4 Colleges to Visit That Will Make You Feel Smarter

Written by Karla Lewellyn
Published: December 4, 2023
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Can visiting colleges produce brain power? While that notion might be a stretch, these four colleges to visit that will make you feel smarter have something to add for the academic and unscholarly alike.

Most people possess fond memories of visiting colleges as high school students. Back then, the future was a blank slate, and each campus provided distinctions that made it unique.

It is a fact that college visits for prospective students remain an intriguing, fun experience. However, adults are also increasingly getting in on these special tours, whether the campus itself is a destination — like college football games — or is rather a side trip while vacationing in a neighboring city or town.

No matter your motive or age, keep the time of day and year in mind when touring campuses. If you want a real feel of the everyday atmosphere, go in the middle of the day during the fall semester. Want a quieter, more relaxed pace? Visit on the weekend or when school is not in session.

Not only do so many campuses feature complex architecture and lush grounds, but they also provide an exceptional aesthetic, a feel, and a vibe. The future is instantaneously once again hopeful. You feel like an academic ready to conquer the world (or at least the midterm!).

Let’s discover the four colleges to visit that will make you feel smarter.

1. Harvard

Dunster House, Harvard University

Dunster House, built in 1930, is one of twelve undergraduate residential houses at Harvard.

It may seem cliche, but Harvard almost personifies academia. Its incoming students’ average SAT score is 1497 (34 ACT), and it is widely recognized as an elite institution of academic standards.

Located in historic Boston,


, this Ivy League university is not only famous for its smarts, but it is also a familiar tourist stop and pop culture icon. As with any campus, Harvard has many “must-see” spots. One is

Johnston Gate

, the first stop on most tours. The stately and somewhat intimidating entrance is only supposed to be passed through by students twice: once entering as a freshman and the second, exiting as a senior.

More iconic sites include centrally-located Harvard Yard, Allston Campus (the location of the business school), and the Harvard Museum of Natural History. On the third floor of one of the academic buildings, the museum is a hidden treasure of sorts.

Visit John Harvard Statue, the third most photographed statue in the country. As well, Harvard Stadium provides an old-school, educational feel with its intimidating concrete structure. An Ivy League library is a surefire way to feel smarter, so be sure to visit Widener Library, which contains the largest private library collection in the world.

For shrewd sustenance, try a pizza or pasta at


or pub food like fish tacos or Cuban sandwiches at The



©Jorge Salcedo/Shutterstock.com

2. Oxford

Panoramic aerial view of All Souls College, Oxford University, Oxford in a beautiful summer day, England, United Kingdom

All Souls College at The University of Oxford gleams on a summer day.

Another university to visit that will make you feel smart is the legendary Oxford University in the United Kingdom. With the minimum SAT score of 1480 (33 ACT) required, The campus across the pond provides innumerable sites you need to visit.

Radcliffe Camera, a commonly recognizable Oxford icon, is a unique architectural site that is used as one of the library’s main reading rooms and houses several of its collections. The Bodleian Library itself is one of the oldest, largest U.K. book houses, with its interconnected buildings and striking design.

Additional places to give you that pedantic vibe at this across-the-pond legend are the Ashmolean Museum of Art and Archaeology, Campion Hall, and Christ Church. Experience the lush outside atmosphere at Oxford Botanic Garden, The Harcourt Arboretum, University Parks, or Christ Church Meadow.

You can eat like an Oxford coed at

Wilding Oxford

or Opera Cafa for Meditteranaean and vegan options.

©Sergii Figurnyi/Shutterstock.com

3. Stanford

Stanford University Hoover Tower at Sunset

Stanford University Hoover Tower rises above campus at sunset.

With an academic yet sunny vibe, visit Stanford University in California’s Silicon Valley. 35 miles south of San Francisco and 20 miles north of San Jose, this college’s average student SAT is 1479 (ACT 33).

Obvious must-see sites on Stanford’s campus include the Anderson Collection with its modern and contemporary art and The Cantor Arts Center with its culturally diverse art and its lectures, tours, and special events.

Denning House, built in 2018 to board

Knight-Hennessy Scholars

, features a rustic timber-framed structure and houses diverse art. The unique Hanna Honeycomb House depicts architect and designer Frank Lloyd Wright’s contribution to America. The house is one of only 17 structures designated by the American Institute of Architects with this Frank Lloyd Wright distinction.

Additional sites to embrace the atmosphere include Jasper Ridge Biological Preserve, 1,189 acres of refuge to native plants and animals, and Memorial Church, the university’s jewel at the center of campus.

For good eats, visit the Coupa Cafe for local, organic ingredients or the

Axe and Palm

for campus burgers at their finest.

©Alexander Davidovich/Shutterstock.com

4. Vanderbilt

Vanderbilt University Peabody College Building

The Peabody College Building houses the College of Education and Human Development.

©Hannan Mohiuddin FPV/Shutterstock.com

You’ll feel smarter when visiting Vanderbilt where the students’ average SAT is 1498 (34 ACT). Located in Nashville, Tennessee, this university offers a myriad of attractions both on and off campus.

The 340-acre campus showcases an accredited arboretum with over 6,000 trees and shrubs. As well, over 50 sculptures are scattered across campus. Visit Cohen Memorial Hall to view artifacts and art exhibits.

Finally, don’t skip Memorial Gym, which was built in 1952 with a unique raised floor. Fans get a birdseye view sitting underneath the baskets instead of along the sidelines. Eat at Elliston Place Soda Shop for an old-school soda shop dinner.

Summary of 4 Colleges to Visit That Will Make You Feel Smarter

CollegeAverage SAT/ACTMust See Site
Harvard1497/34Johnston Gate
Oxford1480/33Radcliffe Camera
Stanford1479/33Denning House
Vanderbilt1498/34Cohen Memorial Hall

The photo featured at the top of this post is © Jay Yuan/Shutterstock.com

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About the Author

Karla Lewellyn is a writer at A-Z Animals where her primary focus is on places, dogs, travel, and geography. Karla has been writing and researching for 10 years and holds a Master's degree from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. A resident of Tennessee, Karla loves reading, writing, and spending time outdoors in East Tennessee.

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