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40 Most Beautiful College Campuses in Rural Areas

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By Gabrielle Gibeily
October 2015

Many of us have considered attending some of the more beautiful colleges in America, but what about the most beautiful college campuses in rural areas?

When a college campus is located within a rural area, it creates an atmosphere where life seems to revolve solely around the school and its students. Rural life can come with other wonderful perks, such as being in a setting where outdoor recreational activities are prominent and a part of life at school. Rural colleges also tend to offer up plenty of places where students can escape the books and active life of academia for some peace and solitude. Finally, many rural areas, especially rural colleges, are in close proximity to larger metropolitan areas that provide plenty more adventure for students within a short driving distance.

So what’s better than getting a great rural education? Getting a great education at the most beautiful colleges in rural areas. The methodology used to create the following list is explained at the end of the article.

40. Cornell College in Mount Vernon, Iowa

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Cornell College’s hilltop location in this beautiful rural area helped land this school among our most beautiful college campuses.

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Points Awarded: 4

Not to be confused with Cornell University, Cornell College is the first college west of the Mississippi to grant women the same rights and privileges as men, and, in 1858, to award a degree to a woman. Cornell College’s campus is also one of the only two U.S. college campuses listed entirely on the National Register of Historic Places.

This small rural college is situated on a wooded hilltop in Mount Vernon, Iowa. Eight buildings on this campus were constructed in the 19th Century, but they are still serving the school well. Among these is the majestic King Chapel, built of dolomitic limestone quarried locally to the school. The main tower of the structure, with its Seth Thomas clock, is almost 130 feet high and can be seen from miles away as it protrudes from the hilltop campus. Cornell’s oldest academic building is the Old Sem, which comprised the entire campus in 1853.

39. St. Mary’s College of Maryland in St. Mary’s City, Md.

most beautiful college campuses, rural area, rural areas, rural life, rural education, rural college, list of colleges
St. Mary’s College of Maryland is among our most beautiful colleges in rural area for its lovely waterfront campus.

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Points Awarded: 4

Although it is the only additional source of recognition, you know a school is right for the list when The Princeton Review ranks it the No. 4 most beautiful college campus in 2015. St. Mary’s College of Maryland has a 361-acre waterfront campus that’s on the banks of a broad bay-like bend in the St. Mary’s River in the heart of the Chesapeake Bay Region. St. Mary’s City was a former colonial town, as well as Maryland’s first colonial settlement and capital in the 17th Century. SMCM is Maryland’s first public honors college.

The local maritime activities are definitely taken advantage of at St. Mary’s, considering more than 150 all-American sailors, six Olympians, and two Rolex Yachtswomen of the Year are among the college’s alumni. Hartman-Cox Architects created a beautiful rustic dining hall within the Student Center at this rural college.

38. Bennington College in Bennington, Vt.

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The stunning rural area of Bennington College is one of the most beautiful campuses because of its expansive beauty and distinctive architecture.

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Points Awarded: 5

Bennington College was the first college to include the visual and performing arts in a liberal arts education. According to the school, Bennington’s campus is known for its expansive beauty, distinctive architecture (works by Robertson Ward,Pietro Belluschi, Carl Koch, Kyu Sung Woo, Edward Larrabee Barnes and Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects) and rich history.

The campus includes a pond, walled garden, treehouse, meadow, farm, hiking trails and historic Commons Building at the foot of Green Mountain.

37. Covenant College in Lookout Mountain, Ga.

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The Grand Hall at Covenant College is one of the several reasons why this school is among our Most Beautiful Colleges.

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Points Awarded: 5

Covenant College is situated on top of Georgia’s Lookout Mountain, which boasts incredible views of the Smoky Mountains and the seven surrounding states. That’s right, seven states are visible from this campus.

Within the 400 acres of this Christian liberal arts college near Chattanooga is the landmark Carter Hall, which was originally built as the Austro-Bavarian Gothic Revival-style Lookout Mountain Hotel. Today, it serves as a base for staff and administrative offices.

36. Middlebury College in Middlebury, Vt.

most beautiful college campuses, rural area, rural areas, rural life, rural education, rural college, list of colleges
Middlebury College is among our Most Beautiful Colleges in Rural Areas because of its mountainous location and stunning chapel.

