The Most Beautiful College Campuses in the South

Spring Hill College
Photo: Hector Manuel Sanchez

The South is home to some true beauty when it comes to our small towns, big cities, and everything in between; and we play host to some gorgeous, lauded universities to boot. No wonder these college campuses have such a draw. With expansive quads and well-tended landscapes filled with azaleas and palm trees, some grounds resemble gardens more than shortcuts to philosophy class. The buildings—like a Frank Lloyd Wright–designed planetarium and a former hotel turned school—are marvels to look at. Even if your senior year was long ago, these beautiful colleges in the South are not to be missed.

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Spring Hill College

Spring Hill College
Hector Manuel Sanchez

Mobile, Alabama
Founded in 1830;

The Avenue of the Oaks is one of the first things to draw prospective students here, and it's also one of the last memories they'll take with them when they go. Each year, graduates sit among towering trees and rows of pink azaleas, as they face a commencement stage in front of Stewartfield, a white Greek Revival home. During students' tenures at this liberal arts school—the Southeast's oldest Catholic college—they hang out at Rydex Commons, a circular green space facing the library and the exquisite St. Joseph Chapel. You can experience the natural splendor of a South Alabama landscape all over campus.

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The University of Alabama

Tuscaloosa, AL
sshepard/Getty Images

Tuscaloosa, Alabama
Founded in 1831,

Known for its academic and football prowess, this college also boasts one of the South's most gorgeous campuses, with a mix of Beaux Arts and Greek Revival buildings. Graduates take photos in front of the iconic columned President's Mansion. Then they head to Denny Chimes, rising above the Quad, and (of course) they take a few in front of the cathedral of a football stadium. The campus explodes in spring with cherry blossoms and tulips, and is draped with golden leaves come fall.

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Hendrix College

Hendrix College
Facebook/Hendrix College

Conway, Arkansas
Founded in 1876;

Along with historic redbrick buildings and a pecan tree court, a gazebo left over from the set of a 1980s campus theater production has become a landmark at this scenic 175-acre college. A private liberal arts school, Hendrix College draws a student body of about 1,300. The natural campus, lined with azalea borders, old oaks, and pines, and campus landmarks, along with the architecture of academic buildings and residence halls, show that Hendrix values learning and community. In 2009, the college developed The Village at Hendrix next door. It's a master-planned community with walkable neighborhoods, green spaces, and mixed-use buildings.

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University of Delaware

University of Delaware
Instagram/University of Delaware

Newark, Delaware
Founded in 1743;

Many institutions of higher learning are the centerpieces of quaint "college towns," but the University of Delaware is smack-dab in the middle of Newark. Students can stroll a classic downtown as easily as they can amble past the Jeffersonian architecture of the historic campus buildings, reminiscent of the University of Virginia. Students congregate on The Green, backed by historic Memorial Hall and the Hugh M. Morris Library, a space that originally helped unite the all-male Delaware College and the Women's College of Delaware in 1917. Other landmarks, like the President's House (which dates back to 1921) and Old College Hall (the first building on campus), add even more historic gravitas.

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Georgetown University

Georgetown University
Deborah Jaffe

Washington, D.C.
Founded in 1789;

The oldest Catholic and Jesuit institution of higher learning in the country, Georgetown was founded the same year the U.S. Constitution was ratified. Healy Hall dates back to the late 19th century and anchors the campus. A mix of architectural styles from Gothic to Romanesque and towers give it an imposing air. Today, it's home to the administrative offices, some classrooms, and Riggs Library, one of the country's few libraries constructed of cast iron. It still holds plenty of books but now also serves as an event venue. On the porch of the building known as Old North, 14 U.S. Presidents—including George Washington and Abraham Lincoln—have stood to deliver addresses. With glimpses of the Potomac River and cherry trees dotting the landscape, Georgetown has beauty and historic character befitting its D.C. setting.

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Florida Southern College

Annie Pfeiffer Chapel - Frank Loyd Wright
John Greim/Getty Images

Lakeland, Florida
Founded in 1883;

With its stunning collection of buildings conceived by legendary architect Frank Lloyd Wright—as well as its scenic locale along Lake Hollingsworth—Florida Southern breaks the traditional collegiate design mold. School president Anne Kerr says Wright was challenged to create buildings that were uniquely American, rather than drawing on typical European or old-world architecture. The angular Annie Pfeiffer Chapel and other Wright originals inspire innovation, Kerr says. Also worth noting are Wright's campus fountain, called the Water Dome, and the Wright-designed campus planetarium.

