Two high school seniors walk into their guidance counselor’s office and ask: “What does going to college in the city have in common with attending college in a small town?”
The truth is, not much. Although the sentence above reads like the start of a joke, location is arguably as serious and important as the school’s academics and ranking.
Differences in urban and rural campuses go deeper than simply skyscrapers versus brick buildings. From internship connections to nightlife to a sense of campus community, there are more differences between city campuses and college towns than most students realize.
Ludovica Martella, a senior studying journalism at Fordham University, learned this the hard way.
After living and attending high school in New York City, Martella wanted change. In an effort to have a more “typical” American schooling experience, she enrolled in Manhattanville College in upstate New York. Although she loved the spacious greens and college town atmosphere, Martella quickly discovered how much she longed for the liveliness and culture of the city.
“Art exhibits, lectures, libraries! I missed photographing and being inspired by the multicultural people on the streets,” she said. “I found myself spending more time on the Metro North on my way back to Grand Central than in my college dorm.”
So how do you really know if your school is the right choice for you? Based on student testimonies, Campus Compared takes a generalized look at urban and rural schools and compares them on the basis of green space, campus community, internship opportunity, and lifestyle.
Ludovica Martella: Fordham University (New York City); formerly Manhattanville College (Purchase, NY)
Andrew Dolan: Ohio University (Athens, Ohio)
Morgan Fortier: Fordham University (New York City)
Andrew Stanczuk: Ohio University (Athens, Ohio); formerly New York University (New York City)
John Paul Thottam: Northeastern University (Boston, Mass.)
Rob Hoyt: Ohio University (Athens, Ohio)
Abby Kalen: School of Visual Arts (New York City)
Zack Garrison: Ohio University (Athens, Ohio)
After finishing her freshman year in a college town, Martella ultimately made the decision to transfer to Fordham College at Lincoln Center — an entirely urban school in the heart of Manhattan.
“Being in the heart of the city and surrounded by the major media companies, Fordham seemed like the right choice for me,” she said.
Whether they are living in rural Appalachia or completing their studies in the Big Apple, students across the country agree there’s only one way to know if your campus is right for you:
Your school should feel like your home away from home.
For more on this story, check out the author’s own experience in a photo slideshow, check out an annotated photo comparison of big city and small town dorms, and see what readers have said on Twitter.