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The 50 Most Inspired College Campuses: Unique Designs to Enlighten Minds

When you go to college, you want to be in a nurturing, inspiring environment. Our surroundings make a huge impact on our minds, after all. America, being an incredibly diverse, large and wealthy land has some of the most breathtaking college campuses in the entire world. But this isn’t true of all colleges. Some are in drab environments, whereas others have been proven to lead to success. And this article will highlight the 50 most inspiring college campuses in America.

What makes a college’s campus inspiring? This question has a subjective answer. What is inspiring to one student could be intimidating to another. Therefore, this list has analyzed several measures of a college’s design to consider it creative. Firstly, colleges need to provide evidence that their environments have facilitated academic achievement. Secondly, colleges need to demonstrate that their facilities make it easier to study and enter a career. And thirdly, colleges need to balance aesthetics with practicality. There are a million ways to define a college’s design as being creative, but those above criteria mean that the designs in this list not only look interesting to a majority of people but lead to results.

Up until now, there has not been a list of the colleges with the most creative and inspiring overall designs. Luckily, this list fixes that. The entries below are able to show to all colleges across the US and the world that their buildings, grounds, and facilities can be tools for academic achievement while making students happy. As the entries show, there is no one way of achieving this outcome. All 50 are doing this in their own ways.

The colleges on this list are great choices for students who want to learn in a creative and efficient environment. But it’s also possible that none of the choices are right for you. If that’s the case, then this article can still be a useful tool. Each entry in this list has a detailed summary of why it has been included. These are there so that you can compare them with your own college options. If any of your college choices are using the same creative design solutions like these, then that’s a strong indicator that it’s the right college for you!

Methodology

The entries in this list were sourced from a range of articles. Articles that look at design innovations on campuses, that analyze college buildings which are impressive feats of architecture and that rank college campuses as the best or most beautiful all formed the core of the research. After we had discovered the potential entries on these sources, we conducted extensive research into the colleges themselves. This was to ensure that the college campuses were as creatively designed as the sources said.

Our list of sources is as follows:

The New York Times, The Innovation Campus, Building Better Ideas

Architectural Digest, 15 College Campuses with the Best Architecture

Architectural Digest, The 50 Most Beautiful Colleges in America

Academia Obscura, 10 Offbeat University Buildings

Niche, 2020 Best College Campuses in America

Thrillist, The Most Stunning College Buildings in America

Best Colleges, The Most Technologically Advanced Colleges

Insider, 13 of the most unique colleges in America

USA Today, 51 amazing university and college buildings across the USA

The final rankings have been prioritized with the following criteria: evidence that the designs have led to increased achievement, evidence that the designs have made studying and living easier, evidence that students love the campuses/other college infrastructure, innovative ideas in implementing the designs and aggregated ranking on the source lists.

Our final list, from 50 to one, is below:

50. Case Western Reserve University

Cleveland, Ohio

Website

The campus at Case Western Reserve University is just minutes from downtown Cleveland, making it the ideal location for a student who wants to be in a vibrant urban location as they study. The college’s location at University Circle has “more than 50 arts, cultural, educational, health and human service institutions” spread across 550 acres of space. USA Today and Academia Obscura name the Case Western Reserve University’s Peter B. Lewis Building as one of the most amazing in America.

49. Belmont University

Nashville, Tennessee

Website

Belmont University is technically an urban college, located in southeast Nashville, Tennessee. But thanks to the design of the campus, almost all vehicles skirt it, meaning the grounds are often free from the sound of traffic. The campus is far from quiet, however, because it hosts over 500 student performances every single year. Architectural Digest considers Belmont University to be one of America’s 50 most beautiful college campuses. Niche also names the campus the 94th best college campus in America.

