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Colleges Come in All Shapes and Sizes: What's Right for You?

One of our bloggers recently traveled to Columbia, MO, home of the University of Missouri, Stephens College and Columbia College. Her impressions of life in a small college town contrasted greatly with her experience of college life in a large city. College campuses can exist in a variety of environments, and that environment can be a big factor in your college experience.

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By Sarah Wright

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Tiger Everything

From the moment I arrived in Columbia, MO, I knew one thing about the University of Missouri: their mascot is the tiger. On the ride to my friend's house, I saw the word 'tiger' more times than I ever had in a 5-minute span. Tiger Dry Cleaners. Tiger Pawn Shop. Tiger Car Wash. Tiger Tattoo. A (relatively) tall building with 'TIGER' on its roof in giant neon letters. OK, I thought. School spirit must be contagious.

I was going to spend Thanksgiving with a friend who is an employee of the University, and before I arrived, he warned me. This is a small town, he said. We're probably going to be going to a lot of the same places while you're here. He wanted to prepare me, because he and I are both used to life in a city - in fact, we met at a college that's located within one of the largest cities in the U.S. Without Mizzou, as the University is affectionately called, there probably wouldn't be much to Columbia at all.

College in the City

I am a graduate of Reed College, a small liberal arts school in Portland, Oregon's Woodstock neighborhood. Reed doesn't have a football team, and the closet thing we have to a mascot is the griffin, which typically shows up only in the school's official seals and logos. Most people in Portland are aware of Reed's existence, but that awareness only goes so far. As a student, I had a job at a real estate agency about ten blocks away from the school. One of the realtors at the office didn't even know there was a college campus down the street until I told him.

The college campus of my memory is a park-like, self-contained oasis in the middle of a residential neighborhood in Oregon's biggest city. I was a short bus ride from a variety of different neighborhoods, from Portland's eclectic downtown to the bohemian shops of Southeast Portland's Hawthorne Boulevard. This environment suited me perfectly, since I had grown up in the suburbs of a major metropolitan area on the East Coast. In fact, Reed's urban location is one of the factors that led to me choosing to attend.

Different Environments

But not everyone wants to attend college in an urban environment. There is something charming and, I imagine, comforting, about Columbia's celebration of Mizzou. And the two smaller colleges in town, Stephens College and Columbia College, likely benefit from an environment that caters so well to college life. But colleges exist in environments different from the small college town or suburban campus of Reed and Mizzou. College campuses exist in every environment from the isolated rural campus of just a few hundred students to the urban campus with high-rise dorms that house students by the thousand. Though they might look fairly similar in promotional photographs, college campuses are unique, and can exist in a variety of settings that may or may not suit your wants and needs.

You can do some online research to find out more about your colleges of choice.

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