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Points Awarded: 5

Middlebury College is set in a rural area within Vermont’s Champlain Valley, with the Green Mountains to the east and the Adirondacks to the west. This nationally-known college for environmental studies has a second, Bread Loaf Mountain campus located just 12 miles east of Middlebury. Bread Loaf Mountain boasts 30,000 acres of forested land in Ripton, Vt. and a ski touring center.

Middlebury’s Mead Memorial Chapel stands out, as it is a beautiful white marble structure that rises at the highest point of the campus, its spire symbolizing the aspirations of the college.

35. Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University in Blacksburg, Va.

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We consider Virginia Tech among the most beautiful colleges for structures like the castle-like Burruss Hall.

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Points Awarded: 6

Virginia Tech spans a whopping 2,600 acres, not including a 1,800-acre agriculture research farm that is a small distance away from the main campus in New River Valley. The main campus is home to almost six acres of the Peggy Lee Hahn Horticulture Garden with maples, dwarf conifers and wisteria flowers, as well as a fish-filled 200-foot stream.

The signature campus building in the castle-like Burruss Hall, which were designed by Richmond-based architects Carneal, Johnston & Wright, completed in 1936 and now reserved for administrative facilities.

34. Montreat College in Montreat, N.C.

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Montreat College, one of the Most Beautiful College Campuses in Rural Areas, is nestled in a cove below the 6,000-foot peaks of the Appalachian Mountains.

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Points Awarded: 6

The name Montreat, for both the city and the college, comes from an amalgam of “mountain” and “retreat.” Give this 43-acre campus one good look, and you’ll understand why.

Nestled in a cove below the 6,000-foot peaks of the Appalachian Mountains, Montreat College is set on Lake Susan with over 20 hiking trails of about 30 miles of scenic splendor. Among the historic buildings is the The Chapel of the Prodigal, created by architect Richard A. Henley of Charlotte, N.C. He nestled the building into the gently sloping terrain and used over 200-year-old heavy timbers for the roof trusses.

33. Western State Colorado University in Gunnison, Colo.

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WSCU is the fourth-oldest public college in Colorado and one of the Most Beautiful College Campuses in Rural Areas.

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Points Awarded: 6

In the Gunnison Valley nestled among the Colorado Rocky Mountains lies the beautiful 130-acre Western State Colorado University. This beautiful rural school is just nine miles from the Blue Mesa Reservoir, Colorado’s largest body of water. Only minutes from campus is some of the world’s best powder for skiing, granite faces for bouldering and climbing, miles of trails to hike and mountain bike and a whitewater park perfect for kayaking and rafting.

WSCU is the fourth-oldest public college in Colorado. Notable Taylor Hall’s creation began in 1910, and this building with a pillared entrance was completed in three phases by 1929 with a 2011 renovation.

32. University of Idaho in Moscow, Idaho

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Among our Most Beautiful College Campuses in Rural Areas is the University of Idaho for its arboretum, botanical garden and Administration Building.

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Points Awarded: 6

On the map, you’ll see an arboretum and botanical garden flush against the University of Idaho’s campus golf course, as well as the Shattuck Arboretum. This beautiful rural college is surrounded by the rolling Palouse Hills, an area so beautiful that it was featured in National Geographic magazine. This school is also ranked in the top 30 in the nation as a “great university to hit the books and backcountry” by Outsidemagazine.

One of the campus’ more-striking architectural sights is the Administration building with its dark red brick and clock tower.

31. Gettysburg College in Gettysburg, Pa.

most beautiful college campuses, rural area, rural areas, rural life, rural education, rural college, list of colleges
Pennsylvania Hall is the oldest architecture on this most beautiful college campus at Gettysburg College.

Points Awarded: 7

About 2,000 trees had grown on Gettysburg College’s 200-acre campus by 2012. Another natural eye-pleaser on this world-famous town’s campus, which is in close proximity to both Washington, D.C. and Baltimore, is the Quarry Pond.

John Cresson Trautwine created the American Greek Revival-style Pennsylvania Hall, the oldest architecture on campus. It originally opened in 1837 and was utilized as a field hospital during 1863 Battle of Gettysburg. John A. Dempwolf conceived the Victorian Romanesque Glatfelter Hall, which was completed in 1889.

30. Bucknell University in Lewisburg, Pa.

most beautiful college campuses, rural area, rural areas, rural life, rural education, rural college, list of colleges
The art deco Campus Theatre helped Bucknell University place among the Most Beautiful College Campuses in Rural Areas.