48. The University of Chicago

Chicago, Illinois

Website

Even though The University of Chicago’s campus is just 20 minutes from downtown Chicago, it still has an open-spaced and rural feel. The campus stretches across an amazing 217 acres, which is filled with nature. One example is the Botany Pond, which is the college’s own botanic garden. The buildings are also stunning, being gothic, covered in ivy and featuring numerous gargoyles. Thrillist states that The University of Chicago’s Rockefeller Memorial Chapel is one of America’s most stunning college buildings. Architectural Digest also names the campus as one of the most beautiful colleges in America.

47. Furman University

Greenville, South Carolina

Website

The campus at Furman University is currently undergoing a tree replacement project. This will ensure that the college’s exterior remains green and breathtaking for literally hundreds of years to come. This exterior beauty is vital to the college, as “the entire campus is your classroom.” And every single student who is enrolled into the college lives on campus. Architectural Digest names Furman University one of the 50 most beautiful colleges in America. Niche names it the 89th best college campus in America.

46. Illinois Institute of Technology

Chicago, Illinois

Website

When Illinois Institute of Technology’s campus was created in the 1940s, its design was groundbreaking. In fact, the campus, which was built by the college’s head of the Department of Architecture, “stood in sharp contrast to the patrician campuses of the past.” Newer additions to the campus all look modern and sophisticated, such as the McCormick Tribune Campus Center, with its diagonal pathways looking like interior streets. Illinois Institute of Technology features on Thrillist’s stunning college buildings list and Architectural Digest’s best college architecture list. School Profile

45. St. Olaf College

Northfield, Minnesota

Website

Norwegian immigrants founded St. Olaf College. And this Scandinavian foundation can still be seen on the college’s campus today. Most of the 30 campus buildings are in a Scandinavian-modern architectural style, making it unique in appearance. Architectural Digest calls St. Olaf College’s campus one of the 50 most beautiful in America, highlighting its 300 acres of space and two buildings that are listed on the National Register of Historic Places in its favor. Niche names it the 84th best college campus in America.

44. Vassar College

Poughkeepsie, New York

Website

The more than 100 buildings that make up the Vassar College campus have been “designed by some of the most notable architects of their day.” This includes The Thompson Memorial Library, which is in a beautiful gothic style and which has a huge stained glass window depicting Elena Lucrezia Cornaro, the first female to ever be awarded a doctorate. This library features on Thrillist’s list of the most stunning college buildings in America. Architectural Digest names Vassar College as being one of the 50 most beautiful colleges in America. School Profile

43. Mississippi State University

Starkville, Mississippi

Website

The campus at Mississippi State University excels in many areas, but its athletic and recreational facilities are particularly great. The base of recreational activities is the Joe Frank Sanderson Center, which is 150,000 square feet. Additionally, the RecPlex and 18 hole golf course have everything that a student could want in outdoor sports. The college’s Chadwick Lake also has excellent fishing opportunities! USA Today names the Davis Wade Stadium as one of America’s most amazing college buildings. Niche names Mississippi State University’s campus as the 64th best in America. School Profile

42. Kenyon College

Gambier, Ohio

Website

Insider considers Kenyon College one of the most unique colleges in America, thanks to the fact that students can access a 500 acre nature preserve and 10 acre farm. Architectural Digest also names the college one of the 50 most beautiful in America. But there’s much more than beauty on offer. The college is filled with state of the art facilities, from its science quad to its athletics center. The buildings are made from century old stone and contemporary glass, giving the campus an entirely unique feel.

41. Harvard University

Boston, Massachusetts

Website

Thrillist considers Harvard University’s Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts to be one of the most stunning college buildings in America. That’s because it is the only US structure designed by the modernist pioneer Le Corbusier. Architectural Digest, also considers the entire campus to be one of the most beautiful in America. Lastly, Niche names it the 51st best college campus in America. Harvard Univesity is also constantly proactively looking for ways to use its common spaces to create an increased sense of community between students, faculty and staff. School Profile

