20 Most Beautiful Graduate School Campuses

Written by Grad School Center Team We are a passionate team of experienced educators and advisors at GradSchoolCenter.com, dedicated to guiding students through their graduate education journey. Our experts, with advanced degrees across various disciplines, offer personalized advice, up-to-date program information, and practical insights into application processes.

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Updated: March 18, 2024, Reading time: 21 minutes

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Choosing a university for one’s college education can be quite daunting. Students often consider several factors to help them make an informed decision.

While the most common considerations revolve around the quality of the degree program, the school’s reputation, and tuition costs, it cannot be denied that a beautiful campus can attract and draw students.

A school campus is not just a place where students attend classes, after all! To them, it is a second home where they spend most of their waking hours learning inside classrooms, building relationships with mentors and friends, and striving hard to reach their dreams. For this reason, the look and feel of a campus matter more than we think it does!

This brings us to the ultimate question: what makes a college campus beautiful? This can be a very subjective take since everyone has their taste and preferences. Looking at it with an objective eye, however, trains our focus on some important aspects of a university campus.

This includes its physical attributes like architecture, picturesque setting, and clever design that aids livability. Location is integral in this consideration, too.

In this exciting list, we’ve gathered some of the most beautiful college campuses in the country. 

Grad School Center is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

Campus Life: What to Expect

College life is a challenging transition for college students. A major part of being a college student involves living on campus. For many, it is their first true taste of independence.

They will be able to live on their own for the very first time, which is both exciting and stressful. Of course, it is already expected that students will face multiple adjustments before they can finally ease into a sense of belonging. 

Many universities and colleges require first-year students pursuing traditional degree programs to live on campus. This step is important in the process of helping students get used to college life.

Living on campus may be intimidating in the first few days, but when students get the hang of it, they will be able to acquire a rich experience that will help them throughout their college life. 

Many factors make on-campus life exciting. Students must navigate these before they step into the big, challenging world of college: 

Essential Things to Consider When Doing a Campus Tour

To help students make up their minds about their choice of a university and ease into campus living, a campus tour is usually in order. Visiting potential colleges can help them make the best decision. However, this process also requires careful consideration.

1. Transportation Options

It is important to consider how you can get around the campus. This means keeping track of transportation options like shuttle buses and trains. Those with cars will want to pay attention to available parking spaces and even bike racks. 

2. Cafeteria and Dining Places

To stay in shape, students will need sustenance in the form of food. Students will find it beneficial to check out the cafeteria during a campus visit. They may also want to find out if there are available meal plans with options for special diets. 

3. Library and Other Resources

As a primary source of study materials, libraries are quite essential. It is where one studies and works on collaborative projects. Campus visits are a great opportunity to explore what the school’s library has to offer in terms of resources and learning atmosphere. 

What Makes a College/University One of the Most Beautiful Campuses in the Country?

There isn’t much argument with regard to the subjective nature of beauty. Individual preferences tend to vary with regard to what we see and consider as beautiful. When it comes to colleges & universities, school spirit would undoubtedly come into the mix in these types of conversations, and things can somewhat get clouded.

For our selection of the most beautiful university and graduate school campuses in the country, we tried to mix things up a bit. A good list of the most beautiful university and graduate school campuses in the country starts with the visual aspects, and we’ve taken this route, with a campus’ architecture as our starting point in terms of design, overall layout, and other relevant features. 

We’ve also taken a more birds-eye view approach to many of these featured campuses and looked at how the campus relates to the local geography & topography, which is quite apt in today’s age of drones, Instagram, and the latest 3D-terrain capable Google Maps.

Lastly, we’ve also tried to include a particular university’s host city/community, as well as a number of particular unique or defining features that set them apart, be it something related to a historical, natural, etc. We feel that, taken together, they contribute not just to a beautiful college campus but a beautiful college experience as well. 

