Does School Image Matter?
Let's face it, aesthetics effect any number of things, from our mood to our levels of productivity. But should the appearance of a campus be the sole reason to choose it? Of course not. A brilliant literary work could be trapped in boring and bland binding, just as a fantastic college might have a less than stellar looking campus.
Hollywood doesn't help things. We've all seen the movies, right? With gigantic lecture halls and an admissions office complete with spires and a bell tower. The landscaping is lush and beautiful and students gather on the grass for informal lectures about random world topics. While this would be a fun and relaxed way to go through college, it's simply not a reflection of reality. Some colleges with world-renowned courses and programs don't always spend the bulk of their energies gussying the place up, so don't be surprised if you visit some college campuses and find their appearances are nothing to write home about.
Before really delving into your search it's important to first prioritize about what truly matters such as class sizes, accessibility to the specific degree you hope to pursue, and the university's standing as a place of education. But yes, it is nice when the surroundings are inspiring, it's true.
Is Image Important?
In a word, yes. Image affects the majority of our life choices whether we consciously know it or not. It's how we select an outfit to wear and even how we choose what to eat. Appearances aren't everything, but there are times when we seem to treat them as if they were everything. Who hasn't been lured in by a pretty face? So yes it's only natural that a college's appearance would come into play when considering your options. Even so, you have to know that just because the campus is well landscaped does not mean the classes are going to be of any higher quality or that the professors will be more helpful.
That is not to say that you should disregard appearances altogether. However, there are certain limits to what you should pay attention to and what you should disregard. Here are a few tips.
When Image Is Important
There is the occasional time when the appearance of a college is actually very important to your decision of whether or not to go there. For instance, if the campus is barren of trees, completely concrete and the staff never makes eye contact with you, there may be a problem, especially if you're an outgoing person. After all, you need to feel comfortable on the campus that you choose.
Another example is if there is a lot of vandalism or the buildings are falling apart. While it may be good that all of the budget is going to the classrooms for quality education, some amount of money needs to be devoted to campus upkeep as well. If shingles are consistently falling off and graffiti mars every wall, that's a bad sign, indeed.
It's also a good idea to check in with your feelings when touring the different campuses because you're going to be spending a whole lot of time there. If the grounds are so unattractive or poorly designed that it makes you feel uncomfortable then trust your intuition to avoid a very long two or four years.
When to Let Image Go
Even though there are a few cases wherein appearances are really important, the vast majority of the time, how a campus looks shouldn't be the major deciding factor when shopping around. For instance, if all of the buildings look similar and there's nothing fancy about them, don't rule the college out until you've really sussed out the teaching going on inside those bland walls. And if the grass isn't always perfectly manicured, don't freak out. A college or university is run by human hands, just as any other business, so you can't expect perfection in every area. Try to keep your focus on the things that go beneath the surface. For instance, what do students say about the campus and what is their general feeling toward it? Are professors helpful and courteous or do they seem as though they don't want to be bothered?
And beyond appearances, look into the spirit of the place.
- Check out the vibe: do you feel as though you fit in with the current students?
- Do you see students who are really engaged in learning and keen on discussion? Or do you only see people with eyes down, walking to class, without any lightness in their steps?
Being comfortable is essential to a productive learning environment. So no matter what, look inside yourself for some honest answers and know that how a college looks is no way to pick it or eliminate it from your shortlist but you do need to feel good when you're there. Trust your intuition and get ready for the best time of your life!