40. College of William & Mary

Williamsburg, Virginia

Website

As one of the oldest colleges in America, The College of William & Mary has an incredible historic campus. But it also benefits from a range of recent renovations and constructions, making it “a model of technological innovation, accessibility and comfort.” Some of the more unique features on campus include a sunken garden, a ropes course and an open air amphitheatre located on the bank of Lake Matoaka. Thrillist names the college’s Wren Building, which was designed by Sir Christopher Wren in 1700, as being one of the most stunning college campus buildings in America. Architectural Digest names The College of William & Mary as being one of the 50 most beautiful colleges in America. School Profile

39. Iowa State University

Ames, Iowa

Website

The American Society of Landscape Architects has given the main campus of Iowa State University the Medallion Award for its outstanding landscaping. In addition to beautifully landscaped nature, the college campus has the largest public art collection in the nation on display, with approximately 2,000 works of art being present. But USA Today is impressed with Iowa State University’s C.Y. Stephens Auditorium, which it considers to be amazing. Niche also states that the college to have the 48th best campus in America. School Profile

38. University of Hawaii at Manoa

Honolulu, Hawaii

Website

The advantage of studying at a college in Hawaii should be obvious to all. It has an amazing climate and beautiful scenery. But the specific location and design of University of Hawaii at Manoa go far in enhancing these natural advantages. The college is in the breathtaking Manoa Valley on Oahu. The campus is eight miles away from Honolulu airport. The campus is also designed so that it can accommodate multiple concerts, cookouts, and celebrations on any day of the year. USA Today also considers University of Hawaii at Manoa’s Hawaii Hall to be an amazing American college building. Architectural Digest names the college’s buildings and views as the things that make it one of the 50 most beautiful colleges in America. School Profile

37. Southern Methodist University

Dallas, Texas

Website

The great thing about Southern Methodist University’s campus is that it “is small enough for you to really know your professors and make lifelong connections and large enough to stretch your mind in a variety of academic disciplines and campus activities.” Students who attend the college get to live in one of the 11 on campus residential commons, which all have their own architecturally distinct design. Architectural Digest names Southern Methodist University as one of the 50 most beautiful colleges in America. Niche names it the 42nd best college campus.

36. University of Mississippi

Oxford, Mississippi

Website

The campus at University of Mississippi is known for being beautiful, thanks in part to the 18 Georgian buildings designed by the architect Frank P. Gates. And the original campus building, The Lyceum, dates back to 1848. Today, University of Mississippi’s Campus Recreation Department ensures that the college’s grounds are always put to good use. Thrillist names The Lyceum as one of the most stunning college buildings in America. Niche names University of Mississippi as being the 28th best college campus in America.

35. Dartmouth College

Hanover, New Hampshire

Website

The Dartmouth College campus is all about the outdoors. The Appalachian Trail runs right through the grounds! The college has managed to utilize its surroundings so that all students can take full advantage of the natural activities on offer. It has created over 100 acres of skiing trails 14 miles away from campus, runs an organic farm, owns a ravine lodge 45 minutes from campus and gives students access to 17 cabins. It also owns 27,000 acres of wilderness that it utilizes for recreation. USA Today considers Dartmouth College’s Baker-Berry Library to be one of the most amazing college buildings in America. Architectural Digest also names the college one of the 50 most beautiful in America. School Profile

34. United States Air Force Academy

Colorado Springs, Colorado

Website

USA Today and Thrillist both name different buildings at United States Air Force Academy on their lists. USA Today praises Polaris Hall, which has the Center for Character and Leadership, whereas Thrillist names the college’s futuristic Cadet Chapel as one of the most stunning college buildings in America, noting that it is the most visited man-made attraction in the State of Colorado. But these buildings are only just scratching the surface of the United States Air Force Academy’s creative design. It also has 19 research centers, a planetarium, multi-use trails, an airfield and much more.

