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Suburban Schools

By Julie Vultaggio
Assistant Director of Admissions, Tufts University

Each fall, amid all of the "Back to School" sales and the catchy commercials that go with them, millions of high school juniors and seniors begin thinking about a mysterious factor known only to them as "the future," which for many students means college. Hundreds of factors come into play when selecting a school, such as which school offers the majors you're interested in, how big the student body is, where you can find the best research/career opportunities, and of course, the location of the college or university.

While it is important to consider how far you're willing to be from your friends and family, another element that you should think about when choosing where to apply is how near or far the college is from a major city. For students who absolutely thrive on the hustle and bustle of a big city, then an urban college would probably be a good match; for those seeking sprawling campuses that border forests and farms, a rural university may be the better option. However, for students who are not sure which environment they would like best or prefer to try a little of each, suburban institutions—a hybrid offspring of urban and rural schools—typically offer the best of both worlds.

Suburban colleges and universities, which are essentially defined by their location, tend to come with a lot of benefits. For example, suburban schools usually exist on beautiful, sprawling residential campuses with real trees and rolling hills, but at the same time, they're still only a few miles away from major metropolitan areas. On these types of campuses, there is often a more close-knit sense of community than one might expect at a completely urban college, which makes it easier for students to meet people—especially during their freshman year when most students live in dorms and many attend the same classes. Residential campuses offer a unique environment for both academic and personal socializing, mostly because students are generally on campus for the majority of the day due to their class schedule.

However, the biggest advantage of going to a suburban school is that students do not have to be in a campus environment all the time; as mentioned earlier, major cities are usually just a short bus or train ride away. The proximity of suburban schools to metropolitan areas is what makes them so distinctive: while students have the ability to study and have lunch with their friends on campus, when they have time to spare at night or on the weekends, they are free to leave the confines of dorms and academic buildings for the exciting cultural buzz of the city.

With easy access to metropolitan areas, students who attend suburban colleges not only have the opportunity to explore incredible social and cultural activities (such as sporting events, shopping, world-famous dining, and museum exhibits), but they can also use the city to their advantage in terms of gaining firsthand exposure to career options. For example, students at suburban schools have the opportunity to do internships with major business corporations, law firms, hospitals, and non-profit organizations, which is a luxury that students at rural colleges do not necessarily have. And while students at urban colleges may have similar options in terms of professional development, what they do not have is the option of returning to a quiet campus outside the city when the workday is over.

Suburban schools also tend to provide a safer environment in which students live and work than urban schools. It's less likely that you'll have to sign every guest into your dorm or be greeted by a big security guard with a canine sidekick.

There are numerous advantages to attending a suburban college or university, and, in many ways, the "best of both worlds" theory is true to its word. Suburban schools are beneficial for all types of students, and offer both a unique social environment and equally distinctive learning opportunities that genuinely make for an interesting and exciting college experience.

About the School

Founded in 1852 as a liberal arts college, Tufts University has grown to become the second-largest university in Boston as well as a world-class research institution. Offering undergraduate programs in Liberal Arts and Engineering, Tufts provides a close-knit community that supports students' desire to take intellectual risks and challenge conventional wisdom. For information, please visit the Tufts website (