Many of my high school clients say they want to go to college in a big city.  I ask them why and they really can’t explain.  It seems to come down to “it just sounds like fun.”   Hopefully, finding the “right college fit” for them is the final answer that we will all come to after an adequate search and many campus visits in between.

A recent trip to New York City afforded me the opportunity to really look at several “in big city” schools.  I have to admit that I can certainly see the elements of “fun” in attending any one of these three colleges that I visited.  Barnard College and Columbia University are in the middle of Morningside Heights – a trendy, beautiful area of downtown New York City while Fordham University is located right in the middle of the Bronx.  Barnard College reminds me so much of the small, intimate colleges at the University of Cambridge in England as this school is also built around a beautiful courtyard.  Once in the courtyard it’s as if New York City and its big city noise no longer exist.  On the other hand Columbia University, located directly across the street, is a sprawling roman architecturally influenced campus that also somehow manages to keep the hustle and bustle of New York City at its campus edges. Fordham University is a stunning 85 acre campus that has mastered the art of melding their new buildings with the older gothic architecture influenced buildings. The Bronx seemed very far away on this beautiful treed campus.  Our tour group was quite amazed that all three schools could provide such an “intimate” college feel in the midst of more than 8 million people in the city surrounding them.  

The perks of attending these particular schools include special opportunities for discounted or free tickets to different arts, music, Broadway and sports events in the city. There is no need for a vehicle on the campuses as all transportation is easily accessible.  Of course, the train system in New York is wonderful as kids can head off to Washington, D.C., Boston, Philadelphia and smaller cities in between.  The students feel safe on both the Barnard and Columbia campuses, but point out that a safety shuttle is always available to all students wherever they are within the city.  Fordham is located close to the subway system, but the school provides a buddy shuttle system that waits for students at the subway entrance at night.  It is clear that safety precautions are important at Fordham as the school is completely fenced in with gates and security guards at each gate location.  However, the students made it quite clear to us that they feel very safe on the campus.  The students enjoy the cultural aspects of the Bronx and the different eating establishment opportunities.  

As I have pondered my response to my high school clients who are looking for that “fun” big city school or any school for that matter, I help them realize they will have much more fun at a school when they have found their “right fit.”  If a student chooses a college or a city solely based on it looking fun, they will end up being miserable and miss out on an amazing opportunity to grow into the person that they are called to be. This was clearly reiterated by the college admissions staffs at Barnard College, Columbia University and Fordham University during their tours.  Their jobs have now turned into less looking at a student just for their grades and test scores because that does not always translate into a student who “fits” into their college campus.  Rather they are concentrating on finding that student who “belongs” on their campus, who will “resonate” on their campus and who will bring “value” to their campus.  

My advice to high school students and their parents is to get out there as soon as possible to begin touring the campuses, going to the information sessions, staying overnight, or attending classes at different schools.  This information seeking time will really help a student discern his or her “right fit.”  Regardless of city size or college size, a student who finds where they truly belong will experience a lot more “fun” during his or her college tenure.