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Points Awarded: 7

Bucknell boasts a student retention rate of 93 percent. The campus is situated along the bank of the Susquehanna River, and the beautiful architecture of the Rooke Science Building features a rooftop greenhouse.

The art deco Campus Theatre is historic and beautiful on the inside and out. The first campus building, Taylor Hall, was constructed in 1848 and currently houses the School of Management.

29. Pennsylvania State University in State College, Pa.

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The five-acre H.O. Smith Botanic Gardens helped us ranked Penn State as one of the Most Beautiful College Campuses in Rural Areas.

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Points Awarded: 7

Penn State Main’s famous Mall is lined with elms that have scored their own spot in the U.S. National Register of Historic Places, lining most of the walkways on the campus. The Federal Revival-style Old Main building is also a historic “Penn State landmark” with the original Old Main Bell on display out front. Architect Charles Z. Klauder designed Old Main and several other buildings on the University Park campus.

The H.O. Smith Botanic Gardens consist of five acres of developed gardens, as well as an Arboretum and the Overlook Pavilion.

28. Pacific Union College in Angwin, Calif.

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Pacific Union College is one of the Most Beautiful College Campuses in Rural Areas partly because of its 4,000-pipe organ from Austria.

Points Awarded: 7

Pacific Union College boasts 1,900 acres on Howell Mountain, which is located in the heart of the Napa Valley wine country. In fact, PUC is Napa Valley’s only four-year college. This campus has no less than 30 miles of trails for hiking and biking. And the sleek and white PUC Church is home to a 4,000-pipe organ from Austria that is 50′ tall.

27. Colgate University in Hamilton, N.Y.

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One of the Most Beautiful College Campuses in Rural Areas, Colgate University is home to about 2,300 trees.

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Points Awarded: 7

The 575-acre campus grounds are home to an estimated 2,300 trees, the most common of which are sugar maples and northern red oaks. It also features the grand Taylor Lake and Willow Path, where it is rumored that if you kiss your significant other for the first time on the path’s bridge, you’ll end up tying the knot.

Campus is also host to an abundance of eye-catching stone buildings, such as the Romanesque-style Old Biology Hall/current Hascall Hall, which was originally designed by C.B. Butler in 1885. Other buildings date back as far as 1827, when West Hall was built by faculty and students from stone taken from a campus quarry; it is now home to first-year residents.

From the school: “Carefully preserved architecture, immaculate grounds, and hillside setting, is consistently named one of the most beautiful in the nation.”

26. Washington and Lee University in Lexington, Va.

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The historic Colonnade at Washington and Lee makes this school one of the Most Beautiful College Campuses in Rural Areas.

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Points Awarded: 7

The rural area of Washington and Lee University’s 415-acre campus is surrounded by the Appalachian and Blue Ridge Mountains. According to the college’s website, “The English poet John Drinkwater said Washington and Lee’s setting was the most beautiful of any college in America.”

The historic Colonnade is made up of several halls, including the Washington, Robinson and Payne Halls, which are the three oldest buildings on campus. The Lee Chapel, along with the Colonnade, were named a National Historic Landmark in 1961. In 1972, the front campus was designated a National Historic Landmark by the Department of the Interior, only the third college campus in the country to receive that recognition.

25. Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, N.Y.

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All of Vassar College is considered an official arboretum, making it one of the Most Beautiful College Campuses in Rural Areas.

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Points Awarded: 7

All 1,000 acres of Vassar College are considered an official arboretum with 200 species of trees, a native plant preserve, and a 400-acre ecological preserve. The college is located in the scenic Hudson Valley, 75 miles north of New York City, and features manicured lawns and formal gardens of the main campus to the meadows and woodlands of the 500-acre Vassar Farm.

Buildings range in style from Collegiate Gothic to modernist, including two National Historic Landmarks: The Main Building and the castle-like Thompson Memorial Library, which is a Perpendicular Gothic structure designed by architects Allen & Collins and completed in 1905.

24. College of the Ozarks in Point Lookout, Mo.

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The Neo-Gothic architecture of the Williams Memorial Chapel helps make the College of the Ozarks one of the Most Beautiful College Campuses in Rural Areas.

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Points Awarded: 7

On the 1,000 acres of the College of the Ozarks, you will find the Missouri Vietnam Veterans Memorial, which is built and designed by students, and it honors the 1,410 servicemen and women from Missouri who gave their lives during the Vietnam War. You will also see an outstanding example of the Neo-Gothic architecture via Williams Memorial Chapel, which measures 150 feet long and 80 feet wide, with an 80-foot-high vaulted ceiling and impressive stained glass windows; attached to the chapel is the Hyer Bell Tower.

