America’s prettiest college campuses [SLIDESHOW]

Sure, college is grossly overpriced these days. It’s also a riskier investment than ever. There’s no denying, though, that the carefree undergraduate lifestyle is a nice way to spend four years.

Still, these 20 college campuses are idyllic little slices of heaven that seem soaked in perfect academic majesty.

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  • Duke University's East campus boasts some impressive examples of Georgian architecture, but it's otherwise just okay. West campus is where to find the Gothic architecture that everybody loves. The multiple acres of gardens on campus are also especially lovely.
  • Miami University - Ohio's campus absolutely reeks of whatever it is a classic Midwestern college smells like. The layout is sensible. Trees and grass abound. The very traditional, red brick buildings all sort of look the same, really, but that’s part of the charm.
  • The buildings at the University of San Diego are whitish and pretty much uniformly in the Spanish Renaissance architectural style. The lush, hilly, idyllic campus is flawlessly maintained and very easy on the eyes. If you stand in the right place, the views of the Pacific Ocean are stunning.
  • You could argue that Dartmouth College looks like so many other New England campuses, but that's not quite right. Dartmouth was founded in 1769. All those other schools are just imitating Dartmouth's greatness. The buildings here are far from ornate but they are beautiful in their own sturdy, New Hampshire way.
  • Brick facades and white pillars in Southern Colonial style have gone viral at Washington & Lee University. Acres of green grass, the quaint surrounding town of Lexington and the nearby Blue Ridge Mountains make for an exquisite setting.
  • The architecture at Bryn Mawr College is gray, intensely Gothic, and full of captivating detail. A few other schools have a decent counter argument, but this place is the closest you are likely to get to Hogwarts as a muggle in North America.
  • Imagine if Augusta National Golf Club were repurposed as an undergraduate institution complete with several very nice Georgian-style buildings. That's sort of what Furman University's campus is like.
  • Rice University's distinctly Southern, meticulously symmetrical campus features well-garnished buildings with commodious archways and gracious columns. Oak trees and green space are ample, too. Standing on the quad, it's almost impossible to believe that you are also standing in the fourth most populous city in the United States.
  • University of California - Santa Cruz, established in 1965 and home of the Banana Slug mascot, is easily the youngest school on this list. While the architecture is certainly nothing to write home about, the local scenery is breathtaking. The campus is basically plopped down in a redwood forest amid the Santa Cruz Mountains. It's Shangri-la for outdoorsy types.
  • Yale University's campus is probably most famous for achieving the perfection of the Collegiate Gothic architecture style. Most every building is lovely, though, especially the old ones, and the entire campus is filled with glorious nooks and crannies to explore.
  • The iconic Sample Gates at Indiana University welcome you to this huge campus. Inside those gates, you'll find immaculate landscaping, lots of trees and limestone buildings galore. Outside, the highly convivial college town of Bloomington is certainly a plus.
  • Even the modern buildings are halfway decent on this large, historical campus full of green grass and towering trees. The perfectly colonial Christopher Wren building at the College of William & Mary is the oldest university building in these United States.
  • Why merely spend time on some ordinary campus when you can be pampered by all manner of eclectic architectural splendor on over 1,000 stunning acres at Vassar College?
  • This lushly landscaped, largely Mediterranean-style campus sits almost on the beach in swanky Malibu, Calif. Many dorm rooms have ocean views and, of course, functioning gas fireplaces.
  • There's something majestically Southern about this perfectly manicured campus filled with classic Gothic buildings. The mountaintop setting helps, as do the 13,000 scenic, school-owned acres surrounding the school.
  • You won't find a better collection of Spanish Colonial Revival-style architecture than what permeates Stanford’s campus. The sum of the atmosphere is something akin to the Taco Bell you'll frequent in heaven.
  • Kenyon College. Photo/website of Kenyon College
  • Thomas Jefferson ordered that his gravestone mention but three achievements: the Declaration of Independence, the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom, and the University of Virginia, which he designed. The campus is now a UNESCO World Heritage site.
  • Among the oldest campuses in the country, Princeton is full of stately gray stone and intricate architectural detail. You'd have to go to Europe to find a college even arguably more beautiful.

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