College is supposed to be the best four years of your life. Nervous young freshmen emerge on university grounds with big dreams and expectations. Seniors bade teary farewells during graduation. From the day you move into your tiny dorm room to the day you walk away in a cap and gown, college seems like an extended vacation from the "real world."

Unfortunately, not all campuses were designed to reflect this optimistic view of college life. We looked at some truly horrible American college campuses to point out what universities are doing wrong. Some, like Rutgers' New Brunswick campus, were poorly planned, so students feel isolated and friendless. Others, like New York's Rochester Institute of Technology, are filled with architectural eyesores that make their campuses look more like institutions or prisons than havens of learning. Taking into account location, planning, decentralized campuses, and inappropriately mixed styles of architecture, we've created a list of The 50 Ugliest College Campuses in the US. Did your alma mater deserve to make the cut?

50. University of Cincinnati

Location: Cincinnati
Year Built: 1893, Notable New Construction: 1994 - 2008 (Founded: 1819)
Key Architects: Various, including: Frank Gehry, Michael Graves, Peter Eisenman, Pei Cobb Freed and Partners, Gwathmey Siegel & Associates Architects, Moore Ruble Yudell, Bernard Tschumi, and STUDIOS Architecture

The University of Cincinnati campus has disgusted design enthusiasts for years now with its envelope-pushing architecture. The Crosby Tower is a single pour of concrete, and the Vontz Center, designed by Frank Gehry, has no right angles. Both of these buildings should be studied as feats of engineering and architecture, but their historic value is no excuse for their aesthetic.

images via

49. Worcester Polytechnic Institute

Location: Worcester, Mass.
Year Built: 1865
Key Architects: Various

Some of the Worcester campus is beautiful, but due to bad planning and poorly placed parking lots, the scenic foliage is overshadowed by sterile, bland construction like the new Campus Center or the Life Science Center, both which compete with and tarnish the campus' New England charm.

images via

48. Brandeis University

Location: Waltham, Mass.
Year Built: 1948
Key Architect: Eero Saarinen

Eero Saarinen is one of the most iconic designers of the Modernist movement. His buildings have historic status. Unfortunately, Brandeis mixed these Modernist buildings with bland, brick structures and a castle to come up with their current campus. This jumble of styles and aesthetics leaves the school looking disheveled and incoherent.

images via

47. Pitzer College

Location: Claremont, Calif.
Year Built: 1963
Key Architects: Gwathmey Siegel & Associates Architects

The stark, white buildings of Pitzer seem to be incapable of aging gracefully. Their contemporary architecture detracts from the beautiful Claremont surroundings and looks out of place among the other five schools in the overall Clarement Colleges campus. Pitzer is another case of a beautiful environment being tarnished by unsightly monuments.

images via

46. Skidmore College

Location: Saratoga Springs, N.Y.
Year Built: 1911
Key Architects: Various

Skidmore College's overall architecture is one of uninspiring inconsistency, where contemporary window treatments clash with old brick and concrete. With stark buildings placed haphazardly throughout its beautiful surroundings, this campus lacks both a true university feel and a unified design. One saving grace of the campus is the Arthur Zankel Music Center, which actually has nice lines, but then you get to the Williamson Sports Center, and you see a big metal box with green and yellow paint all over it. As a whole, the materials make the buildings appear monotonous and unsure if they want to update, renovate, or stay the same.

images via

45. Ithaca College

Location: Ithaca, N.Y.
Year Built: 1960s (Founded: 1892)
Key Architects: Various

The location is picturesque, but the campus does nothing for the scenery. With a slew of new buildings created in the '60s, the college has a landscape of industrial, boxy architecture and a landscape of cement and glass that weighs on the town's gorgeous landscape. Even the newer buildings have been designed to fit into the '60s style, which hasn't improved the architecture of the campus. It also doesn't help that Ithaca has Cornell to compete with, both academically and architecturally. 

images via

44. University of New Mexico

Location: Albuquerque, N.M.
Year Built: 1922 (Founded: 1889)
Key Architects: John Gaw Meem

Blank, boring buildings make up this Southwest campus. Competing with the infamous New Mexico heat isn't an easy feat, but the architecture of the University of New Mexico's campus feels like the designers didn't even care to try. Some of the areas with Pueblo Revival architecture are a fitting and even welcome change; they bring a bit of local authenticity to the campus. However, if the school wants to break out of the monotonous, sterile class of campuses that it's in, it should consider employing this style of architecture throughout the whole campus. 

images via

43. University of California Irvine

Location: Irvine, Calif.
Year Built: 1965
Key Architects: Original campus: William PereiraAdditions: Various, including:  Frank Gehry, Robert Venturi, Eric Owen Moss, James Stirling and Arthur Erickson

Irvine is another beautiful location with an unimpressive campus. This UC is a true Modernist 1960s California oasis, yet many of the buildings are constructed out of light brick and concrete, which gives the campus an unfortunately sterile feeling. The choice of white buildings is one of the better design decisions, which complements the lush foliage of the area. Overall, the architecture is unwelcoming, which isn't ideal for a learning environment.

