For most of you, going to college in the fall means moving somewhere new (even if it is just a few hours away) and for some of you it means moving to a city. When people think college, they think of the cliche middle-of-nowhere town surrounded by lots of cornfields and bars. While this is the case for a lot of my friend’s schools, it’s not the case for mine.

In Chicago, the joke is often made that there are as many colleges as their are L Stops (the Chicago Transit Authority’s rail system), as it is home to Northwestern University (kind of), Loyola University Chicago, DePaul University, The School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC), Columbia College Chicago (my school), University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC), Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT) and the University of Chicago, among others.

Chances are a lot of you are looking at at least one school in or near a city. Chances are that if you’re from a smaller town or the suburbs of a not-so-big city, you’re really nervous about possibly attending that school. I’m not here to tell you to go for it because I could write all day about the advantages to a city school, but I am here to tell you how to ensure you are ready for a city school.

1. Decide whether you want an urban campus or not. 

In Chicago there are schools that look like Hogwarts (*cough cough* UChicago *cough cough*) and schools that look like a bunch of high rises put together in the heart of downtown (like my school). It’s like this in a lot of cities. You have Fordham versus the New School and various other examples. Just make sure that you know what you’re getting into when you decide on a school. Do you still want Greek life or a grassy quad or traditional dorms? Or do you want to live in an apartment with a fantastic view of Grant Park as your quad? Do you want to be sheltered from homeless people or do you want them to be part of your daily walk around your neighborhood? All things to consider.

2. Make sure that you are prepared for getting around. Even in the middle of Hyde Park (home of UChicago), you will have to walk or ride your bike or take the L/bus to get anywhere fun. And it’s like that in basically all big cities. It’s difficult to drive, so you have to find other ways to get around. Make sure that you have a good bike and a preloaded transit card (unless you are going to school in Chicago where the glorious UPass exists, an unlimited transit pass included with your tuition). Lately, renting bikes is becoming easier and easier in cities, but it can still be a bit expensive if you use it too often, so make sure that you have your own.

3. Get acquainted before classes start. Some schools have Weeks of Welcome and others have Orientations that last a few days where students can stay on campus and get acquainted with what’s going on. Depending on what type of campus your school has, it can be difficult to get from point A to point B. My school has buildings located all around the South Loop (the business district in Chicago), but most students have classes in only one or two buildings, so it isn’t too difficult but it can still be annoying to have to walk a mile to get to your next class, especially if you don’t know where you’re going.

4. Remember to study. Living in the city can be fun, sometimes a little too fun for people. Just because you have more access to things to do, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be studying for that test or getting to bed early enough for your 8 AM class. Figure that out and you will be fine, but sometimes it can be difficult to find a happy medium.

Good luck!

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