33. Michigan State University

East Lansing, Michigan

Website

The large main campus of Michigan State University is divided up so that different aspects of college life have plenty of space. The entire campus is 5,200 acres, with 2,000 of those acres being developed. The campus features over 550 buildings, with approximately 100 of those reserved for academics, 130 reserved for agriculture, 160 for housing and 40 for athletics. The campus is also being constantly modernized. In 2017, it began a $22.5 million solar project that will generate 5% of the college’s electricity when completed. Additionally, Niche names Michigan State University’s campus the 35th best in America. USA Today names the college’s Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum as one of the most amazing college buildings in America.School Profile

32. University of Minnesota

Minneapolis, Minnesota

Website

Two things make University of Minnesota’s Twin Cities campus stand out: its safety and its culture. Every student is kept abreast of important safety advice thanks to its text message alert system. It also has many emergency phones, alarm buttons and security cameras keeping students safe. And if that weren’t good enough, then students are also able to get safely escorted from campus to nearby neighborhoods. Culture wise, the college has an incredible arts center, three museums and a whole arts quarter. USA Today names one of its museums, The Weisman Art Museum, as being one of the most amazing college buildings in America. Best Colleges also states that University of Minnesota is the sixth most technologically advanced college in the USA. School Profile

31. United States Naval Academy

Annapolis, Maryland

Website

All of the students who study at the United States Naval Academy live in one building, Bancroft Hall, which is the largest college dormitory in the world. Both USA Today and Architectural digest praise this building, noting its beauty and sheer size in its favor. But the United States Naval Academy has many other incredible buildings, such as the chapel, which has even been featured on a postage stamp. The Princeton Review has also stated that the college has the second best science lab facilities in America.

30. Flagler College

St. Augustine, Florida

Website

So many aspects of Flagler College are designed to be convenient and special for students. The college’s dining options strive to give all of its diners a unique experience. The campus is also incredibly walkable, with residence halls situated only a few minutes away from the main classrooms, even for slow walkers. But perhaps the most impressive part of Flagler College is its campus centerpiece, the majestic Hotel Ponce de Leon building. This building is on USA Today’s top college buildings list and also contributed significantly to Architectural Digest naming the college one of the most beautiful in America.

29. University of Washington

Seattle, Washington

Website

The Seattle campus of University of Washington is in an idyllic location. It has views of the Cascade Range to the east and views of the Olympic Mountains to the west. The campus is also filled with beautiful architecture, inspiring statues, and state of the art facilities. Located right next to the college is “The Ave,” or University Way, which is filled with inexpensive restaurants, book stores, record stores, clothing stores and much more. Thrillist and USA Today name University of Washington’s Suzzallo Library as one of the most stunning buildings on a college campus in America. Niche names it the 100th best college campus in America. Architectural Digest considers it to be one of the 50 most beautiful colleges in America. School Profile

28. Arizona State University

Tempe, Arizona

Website

The five campuses that make up Arizona State University are all distinct, yet they all offer “attributes and focuses to meet the needs of any learner.” The college has also managed to become an environmentally friendly institution. In fact, the Tempe campus is the most solar-powered campus in America. USA Today names the college’s Cronkite Building, located in downtown Phoenix, as an amazing college building. Best Colleges names Arizona State University as the second most technologically advanced college in America. School Profile

27. Vanderbilt University

Nashville, Tennessee

Website

The campus at Vanderbilt University is located one and a half miles from downtown Nashville, Tennessee. It sprawls over 341 acres, and contains over 300 tree and shrub varieties, making it a nature lover’s dream. Nine miles from campus, there is also an observatory in the college’s name, which is on the National Register of Historic Places (as is one of the buildings on the college’s campus.) Architectural Digest considers it to be one of the 50 most beautiful college campuses in America. Niche lists it as the 25th best college campus in America. School Profile

26. University of Missouri

Columbia, Missouri

Website

Thanks to the design of the physical infrastructure at University of Missouri, students can work alongside the college’s world leading faculty. This results in students producing work that benefits the entire world before they graduate. And if that weren’t impressive enough, then the college also has a breathtaking botanical garden that is divided into 16 different gardens of different themes. Architectural Digest names the college one of the 50 most beautiful in America. Niche names it the 36th best college campus in America. School Profile