Lake Honor and the C of O Greenhouses make up great natural features. The greenhouses are home to the Clint McDade orchid collection, which today numbers more than 7,000 plants.

23. Smith College in Northampton, Mass.

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Home to Paradise Pond and structures like the modern Campus Center building, Smith College is one of our Most Beautiful College Campuses in Rural Areas.

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Points Awarded: 8

There’s a gorgeous Paradise Pond at Smith College’s rural campus that is surrounded by lush foliage. In the late 19th Century, notable landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted originally conceived this 147-acre campus as an arboretum and botanic garden. Today, it houses no less than 1,200 kinds of shrubs and trees, as well as multiple gardens. Holyoke Range hiking trails are also nearby for students to trek.

Smith is among the largest women’s colleges in the nation, and it features a notably modern Campus Center building at the middle of campus. According to the school website, “central location, glass walls and large windows blur the boundaries between inside and outside, student and faculty, college and town.”

22. Miami University in Oxford, Ohio

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Miami University in Ohio is one of our Most Beautiful College Campuses in Rural Areas for its lovely architecture.

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Points Awarded: 8

An architectural campus highlight at Miami University is the mid-20th-century Georgian Revival-style Upham Hall. Two others of the school’s buildings made the National Register of Historic Places: the Greek Revival-style Langstroth Cottage, which was constructed in 1856 and once home to L. L. Langstroth; and the Federal vernacular-style William Holmes McGuffey house, built in 1833.

Miami University is one of the oldest public institutions in the nation, as well as one of the most beautiful rural college campuses. According to the school’s website, Robert Frost once identified this campus as “the most beautiful campus that ever there was.”

21. Williams College in Williamstown, Mass.

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The Thompson Memorial Chapel helped us place Williams among our Most Beautiful College Campuses in Rural Areas.

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Points Awarded: 8

Four other sources, including Newsweek, named Williams College one of the most beautiful college campuses. The beautiful architecture on this rural college campus is hard to beat.

Bostonian Francis R. Allen from Allen & Collins architecture designed the Thompson Memorial Chapel, which dates back to 1904. The Chapel’s tower is modeled after the Church of St. Cuthbert in Wells, England. Griffin Hall was designed after a structure at the Andover Theological Seminary with Doric pillars, Palladian window features and golden orb at its crown. The design came from Massachusetts architects Harding and Seaver, and the building was finished in 1828.

20. Ohio University in Athens, Ohio

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The College Green hosts many of the attributes than lands Ohio University among our Most Beautiful College Campuses in Rural Areas.

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Points Awarded: 8

Hocking River flows by this 1,800-acre beautiful college campus with a scenic bicycle path along the banks. The College Green hosts impressive buildings and sites like the Wolfe Garden and the Federalist-style Manasseh Cutler Hall, a National Historic Landmark since 1966. It’s coupled with the timber tower and crowning cupola, and the whole structure was built in 1816. Two other buildings from 19th Century on the College Green are the Georgian-style McGuffey and Wilson Halls.

The Alumni Class Gateway is located at the northwest corner of the Green, at the corner of Court and Union Streets where Ohio University and the City of Athens meet, greeting and sending off those who pass through it with a message on each side.

19. Colby College in Waterville, Maine

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As one of the Most Beautiful College Campuses in Rural Areas, Colby College is located on top of Mayflower Hill.

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Points Awarded: 8

The beautiful Colby College sits atop Mayflower Hill, overlooking downtown Waterville and the Kennebec River Valley. This 714-acre campus is home to Johnson Pond, over 1,800 trees and a variety of shrubs and perennials. The Perkins Arboretum and Bird Sanctuary named over 128 acres a Wildlife Management Area.

A notable structure in this beautiful rural area is the iconic Miller Library. Plus, campus is just 20 minutes from the state capital.

18. Amherst College in Amherst, Mass.

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As one of the Most Beautiful College Campuses in Rural Areas, Amherst College has a 98% student retention rate.

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Points Awarded: 8

According to College Navigator, Amherst boasts a freshman retention rate of 98 percent; it seems students just cannot leave this campus of 1,000 acres and over 100 buildings. Amherst College hosts a Wildlife Sanctuary on 500 acres of the campus with a diverse collection of open fields (both actively maintained and unmanaged), wetlands, flood plain woods, river, upland woods, plantation pines, and ponds. This sanctuary, along with the Fort River, are important places for both recreation and research.

