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College Compatibility: How to Find a Great Campus for You

Finding a college that’s compatible with your interests and lifestyle can be tough, but with some peer advice, you'll find a great campus for you.

When you try on clothes, you can usually tell whether they fit instantly—but how can you do that with a college campus? Every year, millions of high school students struggle to find a college campus that suits their needs and interests simply because they don’t know what to look for. Three important things to investigate in your college search are the social scene, student clubs, and location. At the end of the day, choosing a college where you’ll be happy is about finding the school that fits you and your needs.

Understanding a college’s social scene

To find a college that works for you, you must understand the social scene of each school you’re interested in. For example, if you don’t care about sports but attend a university famous for its athletics, you may feel excluded or annoyed in that environment. Attending a school known for its Greek life with no interest in pledging may leave you feeling left out at a lot of parties. You can find friends and niche groups on any campus, of course, but feeling like you fit in with the social scene can greatly affect your enjoyment of the entire college experience. Some questions to ask admission officers and current students include:

  • Are sports a large part of the culture here?
  • Is partying a big part of social life?
  • Is there Greek Life on campus? What’s the recruitment process like? 
  • Are there any [insert your interest here] organizations for students? If not, can you create your own student club?

Exploring available clubs and organizations

Analyzing and exploring clubs and organizations is another way to determine campus compatibility. Clubs are a wonderful way to meet people and build community, so it’s important to ensure any campus you’re interested in has clubs that appeal to you by looking for lists on college websites. There are typically four different types of clubs to consider:

  • Academic: Whether it’s a math, business, or STEM club, these groups are a great way to meet people in the same major as you and find a community of like-minded individuals.
  • Recreation: From friendly but competitive sports teams to simple hobbies, recreational clubs are a great way to let your hair down and have fun with your friends (or make new ones!).
  • Cultural and religious: These groups are a great way to tap into your cultural or religious identity while you’re away from home. Cultural clubs also provide a safe space for you to practice your traditions on campus.
  • Student government: Getting involved in student government is a great way to not only make a positive impact at your school but also hone your leadership skills.

Related: Exploring Extracurricular Activities in College: How to Find the Best Opportunities

Learning more about campus location

Location is another very important factor to consider when searching for schools that feel right for you. Students seeking a campus that is tight knit, with most social events occurring on campus, may prefer a school in a suburban or rural location. Students who want an urban setting and all that a nearby city has to offer should search for schools in metropolitan areas, though this may mean the school community is weaker since students spend less time on campus. You should carefully consider both the pros and cons of location and opt for a campus that fits your preferred lifestyle.

Where do you find all this information?

So how can you locate all this information on social scenes, clubs, and campus locations? Use college search websites to do advanced research and follow social media accounts to see what they consider important to highlight about their school. Another tried-and-true method is having conversations with current students. If you don’t have any connections in the student body, you should reach out to admission offices and ask to be connected with someone. These meetings will often produce some of the most candid reviews you’ll receive. Current students can also talk about any issues on campus, such as partying, which admission officers generally refrain from. 

Related: 5 Important College Search Criteria to Find the Best Schools for You

Choosing the right college is a task that looms heavy over the heads of high schoolers annually. Students are often inclined to choose schools with famous names without considering whether they will fit in on campus. But taking the time to research the social scene, student clubs, and campus location will reveal valuable information to help you discover which school is best for you.

Start exploring colleges and universities that are looking for amazing students like you using our College Search tool, where you can sort by any of these criteria! 

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About Cristina Ellis

Cristina Ellis

Cristina Ellis is a 15-year-old high school student from New York City. When she was little, she enjoyed writing stories and plays for her grandparents to perform at family reunions. Today, she attends Ethical Culture Fieldston School, where she writes for the school newspaper and contributes to the mock trial team. She also plays violin and enjoys stargazing with her telescope.


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