25. University of Arkansas

Fayetteville, Arkansas

Website

The University of Arksansas campus contains over 20 places to eat, meaning that all tastes can be catered to, from fast food to fine dining. But this variety stretches far beyond food. For instance, it also has an impressive array of recreational facilities, such as an Olympic sized swimming pool and a state-of the art fitness center. Thrillist is incredibly impressed with the way the college’s Arkansas Union building at the heart of the college has become a gathering space for every kind of student. USA Today calls the college’s Old Main building amazing. Additionally, Niche names University of Arkansas as having the 57th best college campus in the USA.

24. University of Virginia

Charlottesville, Virginia

Website

The only college on this list that can claim to have a campus designed by a founding father and President of the United States is University of Virginia. Architectural Digest goes as far as to call Thomas Jefferson’s Academical Village at the college “one of the most important architectural projects in U.S. history.” Thrillist and USA Today noted that the college’s Rotunda, which Thomas Jefferson based off of the Pantheon in Rome, as the jewel in this campus’s crown. Niche names the college campus the 85th best in America. In the 21st century, University of Virginia is in the process of preserving its campus while highlighting some of the darker aspects of its past. For instance, it is creating a memorial to the enslaved people who were forced to build and maintain the college’s grounds in its early years. School Profile

23. Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

Troy, New York

Website

To understand why Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute’s campus is designed how it is, prospective students need to grasp its Clustered Learning, Advocacy and Support for Students (CLASS) system. This is a “comprehensive approach to the student experience at Rensselaer.” CLASS is focused on building its community so that students can become the leaders of tomorrow. This means that many on-campus buildings are focused around career development and connection building. And all residential halls are clustered in specific sections of the college to make the experience as productive and enjoyable as possible to students. USA Today also names the college’s Curtis R. Priem Experimental Media and Performing Arts Center as being one of the most amazing college buildings in America. Best Colleges names Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute the 19th most technologically advanced college in America.

22. Berry College

Mount Berry, Georgia

Website

When Berry College says that its campus has a huge claim to fame, it means huge literally. It has by far the world’s biggest campus. Its 27,000 acres are filled with “a wealth of opportunities simply not available at other colleges.” The college makes the most of its gigantic campus, offering students a staggering range of learning opportunities. It also means that every single student who attends the college is given eight semesters of paid, professional development experience. But the buildings on the Berry College Campus are also phenomenal. In fact, USA Today calls its English Gothic Ford Buildings amazing. Architectural Digest also considers the college to be one of the most beautiful in America.

21. Pennsylvania State University

University Park, Pennsylvania

Website

It’s hard to rank Pennsylvania State University’s design as one entity, as the college has 24 different campuses across its home state. But this large array of campuses can itself be considered a great piece of design. The 24 campuses give students the option to study in a wide range of locations. Students can even choose to transition from one campus to another after two years of study. One thing that unites every Pennsylvania State University campus is the fact that they all use incredible technology. Best Colleges even names the college the 10th most technologically advanced in America. Niche names the college’s University Park location as the 39th best college campus in America. School Profile

20. Wake Forest University

Winston-Salem, North Carolina

Website

Wake Forest University describes its campus as being “a big canvas” for students to express their passions. That’s because it offers a comfortable and challenging environment for all students. It’s also a very modern campus, with over half of the college’s dorm rooms having been built from scratch or fully renovated in recent years. Best Colleges is also astounded at how Wake Forest University has augmented its campus with technology, stating that there is an app for almost everything a student encounters. The source also names it the most technologically advanced college in America. Architectural Digest names the college as one of the 50 most beautiful in America.