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These Southern Schools Have Beauty and Brains

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Flagler College

Flagler College
Robbie Caponetto

St. Augustine, Florida
Founded in 1968;

When the king and queen of Spain came to town in 2015, the city entertained at historic Flagler College—the opulent 1888 Ponce de Leon hotel turned school. Students might feel like royalty every day in Ponce de Leon Hall, with its gilded ceilings and stained glass. "The students call it 'Hogwarts,' " says Leslee Keys, director of historic preservation, noting the room's resemblance to the grand magical dining hall from the Harry Potter books. Preserving the Spanish Renaissance-style architectural treasures has been part of the Flagler College mission from the start. As if the historic character and architectural gems were not enough, Keys says when it comes to attracting prospective students: "We're all of five minutes away from the beach."

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University of Georgia

University of Georgia
Gary Clark

Athens, Georgia
Founded in 1801;

A 160-year-old black iron arch stands as a testament to this state college's long tenure. It was established over 200 years ago and prides itself as the "birthplace of public higher education." Georgia-native magnolia, elm, and maple trees shade the campus and accent Georgian-style buildings clustered around green spaces such as the North Campus Lawn and Georgia Quad. (And don't miss the famed hedges that border the football field inside Sanford Stadium.)

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Berry College

Berry College
Courtesy of Berry College

Mount Berry, Georgia
Founded in 1902;

The Ford Complex, inspired by Oxford University's Christ Church in England, gives Berry College a touch of British grandeur in the midst of its rural Georgia setting, and its Neo-Gothic architecture inspires serious study. On this 27,000-acre property, the formal Ford Complex gives way to pastureland, hills, lakes, log cabins, and the Mountain Campus, where an old mill and waterwheel make a great spot for a photo op. Miles of split-rail fences are maintained by the students, who not only study here but also work to keep it beautiful.

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Tulane University

Tulane University
Hector Manuel Sanchez

New Orleans, Louisiana
Founded in 1834;

A 5-mile streetcar ride from downtown New Orleans takes students to this school on historic St. Charles Avenue. Towering oaks shade the Uptown campus, where the college was moved in 1894. Gibson Hall, the first building here, presides over the academic quad with stately Romanesque Revival architecture and a limestone exterior. Nearby Audubon Park, a 350-acre Uptown gem, gives students a place (other than Bourbon Street!) to escape the stresses of their studies.

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U.S. Naval Academy

Bancroft Hall of United State Naval Academy
Getty Images/gregobagel

Annapolis, Maryland
Founded in 1845;

The waterside setting and the picturesque Beaux Arts-style campus compose a fitting backdrop for the school's important mission. Tourists can watch the midshipmen's noon formation in Tecumseh Court in front of landmark dormitory Bancroft Hall. Either a band or drum will typically usher students along as they enter the dining hall in precise formation. Other buildings worth a tour include Mahan Hall, the domed chapel, with stained glass windows depicting water-related scenes, and the U.S. Naval Academy Museum in Preble Hall. Nestled between the Severn River and the heart of downtown Annapolis, the campus exudes a level of military tradition and patriotism that's palpable.

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University of Maryland

University of Maryland
Facebook/University of Maryland

College Park, Maryland
Founded in 1856;

Established on historic U.S. 1, this campus boasts one of the country's largest academic malls. The 9-acre McKeldin Mall stretches from the Main Administration Building to McKeldin Library, with its stalwart redbrick exterior, distinctive front stairway, and crisp white-columned facade. On one side of the mall, a large rectangular fountain, which honors members of the Omicron Delta Kappa academic society, resembles the reflecting pool on the National Mall in D.C. Other green spaces include the Memorial Chapel Lawn and Morrill Quad. Visitors during the spring and fall can see seasonal flowers forming a cheery letter "M" on Campus Drive.

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University of Mississippi (Ole Miss)

University of Mississippi (Ole Miss)
Robbie Caponetto

Oxford, Mississippi
Founded in 1848;

The Phi Mu Fountain. Magnolia Drive. The Lyceum, built in the 1840s, with its graceful Ionic columns. These are just a few of the school's storied landmarks. Historic buildings along the Quad, as well as Bryant Hall, built in 1911 and accented by an impressive rotunda, have plenty of collegiate character. But the Lyceum has seen it all—from wounded soldiers housed here during the Civil War to James Meredith's enrollment as the school's first black student in 1962. On football game days, Southern tailgating rises to a whole new level when the silver candelabras come out at the Grove.

