Your success at university doesn't just depend on how much you love your program. It also depends on how much you love your school. Think about the place you want to call home for the next four years.

Should I choose a big or small campus?

For some students leaving high school, the idea of sitting in a classroom with hundreds of other students is overwhelming. For others, it’s an exciting new experience. Here are some features of big and small university campuses:

Big campus

  • sizes range from thousands to tens of thousands of students
  • large variety of programs to choose from
  • more anonymity because there are more people, sometimes less familiarity
  • getting around can take longer than it would at smaller schools
  • environment can feel like a big shift from high school, especially with bigger class sizes

Small campus

  • usually fewer than 5,000 students
  • smaller class sizes, depending on the program
  • more familiarity among students and faculty
  • getting around and moving from class to class will usually take less time
  • feels more like a high school experience
  • usually focused on fewer programs with less variety than bigger schools

What type of campus is right for me?

There are plenty of options to consider when you’re looking to find the right campus fit. Here are some of the common campus types and the features they offer:

Rural campus

  • usually located in small towns that are an hour or more outside the nearest city
  • smaller and focused on undergraduate education
  • more connected with their surrounding communities, with lots to do within a short walk of campus
  • many students come directly from high school, so the average age tends to be younger compared to an urban campus
  • most students live in residence on campus
  • usually no professional programs (medical school, law school, etc.)

Urban campus

  • usually located within city limits
  • all shapes and sizes — small, large, research-focused, etc.
  • lots of options for eating, entertainment, off-campus housing
  • higher number of mature, part-time and commuter students
  • more program options (medical school, law school, etc.)

Undergrad-focused

  • usually more opportunity to engage with professors and classmates in smaller-classroom settings
  • many opportunities such as the ability to do high-level research, which other schools normally reserve for graduate students
  • few or no options for master’s (graduate) degrees or professional programs (medical school, law school, MBA, etc.)

Research-focused

  • more degree programs and opportunities to explore a variety of courses
  • options for master’s (graduate) and professional programs (medical school, law school, MBA, etc.)
  • usually larger class sizes, especially in the first-year courses
  • research opportunities are usually more competitive, so can be harder to obtain as an undergraduate

Should I live on or off campus?

On campus

No matter where you go to school, living in residence is a unique experience that a lot of students want to try for at least their first year. You’ll get to meet new people, you’ll have more independence and you’ll stay fully involved with everything that’s happening on campus.

You’ll also be physically closer to school — you’re right on campus! — and some universities even have tunnels that connect the buildings so you don’t have to go outside to get food or go to class.

Off campus

You might choose instead to live off campus, such as in nearby apartments with friends or in a room you rent. You’ll miss out on some campus fun if you’re not around school all the time, but you might feel like it’s important to get away from school when you’re done classes for the day.

Splitting living costs with others can help you save money and being away from the campus can give you more opportunity to explore the surrounding town or city. If you don’t live within walking distance of your school, however, you’ll have to make sure you have a way to get there, whether it’s a car, a bike or public transit.

At home

If you’re going to a school in your hometown, living at home is another option. It’s a great way to save some extra money and put it toward your tuition or other expenses, but you will probably feel less connected with what’s happening on campus.

Some schools have a large number of students who don’t live in residence but come every day for classes. They’re usually called day students or commuter students, and sometimes there are groups set up for them so they can be more involved in campus life.