College Environment
College Environment

Important information about social activities on campus.
Social Life

Most U.S. colleges offer students a variety of social, cultural, and sports activities in addition to their academic programs. The level to which each is emphasized often determines the social environment on campus. You should also consider whether the majority of the students live on or off a university campus. At colleges referred to as commuter schools, most students live off campus and travel to classes from home each day. Potential undergraduates will want to know what the atmosphere is like during the weekends on campus — do most students stay at the university take trips or return home to visit family every weekend? All of these factors will have an effect on the campus social life.

Fraternities and Sororities

A unique feature of U.S. campus life is the Greek system, which offers students the choice of joining a fraternity or sorority. (The term "Greek" is used because the names of fraternities and sororities are composed of two or three Greek letters.) Fraternities (male) and sororities (female) can be the focus of undergraduate social life on many U.S. campuses. In addition to organizing social activities, fraternities and sororities often sponsor philanthropic events. Students with a strong preference for or against the Greek system need to find out whether the fraternities and sororities dominate the social life of a campus. If you do not wish to be part of Greek life, attending a university where the Greek scene is prevalent can be problematic, because the pressure to join may be high, and the social life options outside of the system may be limited.

International Students

The number of international students enrolled at a U.S. college ranges from less than 10 to over 3,000, and of course most fall somewhere in between. College directories often list exactly how many international students are enrolled alongside other data on each institution. EducationUSA information and advising centers usually have a variety of reference books with this type of information.

When considering these figures, think about your own needs. On campuses where there are few international students you may be considered a very special person to get to know. However, you may find that these schools provide fewer services for international students. Campuses with many international students may provide a built-in support group who can share your experiences, but it may require extra effort on your part to meet and interact with U.S. students as well as with students from other parts of the world.


All U.S. colleges will accept students of any race, color, or creed. Many universities or colleges, however, were founded with a certain mission, whether to provide a religious atmosphere on campus, a single-sex educational experience, or a majority ethnic student population. Read the school's mission statement carefully, and decide if your goals match the goals of the campus. Out of the 3,600 U.S. colleges and universities, there are about 600 to 700 affiliated with a specific church denomination or religious tradition. In addition to these, there are approximately 70 bible colleges, which are committed to helping students integrate faith and learning and preparing them to live out their faith in all areas of life. Based on current listings, 13 colleges are for men only, and there are around 65 women-only colleges. There are also some colleges that cater to African-American or Hispanic students.

Extracurricular Activities

U.S. universities offer many opportunities for students to develop skills through extracurricular activities such as sports teams, academic clubs, university newspapers, drama productions, and other rewarding programs. If you have a definite interest, make sure there is a student society that caters to it — don't forget, though, that if there isn't, you can always start one. Also, looking through the various student organizations will give you an idea of the interests and concerns of the student body, and thus give another insight into student life at various colleges.