19. Columbia University

New York City, New York

Website

The campus at Columbia University is both old and new. It moved into its amazingly spacious, for New York City, campus in 1897 and had its buildings constructed by the renowned architectural firm McKim, Mead, and White. But in the 1990s, the college’s leadership conducted a $650 million building program on the campus, renovating the historic buildings and constructing new ones. During this time, the college also constructed New York City’s only university related research park, Audubon Biotechnology and Research Park. Architectural Digest considers Columbia University to have one of the 50 most beautiful college campuses in America. Niche names the college’s campus the 37th best in America. School Profile

18. University of California, Berkeley

Berkeley, California

Website

Students of this college say that things like “There’s a very non-hierarchical feeling at Berkeley.” This is because University of California, Berkeley’s campus always provides opportunities for students to expand their minds and engage with new ways of thinking. Some of the most inspiring features of the campus are the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive, the 34 acre botanical garden, the Sproul Plaza, the Lower Sproul and much more. Thrillist names The Campanile, aka the Sather Tower, as being one of the 25 most stunning college buildings in America. That’s because it has an observation deck, 23 bells and is the third largest bell and clock tower in the world. Architectural Digest also names it one of America’s 50 most beautiful college campuses. School Profile

17. The Ohio State University

Columbus, Ohio

Website

There’s something for everyone across The Ohio State University’s six diverse campuses. These campuses are located across the state of Ohio and vary from being incredibly urban to highly rural. The Columbus campus considers itself to be a laboratory for innovation, while the Mansfield campus is located over 640 acres of woodland. Niche names Ohio State University’s Columbus Campus as being the 33rd best in America. Thrillist names the college’s New Ohio Union Building, as being one of the most stunning college buildings in America. School Profile

16. University of Colorado, Boulder

Boulder, Colorado

Website

There’s so much on offer at University of Colorado, Boulder’s campus. It offers wide open fields, a dining hall with cuisine from around the world and even the opportunity to “create your own smoothie via bicycle energy at the Village Center.” There are also four swimming pools, a planetarium, an art museum and much more. Thrillist considers the University of Colorado, Boulder’s first building, Old Main, to be one of the most stunning college buildings in the USA. Niche names the campus the 23rd best in America. And Architectural Digest names it one of the most beautiful colleges in America.

15. University of Pennsylvania

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Website

In 2017, University of Pennsylvania’s urban West Philadelphia campus was officially declared an arboretum. This ensures that while the college is in the heart of one of America’s largest cities, it also maintains a secluded and relaxing atmosphere. Overall, the college now has two arboretums, with the first being located outside of the city. The urban campus is also incredibly safe. In fact, Security Magazine has named it the safest higher education institution seven years in a row. Architectural Digest names the college one of the 50 most beautiful college campuses in America. Niche considers it to be the 86th best college campus in America. School Profile

14. Duke University

Durham, North Carolina

Website

Thanks to its sprawling 8,600+ acre campus, “no two students’ days ever look quite the same,” at Duke University. Every first year student at the college lives on the East Campus and is able to take a five minute bus ride to the West Campus. The East Campus alone is filled with almost 200 acres of open lawns, tennis courts, gyms and much more. Architectural Digest names Duke University as having one of the 50 best campuses in America thanks to the fact that it has 254 beautiful buildings. Thrillist and USA Today also name the Duke Chapel as being one of the 25 most stunning college buildings in America. Lastly, Niche names the college as having the 52nd best campus in America. School Profile

13. University of Notre Dame

Notre Dame, Indiana

Website

Every building on the University of Notre Dame campus fits in with its original Gothic aesthetic. And each of the college’s 30 on-campus residence halls “is a world unto itself,” which all combine to create a unified identity that is unlike anything else found on any campus in the world. The campus also stretches across 1,250 acres. University of Notre Dame features on Architectural Digest’s unranked 50 most beautiful colleges in America list and Niche’s best college campuses list, ranking at 21st. Thrillist also names the college’s Main Building as being one of the 25 most stunning college buildings in America. Lastly, Best Colleges names it the 22nd most technologically advanced college in America.