The Most Beautiful Graduate School Campuses in the Country

University of Colorado Boulder

Boulder, Colorado

Situated at the southwestern end of Boulder, the University of Colorado Boulder is surely hard to beat when it comes to the most beautiful campuses in the country. CU Boulder is a collection of red brick-roofed sandstone buildings, which were designed by the architect Charles Klauder, following its own unique style called Tuscan Vernacular Revival. 

The beauty of CU Boulder’s campus is sent sky-high by its location, being at the foot of the Rocky Mountains. Boulder is also known for The Flatirons, a set of unique geological features that provide a stunning backdrop for both the university and the city itself.

The Flatirons also change with the season, giving the campus a different mood depending on the time of year. CU Boulder is also close to a number of hiking trails, parks, and wildlife areas.

University of California Santa Cruz

Santa Cruz, California

The University of California Santa Cruz is part of the rough grouping of Universities and graduate school campuses that are closely connected to its local wilderness and natural beauty; in fact, it may even be the best example of such, situated on a collection of coastal rolling hills that overlook that Pacific Ocean.  

Only a small portion of its over 2,000 acres is developed; the rest is home to a vast forest of majestic redwoods and a large array of wildlife. UC Santa Cruz’s unique mascot, the Banana Slug, is one of the native species that are common on campus. 

University of Washington

Seattle, Washington

The University of Washington’s main campus lies at the heart of Seattle, at the western shore of Lake Washington. The university is one of the oldest on the entire west coast, having been founded in 1861, and is known for a number of distinct features that make it one of the most beautiful campuses in the country.

The university is home to a variety of building designs that evolved over the decades, and one of the main highlights is The Quad, surrounded by a set of Collegiate Gothic buildings and lined with its iconic Yoshino cherry trees that bloom every spring.

The Central Plaza connects the Quad to Drumheller Fountain, which provides one of the best views of Mt. Rainier, part of the majestic Cascade Range.

Cornell University

Ithaca, New York

Some might be put off by the bleak winters and, at times, harsh weather that its host city of Ithaca is known for, but Cornell University can certainly hold its own amongst the most beautiful campuses, not only among the Ivy League universities but in the entire country as well. 

Cornell University’s sprawling 745-acre campus overlooks Cayuga Lake and features different architectural styles. It is also well known for its remarkable natural landscape, with several rivers, gorges, and waterfalls, as well as ample forest with hiking trails.

Sapsucker Woods, which lies off the northeastern end of the campus, is a beautiful wildlife area home to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, a de facto mecca of the worldwide birding community. 

The College of William & Mary

Williamsburg, Virginia

The College of William & Mary holds a special place as the second-oldest higher education institution in the country, being one of the 9 Colonial Colleges that were established before the United States gained independence.

This depth of history is palpable throughout the entire campus, and when taken together with the greater historically important city of Williamsburg, it is one of the most beautiful campuses in the country.

Like most of the other oldest universities in the country, William & Mary features a collection of building styles gained as the university expanded over the decades but is primarily known for honoring its own architectural style called “Old Campus.”

The oldest college building in the country, the Wren Building, is also found in William & Mary. Dating back to 1695, it shares a connection with Sir Christopher Wren, the English architect best known for his work in rebuilding London after the Great Fire of 1666.

It’s not all about history, though; William & Mary also contains Lake Matoaka and the surrounding College Woods, which is an outdoor entertainment & recreation area in its own right.  

University of Hawaii at Manoa 

Honolulu, Hawaii

The University of Hawaii at Manoa stands out among the country’s most beautiful campuses. It is a relatively young university and, as such, has little in the way of notable historical buildings and landmarks, but it is located in what has always been rightly considered a tropical paradise. 

The university’s Manoa campus is located in the city of Honolulu, in O’ahu, an island known for its unique volcanic geography. The campus itself is set on a gentle slope at the foot of Wa’ahila Ridge, which, together with the rugged Ko’olau Range to the north, forms the perfect backdrop to the campus.

The campus also affords views of the island’s southern coast, the Honolulu city skyline, and Diamond Head, one of the old, highly-eroded volcanic craters found throughout Honolulu. The title of tropical paradise isn’t unfounded, either; there are numerous forest hiking trails and beaches found a stone’s throw away from campus. 

