What are the Pros and Cons of Attending College in a Rural Area?

If you are graduating from high school and are wondering whether rural colleges or urban schools would be a better choice for you, there are many factors you should consider before making your choice. While some students dream of attending an Ivy-League school or playing on a sports team at a big university, most find that their choices are influenced by the financial aid they receive and, realistically, by which schools accept them. Even so, there may be many other reasons that an urban, or a rural school, would be your best option.

The Environment

Suburban campuses are sometimes listed with urban schools but in general when people speak of a rural college, they are talking about a campus that is in the country, and that, according to Miriam Webster, means areas close to agriculture. Rural college campuses generally have less pollution, less traffic, less crime and less stress. They are safer. It is easier to “get away from it all” when that get-away involves taking a nature hike or just taking a leisurely walk around campus, or around town. . If you enjoy the atmosphere of a big city, that simpler lifestyle may be a negative factor for you. Rural campuses are located in smaller cities and their student populations make up a greater percentage of the population. The culture of the town where a rural school is located is usually largely defined by the culture of the school. In contrast, universities in large cities generally take on the personalities of the cities around them. Students in urban areas have more access to transportation such as busses and taxis to take them to dining or entertainment venues than those on smaller rural campuses, who usually must have access to an automobile.

Smaller Student Populations

At a large urban university it is not unusual for a class to contain 500 students. That is especially true of introductory courses like Intro to Psychology or Intro to Computer Science. While the classes may be smaller in more advanced courses and in graduate or doctoral programs, they will usually not be as small as classes on rural campuses. That smaller size is a plus for students who need, or want, more interaction with peers and professors. You can ask questions and talk to professors after and outside of class. Professors in a rural school are more likely to be club sponsors or sports coaches, so you can get to know them, and they will know you. Part of the reason for that, however, is that smaller rural schools generally don’t attract the prestigious professors that large universities do. Larger schools can afford to pay higher salaries and offer more research opportunities than their rural counterparts. If studying with a well-known authority in your field is important, you may want to go to a larger school.

More Opportunity for Extracurricular Activities

On smaller campuses there may be fewer clubs and activities but more incentive to join them. Universities in large cities have many recreational activities in theater, dining and spectator sports, among others. That means students are more likely to become spectators than participants. In smaller communities off-campus activities may be limited and that is an incentive to participate in college life and society.

Funding Deficits

Rural schools probably will not have the endowments or funding of larger schools. This is reflected in the teaching “talent” they attract, but also in the equipment they may have. There may be fewer high-tech labs and simulation opportunities. Smaller schools may lack the partnerships that fund internship and study-abroad programs as well. The communities where rural campuses are located are less likely to have specialty stores and resources where you can get books and supplies. This is not a problem if you have time to order the things you need online, but if you need them the same day, it could be a drawback.

Which is the best school for you? That depends upon which factors are the most important to your education. Do you thrive in a fast-paced exciting atmosphere, or do you enjoy being able to slow down and relax more? Is it vital to your career aspirations to study under a well-known professor, or so you just want to know your professor well? Studying at rural colleges, your university experience will be different than that of an urban counterpart, but it may be the best choice for you.

See also: 50 Great Schools Where High School Students Can Get College Credit