12. University of Southern California

Los Angeles, California

Website

In 2017, University of Southern California completed the USC Village, a 15-acre extension of its University Park Campus. The entire area was designed so that lifelong learning and new friendships could begin. The campus features a range of shops, dining options, an open-air central piazza and much more. Thrillist considers University of Southern California’s Doheny Memorial Library to be one of the most stunning buildings in America, with the source naming it an incredible place to study. Niche considers the campus to be the ninth-best in America. Best Colleges also names University of Southern California as being the ninth most technologically advanced college in America. School Profile

11. Princeton University

Princeton, New Jersey

Website

Students are required to live on the Princeton University campus during their first two years of study. This is so that they can take part in the “academic, social, cultural and recreational programs, as well as academic advising,” that the college has specifically been designed to provide. This approach is so successful that most students decide to live on campus permanently. Architectural Digest names Princeton University as being one of the 50 most beautiful college campuses in America. Niche names the college’s campus he 53rd best in America. And Thrillist calls the historic campus building Nassau Hall one of the most stunning buildings on a college campus. This is thanks to its importance in American history as well as its design. It was at one point the largest building in Colonial America and briefly served as the nation’s capitol building. USA Today names another historic college building, The University Chapel, as one of the most beautiful in America. But the college is still incredibly modern in many areas. Best Colleges even names it the 15th most technologically advanced college in America. School Profile

10. Yale University

New Haven, Connecticut

Website

The campus at Yale University offers students “endless opportunities for exploration.” It contains over one million square feet of lab space, a world renowned art gallery and 13 million books across 22 libraries. And Architectural Digest considers Yale University to have one of the most amazing collections of buildings in America. Additionally, Thrillist and USA Today consider the college’s Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library to be one of the most stunning buildings in America. Lastly, Niche names it the 14th best college campus in America. School Profile

9. The University of Alabama

Tuscaloosa, Alabama

Website

Two things make The University of Alabama’s campus stand out: its natural beauty and Greek Revival architecture. But what ensures that this amazing space is utilized to its fullest is the fact the there is an entire department that is dedicated to making the campus creative. This department has organized film festivals, arts festivals, improvisational jam sessions and much more. Architectural Digest states that The University of Alabama is one of the 15 best colleges in America when judged by the quality of its architecture. Thrillist also names the college’s Smith Hall as one of the 25 most stunning college buildings in America. Lastly, Niche says the college has the seventh best campus in America.

8. Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Boston, Massachusetts

Website

The New York Times notes that Massachusetts Institute of Technology was one of the pioneers of using creative design to inspire achievement. This started with Building 20, a wooden structure that was rapidly constructed in the Second World War. Despite this building being envisioned as a temporary structure, it became home to some of the greatest advances in science in the word. This was thanks to the building being a place that mixed disciplines and allowed people to work in an open environment. But in 1998, the building was demolished and replaced with the incredible Ray and Maria Stata Center for Computer Information and Intelligence Sciences. This building’s design makes it look like it is crumpling inwards. And the inside contains 430,000 square feet of above ground space, along with 290,000 square feet of underground space. This building’s design “challenges much of the conventional wisdom of laboratory and campus building.” As well as The New York Times, Architectural Digest, USA Today and Academia Obscura also highlight this building as an example of the college’s incredible creativity, which extends across the campus. Best Colleges also calls MIT’s campus the 12th most technologically advanced in America. School Profile

7. University of Michigan

Ann Arbor, Michigan

Website

The campuses at University of Michigan are staggering. In fact, they have “one of the largest health care complexes in the world, one of the most extensive library systems in the country, and some of the best computer access for students and faculty of any campus in the world.” And if that weren’t good enough, then the space features “thousands of concerts, recitals, speakers, symposia, films, and readings each year.” Thrillist names University of Michigan’s Michigan Union building as being one of the most stunning in America. Niche also names the Ann Arbor campus as being the 13th best in America. Best Colleges calls University of Michigan the 16th most technologically advanced college in America. School Profile

6. Washington University in St. Louis

Saint Louis, Missouri

Website

The inspiration for Washington University in St. Louis’s campus came from Oxford and Cambridge in the UK, which many consider to be two of the world’s most amazing college campuses. This design has earned it a place on Architectural Digest’s 50 most beautiful college campuses in America list. It also ranks as the second-best American college campus on Niche’s list. But what sets the Washington University in Saint Louis campus apart from others is the fact that “technology is integrated into all aspects of the college experience,” meaning it has both a historic and state of the art feel in its design. It also stretches over an amazing 2,300 acres.