Architect Warren Slade Howland designed the first form of the magnificent Greek and Georgian Revival-style President’s House. It was originally completed in 1835 on this beautiful rural college campus.

17. Evergreen State College in Olympia, Wash.

most beautiful college campuses, rural area, rural areas, rural life, rural education, rural college, list of colleges
Evergreen State College is one of our Most Beautiful College Campuses in Rural Areas, owning over 1,000 acres of forest in the beautiful Pacific Northwest.

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Points Awarded: 8

Evergreen State College owns over 1,000 acres of forest in the beautiful Pacific Northwest. There are a number of foliage-covered trails that students explore and use for agricultural and ecological research. They also utilize a salmon-safe Organic Farm on campus.

For more outdoor recreation, you can kick back somewhere on the 3,300 feet of unspoiled Evergreen Beach bordering the Puget Sound. If you feel the need to get off of campus, head out to one of the nearby state and national forests or parks.

16. Sewanee: The University of the South in Sewanee, Tenn.

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The lush 13,000-acres and Neo-Gothic architecture of Sewanee makes this school one of the Most Beautiful College Campuses in Rural Areas.

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Points Awarded: 9

The 13,000-acre Domain, as Sewanee’s campus is known, on the Cumberland Plateau overlooks the Tennessee Valley. Forests, lakefront bluffs, Lake Finney and a garden ravine that follows a stream through campus that blooms with daffodils, hyacinths and tulips in the spring help make up the University of the South’s land.

On that land, you will be pleased to gaze upon lovely Neo-Gothic architecture and amazing structures like the All Saint’s Chapel, whose architect drew inspiration from the University Church at Oxford and Notre Dame in Paris. The building boasts a tower, a rose window and arched ceilings.

15. Bard College in Annandale-on-Hudson, N.Y.

most beautiful college campuses, rural area, rural areas, rural life, rural education, rural college, list of colleges
This lush Italian garden coupled with picturesque architecture helped make Bard College on of our Most Beautiful College Campuses in Rural Areas.

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Points Awarded: 9

Bard College consists of 540 acres of fields and forest land with Catskill Mountains visible in the distance and both old and new architecture along the Hudson River and Sawkill Creek.

Notable campus buildings include the Richard B. Fisher Center for the Performing Arts with a metal-plate roof by Frank Gehry, where Bard’s thriving art scene is showcased. Other campus architecture goes back to the 19th century as seen with the Blithewood Mansion and its manicured Italian garden. Then there are also the classic Collegiate Gothic-style buildings and the Tudor Revival-style Ward Manor by Francis Laurens Vinton Hoppin, which presently hosts a café and a dorm.

14. Hamilton College in Clinton, N.Y.

most beautiful college campuses, rural area, rural areas, rural life, rural education, rural college, list of colleges
Hamilton’s beautiful rural area college campus sits on a hilltop overlooking the New England-style village of Clinton, N.Y.

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Points Awarded: 9

Hamilton College’s 1,350-acre campus sits on a hilltop overlooking the New England-style village of Clinton, N.Y. The College Chapel that Philip Hooker and John Lothtrop designed in 1827 is on the National Register of Historic Places, as well as the Federal-style Elihu Root House. The houses’ namesake is an alumnus, Nobel Peace Prize winner and was the owner of the equally-beautiful Root Glen, which blooms with flowers, shrubs and 65 kinds of trees.

This college has a 96 percent student retention rate, which I assume is partly because of its beauty. The campus is also in close proximity to the Adirondack Park.

13. Sweet Briar College in Sweet Briar, Va.

most beautiful college campuses, rural area, rural areas, rural life, rural education, rural college, list of colleges
The lush grounds at the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains of Sweet Briar make it one of the Most Beautiful College Campuses in Rural Areas.

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Points Awarded: 10

Out of the 30 buildings on Sweet Briar College’s 3,250-acre campus, 21 are listed on the Virginia Landmarks Register and the National Register of Historic Places as a National Historic District. Among the number of the buildings Ralph Adams Cram designed, the Mary K. Benedict Hall, originally completed in, 1906 features Beaux-Arts elements.

This school consists of lush grounds at the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, as well as sxi nature sanctuaries, two lakes and a 130-acre equestrian center.