Stanford University

Stanford, California

Stanford University is one of the most notable private universities on the West Coast and hardly needs introduction. Its visual language is particularly unique and stems from the conscious decision to move away from the look of universities on the East Coast, which tended to emulate English university architecture.

Stanford University is in many ways a jewel of Silicon Valley, not just in its turnout of bright & enterprising minds but in being one of the most beautiful and unique university campuses not just on the West Coast but in the entire country. 

It was decided from the start that the Stanford University campus should resemble Spanish adobe houses & missions, structures that date back to before California’s statehood and are in many ways apt for the warm & sunny Californian climate. This design language remains at the heart of Stanford’s developments.

Seen from the air, the campus’ collection of red tile roofed structures makes it stand out like a ruby amidst the dreary grays and whites that dominate the urban sprawl of surrounding Silicon Valley cities such as Menlo Park and Palo Alto. 

University of the Cumberlands

Williamsburg, Kentucky

Located in Williamsburg, Kentucky, the University of the Cumberlands may not be as weighty or as prestigious as some of the other universities in this list, but it holds its own in being one of the most beautiful campuses across the country, with its signature Appalachian charm. 

Unlike other universities in this list found in big cities, its campus is in a more idyllic rural setting, its buildings a neat collection of red brick buildings set on rolling hills in the Appalachian Mountains.

The Cumberland River winds its way along the campus, and the campus’ neat layout and landscaped greenery are juxtaposed with the surrounding forests and hills, which, like much of Appalachia, also present a variety of opportunities for outdoor activities.

The university is named not just after the Cumberland River but also for Cumberland Falls and the historically significant Cumberland Gap, both of which are a relatively short distance from campus. 

Columbia University

New York, New York

One of the prestigious Ivy League Universities, Columbia University is in some ways a jewel in the rough and gritty New York City. Columbia is one of the oldest universities in the country and is one of the 9 Colonial Colleges that predate American Independence.

The university’s steadfast presence amidst the fast-paced and ever-changing cityscape that surrounds it underscores its place as one of the most beautiful campuses in the country. 

Throughout its long and colorful history, Columbia University has moved locations several times and has been at its present location in Morningside Heights beside the Hudson River since 1896. The Morningside Heights campus largely follows the Beaux Arts visual language, designed by the prolific architectural firm of McKim, Mead & White.

At the heart of the campus is the Low Memorial Library, its signature building. Viewed from the air, it stands proud over Low Park and South Lawn and acts as a visual anchor for the rest of the university buildings, reminiscent of grand European palaces. 

Duke University

Durham, North Carolina

Located in Durham, North Carolina, Duke University features an 8,000-acre campus that makes it one of the largest universities in the country in terms of land area. Duke is arguably one of the country’s most beautiful campuses not just for its impressive array of architecture but also for its massive forest that it maintains at the western end of Durham. 

Duke University contains over 200 buildings, and its main West Campus is most notable for its use of Collegiate Gothic architecture, largely designed by architect Julian Abele. The West Campus’ most dominating feature is the University Chapel, which features an impressive 210-foot central spire that is also the campus’ highest point.

Duke is widely known as a leader in the Health Sciences, and its adjacent University hospital campus is visually a world unto its own as well. The 7,000-acre Duke Forest, aside from performing resource conservation and teaching & research roles, is also a venue for a number of outdoor recreation activities. 

Indiana University Bloomington

Bloomington, Indiana

Making its home in one of the nation’s best college towns, Indiana University Bloomington gives students the best of both worlds, allowing them to witness the beauty of all four seasons while providing them with countless experiences that B-town has to offer. The campus has dense woods that mimic the nature preserves around the city.

Even in winter, it showcases a dreamy snow-field landscape that can often be considered magical. It is where art, architecture, and nature blend for a perfect learning backdrop that every college student will appreciate. 

