want to cling to their frat houses or walk down their campus' main drives one more time. Being safely enclosed in the world of my university's history and culture is reassuring, to say the least.

I urge those applying to colleges this fall to think about what it means to spend four years on your own, unique campus. Those who trade a close-knit community for skyscrapers and taxis are seriously missing out. After all, you'll have the rest of your professional life to take pictures in trendy bars and feel free of social constraints, if you so choose. But being young for a moment and throwing around that Frisbee? Not so easy on a subway to class.