12. Wellesley College in Wellesley, Mass.

most beautiful college campuses, rural area, rural areas, rural life, rural education, rural college, list of colleges
Wellesley College is one of the Most Beautiful College Campuses in Rural Areas with “its peculiar kind of intricate beauty.”

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Points Awarded: 10

Wellesley College’s 500-acre campus is home to winding pathways through open meadows, groves of conifers and hardwoods surrounding Lake Waban. Here, you will also find a whopping 16 interconnected Margaret C. Ferguson Greenhouses, which host the most diverse collection of plants under glass in the greater Boston area. Even more, the Wellesley College Botanic Gardens (WCBG) include thousands of plants representing over 1,500 different taxa from more than 150 different plant families, a remarkably diverse collection for a college or university.

According to the college’s website, landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr. described Wellesley’s landscape in 1902 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.” Glacial topography, he believed, gave the campus “its peculiar kind of intricate beauty.”

11. Elon University in Elon, N.C.

most beautiful college campuses, rural area, rural areas, rural life, rural education, rural college, list of colleges
Elon, one of the Most Beautiful College Campuses in Rural Areas, is designated as a botanic garden.

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Points Awarded: 11

Elon University’s 636-acre campus is designated as a botanic garden, which includes the 56-acre Elon University Forest, a land preserve and natural area for scientific research.

Johnston Hall, home to the school’s alumni offices, is on the National Register of Historic Places. Another highlight of this beautiful rural college is the Alamance Building and the Fonville Fountain that decorates the building’s front yard.

10. St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minn.

most beautiful college campuses, rural area, rural areas, rural life, rural education, rural college, list of colleges
St. Olaf is one of several Most Beautiful College Campuses in Rural Areas, with buildings on the National Register of Historic Places.

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Points Awarded: 11

St. Olaf College is a private liberal arts college that boasts two buildings on the National Register of Historic Places: Charles F. Haglin and F.B. Long’s 1877 Gothic-style Old Main, which was the first structure on college grounds, and Steensland Hall with its Greek Revival columns, porch and dome.

This 920-acre campus is beautiful and ecofriendly. About 325 acres of the campus are restored wetlands, woodlands, and native tallgrass prairie owned and maintained by the school, and students use the gorgeous maple trees around to make some maple syrup. The LEED Platinum-certified Regents Hall has a plant-filled greenhouse overlooking the two structures mentioned above, and the campus utilizes its own wind turbine to supply over one-third of the school’s electricity.

9. The College of William & Mary in Williamsburg, Va.

most beautiful college campuses, rural area, rural areas, rural life, rural education, rural college, list of colleges
This small university is one of our Most Beautiful College Campuses in Rural Areas with features like the Sunken Gardens.

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Points Awarded: 11

The College of William & Mary is actually a small university and the first college to become a university, at that. It is also the second-oldest college in the U.S. with a founding year of 1693. Within this 1,200-acre university resides British architect Christopher Wren’s brick Wren Building that was competed in 1699 and is today’s oldest academic building to have been used uninterruptedly in the U.S.

The beautiful Sunken Garden stretches across the center of the school’s Old Campus from the Wren to the Crim Dell Pond, and while it was designed by Virginia-born architect Charles M. Robinson in the early 1920s, it was not completed until 1936 because of its great cost. The Crim Dell Pond’s notable feature is its wooden bridge and green area. Last but not least, this rural college is set next to the Matoaka Lake with a Matoaka Lake Amphitheater on the water’s shore.

8. College of the Atlantic in Bar Harbor, Maine

most beautiful college campuses, rural area, rural areas, rural life, rural education, rural college, list of colleges
The College of the Atlantic is one of the Most Beautiful College Campuses in Rural Areas, with the Atlantic Ocean as its front yard.

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Points Awarded: 12

The Atlantic Ocean is the front yard of the College of the Atlantic’s 37-acre campus. Garden areas, such as the Beatrix Farrand Garden and the community organic garden are in abundance around Maine’s Mount Desert Island. The school owns both the Beech Hill Farm and Peggy Rockefeller Farms on the Island, and the Arboretum of Eden spans over the whole campus.

To keep on with the green theme, the campus features the Amos Eno Greenhouse, which holds a variety of plant specimens, with large collections of xeric plants (low-moisture plants like cacti and succulents) and tropical plants (such as bromeliads and orchids). If that wasn’t enough, all of the campus is surrounded by the Acadia National Park.

