Most Beautiful College Campuses

If you’re a senior in high school, you’re familiar with the feelings of being overwhelmed, stress, indecision, and a sense of urgency . . . all because of your school list.  Where should I apply?  What do I want to major in?  Does this school have my major?  Stay close to home or go as far away as possible?  Can I have a car at that school?  The questions can go on forever when trying to decide on a school.  But for those that ask the question of, “How beautiful is the campus?” we’ve got your answer right here!  Forbes has created a list of the most beautiful college campuses in the world and California colleges are not to be left out!  Here is the list (excluding schools outside the US):

1.  Kenyon College

Mike Evans, a principal at Norfolk, Va., design firm Hanbury Evans Wright Vlattas + Company, says to be beautiful a campus must have a “signature campus space as a carrier of the campus brand.” At Kenyon College, that space is “Middle Path,” a 10-foot-wide footpath that serves as the Gothic hilltop campus’ central artery. More than just a trail, it’s a village green for the tight-knit campus community. Sergei Lobanov-Rostovsky, who teaches 17th-century poetry at Kenyon, says the college, both isolated and pastoral, is “a small place to think big thoughts.”

Kenyon College, Gambier, OH

2.  Princeton University

This classic American campus is “straight out of central casting,” says architect Natalie Shivers, who has been guiding the prestige Ivy Leaguer through an ambitious expansion plan. Princeton’s style is pure Collegiate Gothic; most of it executed in gray stone covered in, yes, ivy. As imposing as these old stone structures are, the campus keeps life on a “human scale” by preserving green spaces and “walkability,” says Shivers. “Everything on campus is within a 10-minute walk.” Sinuous footpaths, archways, plazas–all are designed to inspire spontaneous discussion and learning.

Princeton University, Princeton, N.J.

3.  Scripps College

The total plan of this women’s college, founded in the 1920’s, has always called for artistic connection between buildings and landscape. Together, architect Gordon Kaufmann, in collaboration with landscape architect Edward Huntsman-Trout, created a distinctively Southern Californian blend of Mission Revival-inspired architecture and landscape, which is lovely, evocative and intact. An expert in deciduous trees, Trout planted rows of liquid amber trees to give the students “a sense of autumn” come fall. He also peppered the campus with tulip trees, sycamores, almond and orange trees, as well as rare shrubs.

Scripps College, Claremont, CA

4.  Stanford University

Architects like Aaron B. Schwartz, Principal and Director of Perkins Eastman, an international design firm, praise Stanford for staying “cohesive” despite extensive growth, and for always respecting and staying loyal to “its initial design precepts.” New additions like the Science and Engineering Quad manage to gracefully blend modern and technological elements with the timeless, elegant aesthetics of the campus’ early California Mission Revival architecture. Architect Mike Evans lauds the campus’ “continuity of materials, color and scale” over time. The campus also scores big points for its dramatic entrance via Palm Drive, its romantic Spanish red-tile roofs and myriad patches of green.

Stanford University, Palo Alto, CA

5.  US Air Force Academy

Kevin Lippert, publisher of the Princeton Architectural Press, known for its Campus Guide series, picked this campus because it is “a masterpiece of mid-20th-century American Modernism, rather than something in the traditional Collegiate Gothic or Oxford style.” He adds: “Many of the buildings are clad in aluminum, suggesting the skin of airplanes, and the Cadet’s Chapel there is often called one of the most beautiful buildings in America, collegiate or otherwise.” The multidenominational chapel, pictured, was designed so that different religious services can be held simultaneously without interference.

US Air Force Academy, Colorado Springs, CO

6.  University of California Santa Cruz

Housed on a former ranch perched above the Pacific, the UCSC campus offers open meadows, redwood forests and panoramic ocean views. Architect Natalie Shivers says the California campus’ buildings and “circulation networks” for both cars and pedestrians “are carefully designed and tucked into the natural landscape” to preserve both the environment and the vistas. It’s no wonder students like to study outdoors and that the campus has created 100 points of wireless access throughout the grounds.

University of California Santa Cruz, Santa Cruz, CA

7.  University of Cincinnati

Architecture students at UC (established in 1870) need only step outside the classroom to observe some of the more cunning modern architecture of their day. Kevin Lippert, publisher of the Princeton Architectural Press, says the school has positioned itself for the 21st century with a wholly renovated campus. Its master plan showcases major architectural works by Michael Graves, Peter Eisenman and Frank Gehry, among others.

University of Cincinnati, Cincinnati, OH

8.  University of Virginia

Thomas Jefferson said his proudest achievement was creating this campus in 1819. Jefferson believed that real learning could only happen in an “academical village” setting, and toward that end, he designed the campus around an imposing rotunda with a great lawn at its feet and 10 neo-classical pavilions (classrooms) lining the green. Professors’ quarters were directly above the classrooms, so that discussions–and learning–could happen organically and freely. The Lawn is considered one of the great architectural achievements of the 19th century, symbolizing the harmony between professor and student and university and landscape. Today the university also features major architectural works by McKim, Mead & White, Michael Graves and Billie Tsien.

University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA

9.  Wellesley College

Designed by Frederick Law Olmsted Jr., this serene liberal arts college for women, on the edge of Lake Waban (pictured) near Boston, is considered the crowning jewel of the prestigious “Seven Sisters” campuses. Architect Natalie Shivers says both “the historic and contemporary have always been beautifully integrated with the natural topography.” And a recent master plan only reaffirms “the key role the natural landscape plays in the character of the campus.” To wit: Paramecium Pond, edging a rich, botanical garden through which travels a stream fed by nearby waterfall.

Wellesley College, Wellesley, MA

10.  Yale University

From a purely architectural standpoint, “Yale University has more show-stoppers than all the campuses on the list,” says architect Shivers, even if the mix is less cohesive than others in the League, like Princeton and Harvard. Some of these more iconic buildings include Ingalls Rink by Eero Saarinen, the Art and Architecture Building by Paul Rudolph, and Louis Kahn’s Art Gallery and British Art Center. Many other Gothic and Colonial Revival structures have delightful quirks and surprises. Landscaped spaces–quadrangles, courtyards between buildings, plazas–abound, offering lots of “getaways” for a decidedly urban campus.

Yale University, New Haven, CT

While the beauty of a campus isn’t the deciding factor in chosing a school, it doesn’t hurt to be surrounded by it while trying to fill your head with knolwedge. 

For the complete list (including schools outside the US):

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