When you are ready to go into debt in the name of higher education, the choice of school dictates your next four plus years. In the midwest, the most beautiful college campuses often have the benefit of water features, great landscaping and amazing architecture. Students enjoy spending as much time outdoors as possible, and a gorgeous campus can make a huge difference in how pleasant the experience is. Whether you are looking to go private or public, these college campuses are not only scenic, but academic as well.

(credit: Mike McGinnis/Getty Images)

(credit: Mike McGinnis/Getty Images)

The University of Wisconsin- Madison
Campus Visitor Relations Office
1308 W. Dayton St.
Madison, WI 53706
(608) 263-2400
www.wisc.edu

East of Minnesota and in the capitol of Wisconsin lies an enormous campus that provides that atmosphere of a small city. The University of Wisconsin at Madison is situated on over 900 acres of beautiful landscape, scenic lakes and an amazing collection of buildings. Outdoor activities are offered year-round and each season holds its own aesthetic benefits for the students. Bascom Hall, a historic landmark, is the center of activity and energy on campus. With shops, restaurants and entertainment located right on campus, students need not even leave during the semester. Many enjoy walking around the lakes or just admiring the view from any corner of campus.

Augustana College
639 38th St.
Rock Island, IL 61201
(309) 794-7000
www.augustana.edu

Learn on the beautiful banks of the Mississippi River and enjoy life on this scenic campus 350 miles south of the Twin Cities. Originally a haven for Swedish Immigrants, Augustana embraces the fantastic European architecture prevalent on campus. Stained glass windows and high domes make the buildings just as breathtaking as the landscape. The college is also the home of the Swenson Swedish Immigration Research Center, adding even more to the culture of the campus.

(credit: CBS)

(credit: CBS)

Carleton College
1 N. College St
Northfield, MN 55057
(507) 222-4000
www.carleton.edu

Although there are many beautiful college campuses in Minnesota, Carleton is a lesser-known retreat. Fall is hailed as the most beautiful time to visit Carleton, but every season can be highlighted as scenic. With two man-made lakes on campus, known as the Lyman Lakes, there are great opportunities for jogging or walking around the water and the campus waterfall. The Cannon River feeds the Cowling Arboretum, an 800-acre arboretum curated by students and staff. See the natural foliage and forest of Minnesota up close on this “green” campus. Carleton grows a lot of its own food and provides wind turbines for energy on campus. The small town of Northfield is also a great retreat for those who enjoy the rural setting of the area.

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Northwestern University
633 Clark St.
Evanston, IL 60208
(847) 491-3741
www.northwestern.edu

Prefer the beauty and energy of a big city? Northwestern University is located close enough to Chicago to see the skyscrapers from the windows of the dorms. Located on Lake Michigan, students enjoy outdoor activities and the historic feel of old Chicago. Many of the buildings on campus are actually historic mansions that have been converted into university offices and classrooms. The gothic architecture on campus and the carefully tended landscape make a beautiful and motivating place to learn.

(credit: David Greedy/Getty Images)

(credit: David Greedy/Getty Images)

Iowa State University
Office of Admissions
100 Enrollment Services
Ames, IA 50011
(515) 294-4111
www.iastate.edu

Ranked as one of the top 50 public universities in the United States, Iowa State University is the complete package. With an amazing focus on academics and athletics, they have also found the time to cultivate a world-class campus. Over 150 buildings on campus are beautifully constructed, and many have made the national historic registry. Aside from the buildings, Iowa State contains one of the largest collections of public art on any university campus, including a sculpture garden. Not into art? Check out the Reiman Gardens or take a stroll around Lake LaVerne for some natural beauty.

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Andrea Wodele is a freelance writer who has lived in the Twin Cities for the last 10 years. Her hobbies include exercising, driving kids around, watching Minnesota sports, and reading self-help literature. Examiner.com.