7. University of Mississippi in Oxford, Miss.

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The Lyceum is the landmark of Ole Miss, helping it score high on our list of Most Beautiful College Campuses in Rural Areas.

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Points Awarded: 12

The landmark of University of Mississippi’s 2,000-acre campus is the striking Greek Revival-style Lyceum which was originally completed in 1848 based on the designs of British-born architect William Nichols, Sr. and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Ole Miss is also home to the oldest college bell in America in the Peddle Bell Tower.

As for campus greenery, The Grove is a haven for students and nationally-known tailgating venue with 10 acres of trees, picnic tables and a stage; and the Bailey Woods Trail takes walkers from the University Museum, through wooded paths, to author William Faulkner’s historic former home. The campus also features the Silver Pond and Phi Mu Fountain.

6. Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y.

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William Henry Miller’s 173-foot McGraw Tower and adjacent Uris Library helped score Cornell’s spot among our Most Beautiful College Campuses in Rural Areas.

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Points Awarded: 14

Cornell University’s 4,800-acre campus is host to a few historic structures like local architect William Henry Miller’s 173-foot McGraw Tower and adjacent Uris Library. The clock, with its 14-foot pendulum has changing faces, depending on the holiday and season. Other significant structures are the I.M. Pei-designed Johnson Museum of Art and Bailey Hall, a Greek Revival-style structure that was built in 1912 according to a blueprint by Cornell alumnus Edward Green. It is also on the National Register of Historic Places, as is Morrill Hall.

N plentiful with the Cascadilla Gorge with waterfalls that drop more than 400 feet from Cornell’s campus to downtown Ithaca, a 100-acre arboretum, the Newman Overlook for a sweeping panoramic view and over 150 waterfalls within 10 square miles of Ithaca.

5. Dartmouth College in Hanover, N.H.

most beautiful college campuses, rural area, rural areas, rural life, rural education, rural college, list of colleges
Dartmouth, “what a college is supposed to look like,” is one of our Most Beautiful College Campuses in Rural Areas.

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Points Awarded: 14

U.S. president Dwight D. Eisenhower is said to have remarked of Dartmouth’s campus, “This is what a college is supposed to look like.” Over its 269 acres sit lovely structures like the Rollins Chapel, which was conceived by Boston architect John L. Faxon and completed in 1885. The Baker Bell Tower is also a charming sight that satisfies the ears as well as the eyes by playing the “Alma Mater” at 6 p.m. each day.

The Dartmouth Green is a great grass area to escape — or even bring the books — on a nice day. Students can also get away to the part of the Appalachian Trail that runs through campus, the Connecticut River, the Organic Farm and even the Dartmouth Skiway, depending on the weather.

4. University of Virginia in Charlottesville, Va.

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Thomas Jefferson founded UVA, one of our top Most Beautiful College Campuses in Rural Areas.

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Points Awarded: 14

In 1976 the University of Virginia’s campus as a whole was named “the proudest achievement of American architecture in the past 200 years” by the American Institute of Architects. The style of this rural college’s buildings is called Jeffersonian, in homage to the college’s founder, Thomas Jefferson. Jefferson chose the school’s 1819 founding as one of the only three of his many accomplishments noted on his gravestone.

With stunning buildings like Neoclassical domed Rotunda, which is modeled after Pantehon, that’s not a big surprise. UVA is also the only university to be named UNESCO World Heritage Site, which refers specifically to the Central Grounds or Academical Village.

3. Mount Holyoke College in South Hadley, Mass.

most beautiful college campuses, rural area, rural areas, rural life, rural education, rural college, list of colleges
Within the heart of Pioneer Valley, Mount Holyoke is one of our top two Most Beautiful College Campuses in Rural Areas.

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Points Awarded: 16

Mount Holyoke College’s 2,000-acre campus is located within the heart of Pioneer Valley. Here, Mary Lyon Hall, along with the Talcott Greenhouse, is designated a botanical garden and is home to an array of tropical and warm-weather plant life. This campus also boasts an outdoor amphitheater, two lakes, waterfalls, woodland riding trails and several examples of beautiful Collegiate Gothic architecture, like the Abbey Chapel, Clock Tower and black iron Fidelia Nash Field Gates.

Originally, this school was designed as an 800-acre site and developed over the course of 26 years by landscape architects Olmsted and Sons. Today, Mount Holyoke is not only our second-most beautiful rural college campus, but the school was ranked among the “World’s Most Beautiful Universities” by the Huffington Post.

