The most beautiful college campuses in America: 10 thoughts on a new list

There’s a new list out ranking the 20 most beautiful college campuses in America. These things are always subjective, and they can start more arguments than they settle, but I have to admit that this is a not-bad list.

I haven’t been to all the honored campuses, but I am familiar with several of them. Heck, I hold degrees from two of them.

Here’s the list, then I’ll have a few comments.

1. University of Virginia

2. Princeton University

2. Stanford University

4. Duke University

5. Yale University

6. University of Colorado Boulder

7. University of Chicago

8. Pepperdine University

8. College of William and Mary

10. Indiana University

10. Vanderbilt University

10. University of Washington

10. UCLA

14. Elon University

14. University of San Diego

14. Dartmouth College

17. Lehigh University

17. Northwestern University

19. Rice University

20. Miami University OH

20. Wake Forest University

1: Jesus, people, would it kill you people to get a tiebreaker?

2: Lots of Ivies, which is to be expected. I’ve never been to any of them, but the pictures I’ve seen justify the selections.

3: I can’t believe the voters have even heard of Elon.

4: My two campuses, Wake Forest and Colorado, are indeed stunning, although in remarkably different ways. Wake is a very new campus, planned and built at the request of RJ Reynolds about 60 years ago. So it has a lot less sprawl about it than many, and is designed around a pretty consistent Georgian architectural theme (the Fine Arts Center being an exception here) and lots of uniform looking red brick. Boulder is a lot larger, older, and spread out, with a variety of architectural styles in play. It’s also integrated into Boulder more – this is a true college town – whereas Wake is a secluded island that’s pretty walled off from Winston-Salem.

5: Duke has really got that isolated from town thing going on. If you’ve been to Durham, you can understand why they’d want it that way.

6: My other university, Iowa State, didn’t make the cut. I would pretend to be surprised, but who would I be kidding. I loved the place, but no, it doesn’t belong on this list. If they do a list of the 20 nicest colleges in America, though, ISU is going to be #1.

7: Okay, Northwestern? Really? I was only there once, and it was February, and the weather was like the third circle of Hell during a nor’easter. I didn’t see a damn thing pretty, but maybe I need to go back when the weather is nicer.

8: University of Washington when the cherry trees are blooming? Yeah, absolutely.

9: I was only on the Vandy campus briefly, but it’s strikingly elegant. It’s not just a college campus, it’s the very archetype of a college campus.

10: I cannot honestly believe that UNC didn’t make this list. Chapel Hill is one of the three or four most glorious campuses I have ever encountered, and its absence here is baffling.

As I say, not a bad list. But not a perfect one, either.

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