Written by Carly Drake, North Central College and Diane Bruce Anstine, North Central College

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Researchers have studied college students’ mental health for decades. Even in the 1920s, it was clear that the many stresses of higher education – like academic demands, post-graduation plans and financial concerns – wear on students. This stress can incite new mental health concerns and worsen existing ones, such as anxiety and depression. Sleep disturbances, restlessness, irritability and even feelings of hopelessness can make college feel harder than it already is.

For all of these reasons, it pays to take campus design into consideration when selecting a school. Campus design affects the college experience, and students can choose a campus or change their existing routines to support their mental health. Such consideration is especially important during the COVID-19 pandemic, when new rules and norms have left many students more anxious and depressed than normal.

As a researcher and administrator who focus on the student experience, we’ve analyzed research on how people interact with their environments. Below are five things that we believe students should look for in a college to help them stay as healthy as possible.