Skip to main content

Choosing the Ideal College Setting for You

young adults having a picnic in the city

Written by College Coach Guest Authoron August 30th, 2021

Bright Horizons College Coach occasionally features blog posts written by guest authors. You’ll find more information about each guest author in the About the Author section on the blog post.

Learn More About College Coach
Guest post by Jamiere N. Abney, Ed.M. One of the definitive parts of your college decision is the place. Where a college or university is located, especially as a traditional student living residentially, is so key to ensure you have a positive experience. You will want to not only consider which academic major to pursue and the key co-curricular programs you will spend your additional time on, but also what the community beyond the campus will offer you during your undergraduate experience. As a college admission officer with a background at residential, liberal arts colleges, I know this is one of the primary features we try to embed in the story of the college. We recognize the role of location in finding your college fit. First, just because you are used to or native to a certain type of environment does not mean you should rule out colleges that are in a community-type that would be foreign to you. For example, many students from the New York City metropolitan area transition comfortably and happily to Colgate University in the tiny (< 5,000 population), rural village of Hamilton, NY. You might consider this major change in scenery as an opportunity for exploration as a young adult. Especially, as a first-year college student who may not have been on their own previously, being in a smaller town can make that development less of a challenge as you come into your own. Plus, a small college, a small community, or both can allow for more individualized support as a student learns some of the responsibility of being away from home and their support system. Now let’s consider a town like Hamilton, with a single grocery store and a small village center, isn’t a fit for you. My alma mater and former campus I recruited for, Willamette University, was in the town of Salem, OR. While Salem is the capital city of the state, it is a medium-sized community with a population of just under 170,000 people. This size allows for more access to restaurants, shopping, community resources, etc. Additionally, the central campus is within walking distance of the downtown area, local parks, the capitol complex, and many other resources. This affords students ample opportunities to engage with the local community, find jobs and internships, or just to explore with or without their own mode of personal transportation. On the opposite end of consideration is a move from a smaller community into an urban city center. For many people growing up in a rural or small-town environment, there might be a huge yearning to experience the pace and energy of a large metropolis. What this also means, is adjusting to the amount of people, the potential noise of constant movement, and how it might impact the type of campus the student has at their disposal.  A college campus situated in the heart of a city may be integrated or built into that metro area. It may not have the central quad or a campus green that acts as the main hub for students. The academic and student support buildings may blend in with all the other buildings within the neighborhood center. What a student will want to be aware of going in, is their comfort to navigate this early on while they are still learning. Further, how might they feel seeking out the right person or office in an emergency or moment of significant need? Consider your experience during this COVID year, trying to navigate a campus reopening as a new first-time student. How would you manage an urban campus versus one in a smaller city or rural community? None of these would be impossible, but in considering fit, students should think about navigating their surroundings and how comfortable they will feel in the environment on and off campus. Location is a key part of the college decision for all students. Some will choose online programs that allow them to remove this factor in their consideration of where to earn their degree. Others may explore commuting to their local campus, trade school, or community college, as a personal game-plan focused on saving financially or remaining connected to family. However, for residential students, where a college is located is just as important as knowing whether the academic program you’re interested in is available to you. Moreover, the location and adjustment to being away from home is something you will want to consider to ensure you are able to successfully transition. Not only should it be an area that excites you, but one where you know you can find the people and resources you will undoubtedly need at some point. So, with this in mind during your college search, always ask current students, staff, and faculty about what it is like to live in the area. Try to get a sense of what people do both on and off campus, as well as how individuals navigate to the things they are interested in—whether that be by personal car, public transportation, or other institutional resources. It is all important in finding an ideal fit for you! About the Author: Jamiere Abney is Associate Dean of Admission and Coordinator of Outreach for Opportunity & Inclusion at Colgate University, where he leads diversity, equity, and inclusion strategies for the admissions process. Through his leadership, Colgate enrolled its most diverse first-year class in its 200-year history in the fall of 2020. Abney is a 2012 graduate of Willamette University where he studied psychology. He began his higher education career at his alma mater, returning in 2014 to join the admission team. As a first-generation college graduate, Abney has sought opportunities to be a reliable support for young people seeking achievement and access to opportunity. He took this a step further, earning his Master’s in Education at Harvard Graduate School of Education in 2017. He has been a guest on multiple podcasts, including Black & Highly Dangerous and On the Mic with Ray White, and is a guest host with The Barbershop Group, an organization focused on improving the mental health and emotional well-being of men from all walks of life. Currently, Abney is promoting a manuscript of a biographical self-help book based on the impact of race on his adolescence. Getting the Most Out of a College Visit


Interested in learning more about how our college admissions counseling services can help your student succeed?

Call 877-402-6224 or complete the form for information on getting your student started with one of our experts.

Inclusion Matters Here Pride Flag