While academics should be the most important factor when deciding where to spend the best four years of your life, many incoming college students choose their school based on how beautiful the campus is. When comparing schools, the most beautiful campus always wins.
While the most beautiful college campuses in the United States are enticing to prospective students, they also become popular tourists site, especially in many places where large universities make up a majority of the population of the town or city. Whether the campus has an iconic bell tower or is just a great landscape, these are the most beautiful college campuses in America.
University of Notre Dame
While everyone knows the University of Notre Dame for their famous football team, the school is also one of the most beautiful campuses in America. The golden dome on the campus' main building may be the most notable feature of the campus, but there are plenty of other sites on the campus to behold.
Some of these sites include the Neo-Gothic Basilica of the Sacred Heart, Touchdown Jesus overlooking the football field, and the statue of the Virgin Mary blessing the grotto, which was built in 1896 and is a model of the original, found in Lourdes, France.
University of Chicago
Located in South Hyde Park, approximately seven miles from downtown Chicago sits one of the most beautiful college campuses in America. The University of Chicago campus combines traditional English Gothic style architecture with the modern designs of Eero Saarinen and Mies van der Rohe.
Many of the Gothic style buildings are based on the University of Oxford in England, known as one of the most beautiful campuses in the entire world. The university also boasts a beautiful botanical garden and the Rockefeller Chapel.
Two of the best sites on the University of Chicago campus, which are some of the prettiest historic buildings in the country, are the Joe and Rika Mansueto Library, which is set underground with an elliptical glass dome, and the Hitchcock Hall dormitory which is on the National Register of Historic Places.
University of Virginia
Founded by Thomas Jefferson, one of three accomplishments he had put on his tombstone, the University of Virginia is one of the most beautiful college campuses in America. The campus is the only university to be named a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The world famous Neoclassical Domed Rotunda, modeled after the Pantheon in Rome, is on the UNESCO World Heritage Site list on its own and is one of three man-made structures to earn that designation. In 1976, The American Institute of Architects named the University of Virginia campus "the proudest achievement of American architecture in the past 200 years."
Bryn Mawr College
The first example of Collegiate Gothic style, created by architects Cope and Stewardson, can be found on the campus of Bryn Mawr College. Campuses like Washington University in St. Louis and Princeton University (more on them later) modeled their campus design after Bryn Mawr. Frederick Law Olmstead, the architect behind Central Park, helped with the layout of this campus.
One of the most beautiful college campuses in America is Princeton University. Nassau Hall, considered by many to be the Ivy League's best architecture structure, has been standing on campus in some form since 1756, and the campus continues to grow around this building.
“Princeton has beautiful buildings, but the exquisite landscaping amplifies them even more,” says Boston-based architect Mark deShong. Some of the best college movies have also been filmed on this campus.
Sewanee, The University of the South
With nearly every building on campus paying tribute to the classic Goth-style architecture, Sewanee really shows off that southern charm. Overlooking the Tennessee Valley, this campus is surrounded by a lakefront, forest, bluffs, and a garden ravine that follows a stream through campus.
The architect behind the campus' All Saints' Chapel, Ralph Adams Cram, took inspiration from the University Church at Oxford and Notre Dame in Paris. Sewanee consistently shows up in magazines detailing the most beautiful college campuses in America.
Lewis & Clark College
Set at the top of a hill, Lewis & Clark, named after the famous explorers, is surrounded by dense forests that make the Pacific Northwest famous. This beautiful campus is home to 100 different species of tree that surround the famous Frank Manor House.
Initially built as a 35-room mansion, the Frank Manor House now is now a cornerstone of the college, with its own built-in waterfall and reflection pool. The campus is attached to the Tyrone Creek State Natural Area which consistently keeps students outdoors and is a reason the school is focusing on keeping the campus green.
Florida Southern College
Known for its collection of Frank Lloyd Wright buildings, Florida Southern College is the home to the largest collection of Wright's architecture in the world. This campus houses the famous Annie Pffiefer Chapel made popular by its colored glass.
The Princeton Review named Florida Southern College the most beautiful college campus in America in 2011 and 2012. Florida Southern College was recently one of 40 United States locations to be classified by the World Monument Fund as an endangered cultural site. Florida Southern College was named a National Historic Landmark in 2012 and Wright himself declared the college as the "first uniquely American campus."
Many are surprised that this campus located just 12 miles out of the center of Boston consistently shows up in lists of the most beautiful college campuses in America but here it is. Wellesley was designed by Frederick Law Olmsted Jr. in 1921, purposely integrating the buildings into the landscape as opposed to breaking the buildings up into quads like the traditional college campus.
Some of the most popular campus spots designed by Olmsted Jr. include the wooded areas surrounding Lake Waban and the open meadows within the campus limits. Olmsted once described the film as “not merely beautiful, but with a marked individual character not represented so far as I know on the ground of any other college in the country.”
Amassing 27,000 acres, Berry College holds the honor of the largest contiguous college grounds in the world and is one of the most beautiful college campuses in America. Somehow this campus encompasses fields, lakes, forests, and mountains. Aside from the beautiful natural aspects, this campus includes plenty of beautiful manmade structures like fountains and reflection pools, not to mention the English gothic-style buildings.