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Washington University in St. Louis

Washington University in St. Louis
Facebook/Washington University in St. Louis

St. Louis, Missouri
Founded in 1853; Danforth Campus, 1905;

The Danforth Campus of Washington University is one of those places that high school students fall in love with during tours. Brookings Hall, with its dual towers with flags, is reminiscent of a castle. The grand building and several others were built on the site of the 1904 World's Fair and leased by the fair administration for office and expo space. Several of its Collegiate Gothic–style academic buildings are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

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Duke University

Duke University
Lance King/Getty Images

Durham, North Carolina
Founded in 1924;

Known for basketball as well as Ivy League-caliber academics, Duke features regal Gothic stone structures on its West Campus and Georgian architecture on its East Campus. Scholars of the highest order walk among those stones and bricks, and alums book Duke Chapel up to a year in advance to marry in Gothic grandeur. The West Campus looks very similar, if not identical, to the way it appeared when it was built in the 1920s. Other highlights to visit include the Sarah P. Duke Gardens and William R. Perkins Library.

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Wake Forest University

wake forest university winston-salem
Getty Images

Winston-Salem, North Carolina
Founded in 1834; relocated in 1956;

Architect Jens Fredrick Larson, who wrote a definitive text on collegiate architecture and campus planning, designed this campus and clearly understood what attracts potential students. A network of trails and a canopy of hardwoods and flowering trees help students enjoy the beautiful setting. Hearn Plaza draws students to a green surrounded by spire-topped Wait Chapel, Reynolda Hall, and a cupola-crowned library, with Pilot Mountain in the distance.

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Oklahoma State University

Oklahoma State University
Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

Stillwater, Oklahoma
Founded in 1890;

A Big 12 campus noted for its beauty, Oklahoma State University (OSU) features calming Theta Pond along with charming Neo-Georgian architecture that gives this campus a cohesive, collegiate look. The university's redbrick buildings work with brick-lined walkways, courtyards, and open spaces to create symmetry and relaxing outdoor rooms. Landmark structures include Old Central and the Edmon Low Library.

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Furman University

Furman University
Andrew Cebulka

Greenville, South Carolina
Founded in 1826;

Georgian-style architecture defines this campus, set along a lake punctuated by the landmark Florentine-style Bell Tower. But the grounds have other charms too. The gated entrance showcases the trees and one of the many fountains. Once on campus, visitors get a sense of the landscape design, which has a Williamsburg-influenced style. Residence halls overlook the lake, the extensive Asia Garden provides a place to stroll, and nature trails lure students to the waterside.

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The University of the South

The University of the South
Robbie Caponetto

Sewanee, Tennessee
Founded in 1857;

Collegiate Gothic architecture defines The University of the South, aka "Sewanee," which is tucked into a rural, forested perch atop the Cumberland Plateau. Just a mile from downtown Sewanee, the campus feels like a retreat. Abbo's Alley, a natural spring and creek, runs near the center of campus and is lined with daffodils in spring. Dorm-side lakes offer spots for recreational fishing. Professors take students out for "labs" that usually involve hiking and listening to lectures under the trees. In the heart of campus, the iconic All Saints' Chapel rises on the central Quad.

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Baylor University

Baylor University
Wynn Myers

Waco, Texas
Founded in 1885;

This private, Baptist-affiliated college showcases buildings designed in the style of Oxford and Cambridge universities. The Burleson Quad is a great photo op; it's the centerpiece of campus and home to the school's first four buildings. The Armstrong Browning Library honors poets Robert Browning and his wife, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, with stained glass windows depicting lines from their poems. A newer addition to campus is the football stadium, where students cheer on the Baylor Bears.

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University of Virginia

University of Virginia
Facebook/University of Virginia

Charlottesville, Virginia
Founded in 1819;

Established by one of our country's founding fathers, Thomas Jefferson, the University of Virginia is the very embodiment of "collegiate." In fact, this United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) World Heritage site is considered a design masterpiece. The Academical Village includes the Rotunda, which is modeled on the Pantheon in Rome, the Lawn, and the Range, along with hotels, gardens, and pavilions—all part of Jefferson's original plan for students and faculty to live and learn together. What's more, it has become a model for colleges across the country.

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