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Urban Schools

By David Hautanen
Senior Associate Director of Admissions, Northeastern University

Attending a college or university in a city offers easy access to academic, cultural, and social venues that enrich the college experience beyond the campus boundaries. The entire city becomes a laboratory for learning. Whether you want to do research at neighboring universities, libraries, or research centers, visit museums, attend professional sporting events, go to the symphony, or simply have a broad range of retail choices, it is all nearby. Going to college in the city means a short walk, bus ride or subway trip, and the world is at hand.

When you are visiting campuses located in the city you’ll notice some distinct differences from rural or suburban college campuses. Compared to rural or suburban colleges and universities that have been able to grow and remain distinctly separate from their surrounding community, urban colleges and universities typically have grown into their host communities. As a result, urban colleges offer a wide variety of campus styles. At one extreme, the college or university is blended with the city, offering its students the experience of being fully part of the urban community at all times. At the other extreme are schools with clear campus boundaries where the student has the benefit of a distinct campus experience within the city while still having all the amenities of the city right there.

Urban campuses tend to attract students who are more culturally diverse and aware. As a result, urban colleges do typically represent a more diverse student body, socially, ethnically, and culturally. At metropolitan universities you’ll find students furthering their education in different ways: from full-time students attending class in traditional residential settings to part-time and commuter students using education as a means to further their goals, dreams and aspirations. Diversity at this level inspires students to embrace and understand different cultures, ideas and experiences.

All college campuses offer a range of cultural, academic and social organizations. Urban colleges often partner with their neighbors to extend the work of these campus-based organizations into the community. This experience is an important way of giving students voice to their own aspirations and interests. From mentoring local school children to assisting residents or participating in community service, the opportunities to engage with the community in an urban setting are endless.

The benefits of attending an urban college often extend beyond graduation as students take advantage of the network they have created by living and learning within an urban environment. Many urban universities offer off-campus learning experiences like cooperative education and internship programs, which allow students to pursue work opportunities within their field of study. These opportunities help students gain relevant experience by applying what they are learning in the classroom. This improves their chances of landing a job or entering graduate school in their chosen field upon graduation.

As you begin to think about the college setting that you would be most comfortable in, be sure to visit each campus and the city in which it lives. Whether rural or urban, the campus visit is the best way to understand the benefits of living and learning in the college environment.


About the School

Northeastern University, located in the heart of Boston, Massachusetts, is a world leader in cooperative education and recognized for its expert faculty and first-rate academic and research facilities. Through co-op, Northeastern undergraduates alternate semesters of full-time study with semesters of work in fields relevant to their professional interests and academic major, giving them nearly two years of professional experience upon graduation.