IU Bloomington is nestled in the rolling hills of southern Indiana, which means it holds the quintessential college campus landscape with its historic and grand academic buildings made of limestone and stone outcroppings. What was originally a 10-acre campus, the university grounds have grown to nearly 2,000 acres in the northeast quadrant of Bloomington.

Students can stroll through Woods and the Fine Arts Plaza, just two of the campus’ memorable landmarks. If students wish for some quiet moments where they can indulge in reflection and solitude, the Commemorative Garden at the Indiana Memorial Union is the place to be. 

Georgetown University

Washington, DC

Often considered one of the most beautiful graduate school campuses in the country, Georgetown University sits in the warm and nurturing community of Washington, DC. The university sits on a hill above the Potomac River, covering 104 acres of land. That is why it is often referred to as “The Hilltop.”

With its collegiate Georgian-style architecture featuring red and white brick and a myriad of charming details, the university is anchored by Healy Hall, an iconic national historic landmark and Georgetown’s architectural gem. Healy Hall houses notable rooms, from the Riggs Library to Gaston Hall. On top of its stunning architecture, students will also enjoy the picturesque surroundings and immaculate lush green spaces. 

Beyond the sub-urban feel it evokes, Georgetown University is situated in a neighborhood where students can find everything they need within a few blocks, from restaurants and coffee shops to shopping centers and bars. The fact that it is located in a vibrant world-class capital city means students won’t only see countless attractions and festivities but also a wealth of internship opportunities. 

University of Mississippi

Oxford, Mississippi

The University of Mississippi is referred to as Ole Miss with affection. As the state’s flagship university, it is not only known for its high-quality academic programs but also for its beautiful campus located in Oxford. 

It is snuggled in the midst of the rolling, tree-covered hills of northern Mississippi, boasting a scenic environment and temperate climate. For all four seasons, the campus is a sight to behold. During spring, it is dotted with thousands of tulips and daffodils, eventually giving way to roses and hydrangeas.

In the fall, the scenic maples, oaks, and hickories will take one’s breath with their vibrant colors. The Oxford campus is notable for its Georgian and Greek Revival architecture. One of its iconic landmarks is the Grove, a storied tailgate venue for college football with its beautiful, shady green space. 

Sewanee: The University of the South

Sewanee, Tennessee

Covering 13,000 acres in Tennessee, Sewanee: The University of the South overlooks the Tennessee Valley, lending a panoramic mountain backdrop to the campus. It offers gorgeous architecture, mainly the All Saint’s Chapel. Originally designed by Ralph Adams Cram, the building was completed in 1959.

The building is reminiscent of European churches with its intricate architecture, vaulted ceiling, and beautiful stained glass windows. 

The campus has it all, with its scenic trails and rich green spaces. Students can explore caves, forests, and meadows, providing them with ample spots for outdoor activities and natural beauty.

The place is equally stunning in all four seasons, but most especially in the fall when the foliage and warm colors from maples, oaks, elms, willows, and chestnuts accentuate the stunning architecture. 

University of North Carolina Chapel Hill

Chapel Hill, North Carolina

The University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, the nation’s first public university, is situated in a thriving community. Located just less than an hour from Raleigh and Durham, it offers a small-town feel but with big-city resources.

From its stone walls and red brick walks to lush trees and sprawling plants and flowers, this university campus is steeped in history and tradition.

The university boasts some remarkable landmarks, such as the Bell Tower, Coker Arboretum, and the Morehead Planetarium and Science Center. It is also home to the Carolina Basketball and Museum and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Library.

The Pit, a sunken courtyard flanked by two large Overcup oaks, is considered the main hub where students gather to meet and eat. Beyond its beautiful attractions, the university is a place where science, arts, and research thrive. 

Vanderbilt University

Nashville, Tennessee

Located in Nashville, home to a global community and “America’s friendliest city,” Vanderbilt University’s 340-acre, park-like campus is considered an accredited national arboretum. Vanderbilt University features hundreds of species of trees and shrubs, including the oldest and most famous Bicentennial Oak, believed to predate the American Revolution. 