2. Kenyon College in Gambier, Ohio

most beautiful college campuses, rural area, rural areas, rural life, rural education, rural college, list of colleges
Kenyon College is the No. 3 college among our Most Beautiful College Campuses in Rural Areas.

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Points Awarded: 16

The 10-foot-wide Middle Path spans the length of this 1,000-acre college and continues on through the town of Gambier, which sits below Kenyon College’s hilltop location. The 14-mile Kokosing Gap Trail and the Kokosing River run along this beautiful campus and its 480-acre nature preserve, which includes woodland, prairie and wetland habitats, as well as gardens.

The castle-like Victorian Gothic Ascension Hall and the Greek Revival Rosse Hall are pleasant architectural highlights on this campus, but the crowd favorite seems to be the Old Kenyon. This building, with its multicolored steeple, is the second of its name after the first perished in a fire, and it’s said to be the earliest Collegiate Gothic-style building constructed in the U.S., according to Best College Reviews. The Great Hall within Pierce Hall, on the other hand, dons wood paneling, lofty carved rafters and stained-glass windows depicting scenes from literary classics. It isn’t hard to trust the College when they say, “Timeless beauty endures here.”

1. Berry College in Mount Berry, Ga.

most beautiful college campuses, rural area, rural areas, rural life, rural education, rural college, list of colleges
Berry College scored the No. 1 spot out of all of our Most Beautiful College Campuses in Rural Areas, for good reason.

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Points Awarded: 17

According to the College, “Berry has the world’s largest contiguous college campus, spanning more than 27,000 acres of woodlands, meadows and streams,” and most of the campus is a nature preserve with large pastures. This beautiful campus and the Mountain Campus are dotted with pools, fountains and two lakes; one of which is appropriately-named Swan Lake for the beautiful birds that grace its waters. For those looking to truly enjoy the nature, there are over 80 miles of trails for cycling, hiking and horseback riding available.

Architecturally, the Ford Dining Hall can’t help but catch your eye with its stone edifice and reflective pool out front. But both Mary Hall and the Ford Auditorium with its clock tower are equally appealing with their similar English Gothic styles. Judging by these buildings names, you may have been able to guess that Henry Ford is this school’s largest benefactor.

Methodology

Although the U.S. Census Bureau defines what an urban area is, the organization does not provide a straightforward rural area definition. According to Census.gov, “’Rural’ encompasses all population, housing, and territory not included within an urban area,” and “Urbanized Areas” consist of 50,000 or more people. Therefore, for the sake of this list of colleges, we have defined a “rural area” as an area with a population under 50,000. Some of the colleges on this list are connected to small cities, towns or villages, but because of the area’s low number of residents, we are considering it “rural.”

Information was sourced from the National Center for Education Statistics’ College Navigator Database, the United States Census Bureau, Wikipedia, the individual schools’ websites and other “most beautiful college campuses” list articles.

The point system we used in our ranking works as follows:

  • Awards and Recognition: International accolade (2 points), national accolade (1 point), appearance on the National Register of Historic Places (1 point)
  • Other Recognition: Inclusion on other noteworthy “most beautiful college campuses” list articles (1 point per list)
  • Notable Features: Features, such as significant architecture, famous buildings, outdoor activity centers, farms, botanical gardens, arboretums, historical relevance, etc. (1 point each, or 2 points if there are several types of one feature, such as gardens)
  • Location: If the location is of certain significance, such as part of a national park or forest, on a hilltop or mountain, forest, etc. (1 point)
  • Student Enjoyment: Full-time student retention rates, as reported by College Navigator, above 75% (1 point) and 90% and above (2 points)

In cases where two or more schools have the same number of points, their rank order is determined by the schools’ affordability. The schools with lower net costs, as reported by the College Navigator Database, received the better ranking (lower net cost = lower number).

Sources

College Navigator
The Princeton Review
Best College Reviews
Newsweek
WorldWideLearn
Wikipedia
Thrillist
Travel + Leisure
Forbes

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Gabrielle Kratsas

I was born and raised in Pittsburgh, Pa., but I recently moved to Texas. I graduated from the University of Maryland, College Park (GO TERPS!) in 2014, where I acquired a BA in multimedia journalism and a minor in creative writing. I absolutely love writing all attention-grabbing genres of fiction and non-fiction. I used to box competitively, I enjoy sewing and I have two dogs, Bubba and Ellie Mae, who I consider my children.