Campuslife in the USA

While universities in Germany are primarily perceived as centres of academic activities, universities in the USA are also known for their unique campus life. Student life at US colleges and universities has already served as an inspiration for some college films.

Some university locations in the USA are so large that a comparison with a small town is quite possible. Supermarkets and art galleries, huge football stadiums and large-scale parks – all this can be found at American universities.

At universities and community colleges in rural areas, the number of students is often smaller than at universities in urban areas. As there are usually limited entertainment and catering facilities outside large cities, campus life at rural universities has traditionally played a greater role. The community spirit is also often very pronounced there.

On the other hand, big metropolises in the USA like Los Angeles, New York or San Diego attract visitors with their sheer boundless range of leisure activities and lively nightlife. As a result, campus life at inner-city universities is sometimes less important and student life is more concentrated on the cities.

Campus Facilities in the USA

Many US colleges and universities have so many facilities that students could theoretically only stay on campus. Generally speaking, there are certain types of institutions that can be distinguished, which exist at almost every university in the USA.

Teaching and research institutions

American universities are known for their excellent technological equipment in research and teaching. Lecture halls (Lecture Halls) and seminar rooms are available in all sizes. Some classrooms have interactive whiteboards, while in others each seat is equipped with a PC.

In addition, there are rooms that differ according to the subject area. Modern research laboratories, radio and television stations, photo studios or writing laboratories are just a few examples.


The university libraries are an integral part of campus life in the USA. Some are among the country’s largest library systems. Here, students have partial access to several million volumes.

Many libraries are open until late at night, some offer students 24/7 study areas. Depending on your needs, you can choose from computer workstations, group and individual rooms, workstations in Media Labs or, in some cases, workstations with 3D printers. Most universities also have a bookstore where students can buy specialist literature and often buy lecture notes.

Student Union

The Student Union is a popular contact point for students and an ideal place to spend your free time. It is usually a building in which various student activities take place. Often there are game rooms with billiard tables, table football tables and game consoles. A pool, cinema or your own food court can often be found in the Student Union building.


Among the best-known administrative institutions of American universities are the Student Services and Student Affairs departments. Here students can find contact persons for all questions concerning the organisation of their studies.

In addition, universities in the USA also have classic university administration facilities. Examples include

  • Admissions Office
  • Division of Business and Financial Affairs
  • Facilities Management Services
  • Academic Personnel Office.


The gastronomic offerings at US universities and colleges are very varied. The main starting point is the cafeteria-like dining halls on campus. There are often additional food courts where restaurants, snack bars, cafés, salad bars and snack bars border each other.

Some universities also have their own supermarket or offer students the opportunity to buy snacks or drinks at the kiosk.

Student residences and apartments

Unlike in Germany, most students usually live on campus. In particular, undergraduate students usually live in a dormitory on-campus during their studies in the USA. Often two students share a double room there.

However, there are also universities and colleges with apartment complexes on or near the campus. In contrast to a room in the dormitory, apartments are usually equipped with a kitchen and a bathroom and allow students to feed themselves.

Sports facilities and recreation center

What would campus life in the USA be without spacious sports and leisure facilities? University sports play an extraordinarily important role in the USA. Fitness studios, multi-purpose halls for basketball, volleyball and badminton, tennis courts and swimming pools are almost standard equipment. Some universities also have their own football stadium, and offer golf courses, climbing halls or indoor jogging tracks.

Many sports facilities are located at US universities in the Recreation Center, or REC for short. As a rule, students have to pay a certain fee per semester in order to take advantage of the university’s sports activities. The recreation center often offers outdoor activities at reduced rates. Registration for a sports course or sports club is also often made through the recreation center.

Service facilities

The idea of service is strongly developed at colleges and universities in the USA. This is why there are various service facilities such as the International Student Services Office or an accommodation service in the dormitories. In addition, there are career centers (Career Center), IT service centers, health centers (Health Center) or security facilities (Campus Police). Centres for students with disabilities (Office for Students with Disabilities) or students with children (Children’s Center) are also frequently found.

Leisure activities on campus

Social life plays an important role at American universities. The range of leisure activities at the universities and colleges is correspondingly varied.

Many students spend most of their free time on campus. This applies in particular to Bachelor students who are generally more active in clubs and student associations than Master’s and PhD students. The latter usually focus more on studying and are less involved in campus life in the USA.

Student Clubs and Organizations

Student groups and clubs are inextricably linked to campus life in the USA. There are groups at American universities on almost every topic. Many universities have more than 100 clubs. If you join a club, you will get to know other fellow students and often find a quicker connection.