The university houses several buildings that are included on the National Historic Register. Some of them include the Mechanical and Engineering Building, Old Gymnasium, and the Alumni Hall. More than 50 sculptures pepper the campus, including The Garden of Great Ideas, a special collection that features one-of-a-kind bronze sculptures crafted by student artists.

With Nashville’s beautiful weather, students can enjoy plenty of outdoor spots to hang out. Some of their favorites include the Alumni Lawn, Wyatt stairs on Peabody Lawn, and Rand decks. 

University of California Berkeley

Berkeley, California

Home to 35,000 students, the University of California Berkeley features a vibrant urban setting and interconnected student life. Located in California’s Bay Area, the university is just 25 minutes away from San Francisco.

This beautiful campus offers lively surroundings teeming with activities and events, making life on campus an exciting and enriching experience. 

The sprawling architecture design was produced from an architectural competition held in 1898. The campus welcomes students from its iconic entrance, Sather Gate, which is considered a symbol of academic pursuit and achievement.

Prominent buildings dot the campus, from the nearby Wheeler Hall and South Hall to Sather Tower, which offers a panoramic view of the Bay Area. It is also home to the Hearst Greek Theater, a stunning outdoor destination for concerts and performances. 

Students who prefer tranquil spots for reflection and relaxation often frequent Memorial Glade and Founder’s Rock. Three short blocks from the South Side of the campus, People’s Park can be found. This large park in the middle of Southside Berkeley plays a significant role in the university’s history. 

Princeton University

Princeton, New Jersey

Known for its pristine grounds and stunning architecture, Princeton University has one of the most beautiful graduate school campuses. The campus is conveniently situated halfway between New York City and Philadelphia, easily accessible with public transportation.

The historic campus welcomes hundreds of thousands of visitors for major events, along with those interested in experiencing its educational, scholarly, and cultural activities. 

The university’s main campus is made up of more than 180 buildings featuring a range of architectural styles, from neoclassical to collegiate Gothic and contemporary design. It houses the Nassau Hall, considered the oldest and only original building on campus.

Various sculptures dot the campus along with wrought-iron gates and stone archways, all of which serve as a testament to its long and rich history. 

Yale University

New Haven, Connecticut

Just 90 minutes away from New York, Yale University makes its home in the picturesque New Haven, Connecticut. Beyond its commitment to academic excellence and research, the university is also known to have a beautiful campus. It boasts of architectural beauty.

One of the main attractions is the Harkness Tower, with its stunning Gothic architecture symbolizing Yale’s tradition and prestige. Other architectural charms include Durfee Hall, Welch Hall, and Sterling Memorial Library. 

Home to Yale Law School, the Sterling Law Building is an iconic sight on campus, serving as a hub of legal scholarship and innovation. This Ivy League university is also home to the Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History. It is a fantastic place for those who want to explore prehistoric fossils. 

St. John’s College Santa Fe

Santa Fe, New Mexico

Sitting on 250 acres of land in the most beautiful part of Santa Fe, St. John’s College is tucked into the foothills of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. Offering the best of both worlds, the college is conveniently located near hiking trails and dozens of museums and galleries.

Featuring a blend of mountain living and access to culture, the university offers one of the best campus life experiences for students. 

The college’s buildings were designed by local architects Edward Holien and William Buckley. The buildings were arranged to create courtyards, locally known as Placitas, effectively organizing the campus on an east-west axis.

This means one can find the Upper Dormitories to the east and the academic buildings at the center, flanked by the Lower Dormitories to the west. Recently, the campus’ 60-acre historic core was included in the National Register of Historic Places. 

Most Beautiful Graduate School Campuses - fact

Final Thoughts

Getting into a university or graduate school regarded as one of the country’s most beautiful can be a source of pride and achievement (a lot of the most beautiful campuses in the country also happen to be the most academically prestigious, after all).

Ultimately, however, the overall academic experience hinges on pursuing the right degree program and keeping the right people around to help make college life easier. A beautiful campus is icing on the cake!

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