5. Cornell University

Ithaca, New York

Website

The most creative campus that Cornell University owns is not its primary Ithaca location but its New York City technical campus. This is located on Roosevelt Island between Manhattan and Brooklyn. The most creative part of this campus is the Bloomberg Center, which The New York Times notes was designed to add “friction to people’s work lives, as unexpected encounters (with people, with different spaces, with art) are supposed to lead to unexpected ideas.” This campus also has the Tata Innovation Center, which allows students and graduates to “commercialize a new idea, start-ups on the verge of explosive growth” and much more. Cornell University’s main campus also ranks highly on numerous methodology sources. Architectural Digest states that the Ithaca campus is one of the most beautiful in America and praises the careful way in which it selects new buildings. Thrillist also states that the Willard Straight Hall is one of the most stunning college buildings in America. Lastly, Best Colleges names its campus the 11th most technologically advanced in America.

4. Rice University

Houston, Texas

Website

The creativity in Rice University’s campus lies in its management as much as its layout. The institution has 11 coed colleges, which are self-supporting, with their “own government, budget, intramural teams, and faculty advisors.” When students enroll in Rice University, they are randomly assigned to live in one of these colleges and remain associated with that college throughout their study. The campus is also filled with free outdoor public art installations for all to appreciate. Architectural Digest names Rice University as being one of the 50 most beautiful college campuses in America. Niche states that it has the 15th best college campus in America. USA Today also names the college’s Moody Center for the Arts as an amazing college building. School Profile

3. Stanford University

Stanford, California

Website

Five different sources cite Stanford University. And each source highlights a different part of the campus’s design. Niche considers its overall campus to be the 12th best in America. The New York Times notes that the college’s Institute of Design has most of its furniture on wheels, allowing for environments to be rearranged at will. Thrillist highlights Hoover Tower, which is a library, office building and observation platform. Architectural Digest names the college’s main quad an incredibly inspiring and creative space. And if that weren’t good enough, then the Stanford University campus also houses two world class museums. One of these, The Anderson Collection, is on USA Today’s list of amazing American college buildings. School Profile

2. Northwestern University

Evanston, Illinois

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Architectural Digest names Northwestern University as having one of the most beautiful college campuses in America thanks to its location on Lake Michigan and its wide range of building styles. USA Today says that the college’s athletics center is one of the most amazing college buildings in America thanks to its views of Lake Michigan and the Chicago skyline. The New York Times particularly highlights the college’s interdisciplinary accelerator space, The Garage, as being a great place for students to creatively learn. The building is an 11,000 square foot former parking garage. Within this space, any student can access a workshop filled with cutting edge equipment and resources. The college’s main campus also has 240 acres of natural beauty surrounding it. It’s filled with creative touches, like The Rock, which is a literal boulder in the middle of the campus. The Rock sees a different student guard it every day to earn the right to paint something they want onto it.

1. University of California, Los Angeles

Los Angeles, California

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Any college that wants to improve its campus should look to University of California, Los Angeles as an example. That’s because it has both incredible aesthetics and a design that inspires people to achieve. In fact, the college describes its campus as being “perpetually in motion,” being the home of over 1,000 clubs, start up business and community events. Niche’s student led rankings even go as far as to name University of California’s campus the best in the entirety of the United States. Architectural Digest considers it to be one of the 50 most beautiful colleges in America. Best Colleges names the college the 13th most technologically advanced in America. School Profile

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