Although the individual clubs are different, there are several types of student organizations:

  • Academic and subject-related clubs: Each university has a number of clubs that are assigned to the academic faculties or individual colleges. They offer students the opportunity to exchange information and networking opportunities. Some of these academic associations are only accessible to students with excellent academic achievements (Honor Societies).
  • Political clubs: Political student organisations are also widespread. The members identify themselves with a particular party or discuss issues related to regional, state or national politics. Clubs often also influence cultural and political life at the university.
  • Cultural connections: Cultural groups are not directly related to studies. This is primarily a place where students who feel attached to each other because of their ethnic and cultural background come together. Clubs are also open to those interested in a culture that is more intense. Depending on the university, for example, there is a Spanish Club, an Indian Students Association or an African Student Association. Cultural groups often organise events to present their own culture.
  • Religious groups: Religious groups are also part of campus life in the USA. The members are united by the common faith or they are interested in a particular denomination or belief.
  • Recreational and sports clubs: American universities have their own sports clubs for virtually every sport. The offer ranges from ice hockey and martial arts to Quidditch. The sports are offered at different levels. In addition, there are a large number of leisure clubs such as board game, hiking and debate clubs.
  • Social groups: Social groups, which are united by a common civic engagement, are also common in American universities. Members provide community services in neighboring communities or neighborhoods and seek to raise awareness of social issues.

Fraternities in the USA: Fraternities and Sororities

Phi Delta Kappa, Sigma Phi or Kappa Sigma – student associations can be found at almost every university in the USA. They are traditionally separated by gender and can be divided into „fraternities“ (brotherhoods) and „sororities“ (sisterhoods). The members of a brother or sisterhood often live in a common house on campus.

Student associations in the USA have a century-old tradition. Each house is usually named after two or three Greek letters. That is why we are talking about the so-called Greek system. Depending on the association, members engage in community service, volunteer in communities, or share a common academic commitment. For this reason, membership in a Greek organisation is often good on the CV.

Fraternities and sororities are not only known for their commitment, but also for their notorious Greek parties. In the USA, it is not permitted to drink alcohol until the age of 21. This is why many bachelor students come into contact with alcohol for the first time at Greek parties. Media mostly report on student connections in connection with alcohol and drug excesses and sexual assaults. However, reducing Greek Organizations to wild parties is mistaken for the community character, the often widespread alumni network and the commitment of many student connections.

Generally speaking, American student fraternities are a great way to meet other students, experience campus life in the USA and plan joint activities. However, students must normally have several admission rituals for membership, some of which are described as discriminatory and harassing. In some cases, the admission procedure takes several months.

In addition, membership fees are usually not insignificant. Prospective students should therefore consider in advance whether they would like to join a Greek organization.

Campus campus events in the USA

Boredom doesn’t occur so quickly at American universities – not even for students who don’t want to join a club or student association.

Even before the beginning of the academic year, colleges and universities in the USA traditionally hold the so-called Orientation or Welcome Week. International students receive useful information about studying and are guided around the campus. In addition, the university or the International Office usually organizes various events such as barbecues or excursions to the surrounding area during this time.

During the semester, international students have the opportunity to take part in various activities, such as excursions to famous sights or day trips to theme parks.

Cultural and sporting events

Throughout the entire semester, events and events take place at American universities. Many universities have their own museums, concert halls, cinemas or art galleries. Film evenings and readings, concerts and band tests, theatre shows and dance performances alternate.

The atmosphere is particularly exuberant during the many sporting events. Whether it’s basketball, football or hockey – when the university’s own teams compete, American universities are in an exceptional position. Tickets are usually available free of charge for students. Demand is correspondingly high.

Parties at American universities

Of course, parties are also an important part of campus life in the USA. Some universities are even known as Party Schools. There is a strict ban on alcohol in the American dormitories. Nevertheless, unofficial „Dorm Parties“ take place in the dormitories.

Particularly in larger cities there are a number of opportunities for student excursions near the university. The famous House Parties, which take place regularly in the Frat Houses, are also very popular. Many parties have one theme. For example, there are „Toga Parties“ or „Anything But Clothes Parties“ – ABC for short.

The Spring Break is the party highlight of the academic year. American students use the one- to two-week short holidays in March or April to celebrate extensively. There are several places in the USA where party-willing bachelor students are particularly fond of gathering. Many students are drawn to Florida, for example to Panama City Beach. Other students move to Cancún in Mexico or the Caribbean Islands – partly because there are less strict alcohol laws than in the USA.