images via

42. South Dakota School of Mines and Tech

Location: Rapid City, S.D.
Year Built: 1885
Key Architects: Various

South Dakota School of Mines and Tech is another school that has the misfortune of being located...well, where it's located. It's a top-tier school in the field of Mining and Technology, and its alumni are making good money, but the school's architecture is built for function, at best. Rapid City itself is dangerous and poorly patrolled, causing issues among the students (beyond having to attend an ugly campus day in and day out). Recently the city declared that they would improve the campus area in the interest of student safety. Maybe a renovation should come next?

images via

41. North Carolina State

Location: Raleigh, N.C.
Year Built: 1937 (Founded: 1887)
Key Architects: Various

North Carolina State made it onto Princeton Review's 2009 list of "Least Beautiful Campuses," and "least beautiful" is actually kind of a euphemism for its architecture. This monotonous campus of red and white brick continues to fall short, even with its new construction. The main point of contention about the campus, and its recent renovations, is the lack of harmony with the existing buildings, which leads to a disjointed environment.

images via

40. California State University, Sacramento

Location: Sacramento, Calif.
Year Built: 1947
Key Architects: Various, including: Julian Morgan

Cal State Sacramento is actually called "Tree Campus USA," and with more than 3,500 trees, the campus is indeed a picturesque location. However, the beautiful foliage is ruined by the facilities' medical complex aesthetic. The large brick buildings are heavy and clumsy looking compared to the blissful, natural surroundings. Some of them resemble a set of stairs or tiers on a cake, at best.

images via

39. CUNY Hunter

Location: New York
Year Built: Many were built in the 1980s (Founded: 1870)
Key Architects: Various, including: C.B.J. Snyder

Like many colleges of the time, CUNY Hunter was designed in the Modern Brutalist style. The buildings are cold and uninviting, and many of them lack adequate windows. Most of them look old and run down, and the location within New York City doesn't add to the campus' already decentralized environment. Ironically, iconic architectural critic, Ada Louise Huxtable, is a notable alumna.

images via

38. New York University

Location: New York
Year Built: 1831
Key Architects: Various

Right off the bat, NYU is at a disadvantage by being located in a large city. This urban location eliminates the ability to ever have a cohesive traditional campus experience. Despite that, if you look closely at some of the buildings, they exist completely in their own styles and are lacking inspiration (or the ability to inspire). One good example of this is the philosophy center, which was renovated by Steven Holl Associates. This space has the potential to be something unique and engaging—a hidden gem in the Village—but instead it comes off as worn down and uninteresting.

images via

37. Bennington College

Location: Bennington, Vt.
Year Built: 1932
Key Architects: Robertson Ward, Pietro Belluschi and Carl Koch, and Kyu Sung Woo

We'll say it: Postmodernism is probably the ugliest of all architectural movements, and the Bennington College campus is living proof of that. The campus appears to be iteration after iteration of domineering, imposing Postmodern buildings. The uninviting architecture is unfortunate, because the location of the college is very striking. 

images via

36. Carnegie Mellon University

Location: Pittsburgh, Pa.
Year Built: Various (Founded: 1900)
Key Architects: Various

Carnegie Mellon is a prestigious university. The school has been called "a place for over-achievers." This focus on studying and the lack of extracurricular activities translates to a school that doesn't pay much attention to the architectural beauty of its campus. There are common complaints that the campus is in dire need of updating its design, and judging by the overbearing and imposing architecture, it seems like the complainers may have a point. If only the school could elevate their campus to the same level as their academics.

images via

35. Valparaiso University

Location: Valparaiso, Ind.
Year Built: Old Campus: 1859, New Campus: 1950s
Key Architects: Various, including: Sasaki Associates, Inc (New Campus)

While the Old Campus at Valparaiso was put on the National Register of Historic Places in 1976, the new developments, which look more like a suburban office park than a haven for learning, don't live up to the original architecture. Built in the 1950s, the New Campus houses nine dorms, the majority of the academic buildings, as well as a glaring chapel that is somewhat of an eyesore. The lack of a traditional university layout equates to no quads, no commons, and no defined center. This also leads to a lack of cohesiveness and community for the student body. In a strange turn of events, the Ku Klux Klan assembled a bid to purchase the university in 1923. Thankfully they were unsuccessful.

images via

34. Illinois Institute of Technology

Location: Chicago, Ill.
Year Built: 1950 (Founded: 1890)
Key Architects: Ludwig Mies van der Rohe

The Illinois Institute of Technology is another technology school that doubles as an office park. Need we say more? The van der Rohe sections of the campus are worth visiting, if only for the architectural history lesson, but the addition of new buildings without character does not add any value to the space's design.

images via

33. University of Massachusetts - Dartmouth

Location: Dartmouth, Mass.
Year Built: Early 1960s (Founded: 1896)
Key Architects: Paul Rudolph

Paul Rudolph is an iconic architect, and his Dartmouth campus is cohesive, especially compared to some of the other colleges on our list. However, the buildings themselves are busy, unappealing, and appear overdone. With undulating forms and sterile, cold concrete, the buildings of the Dartmouth campus are spot on for style, but it's necessarily a pleasant or welcoming style.

images via

32. Case Western Reserve University

Location: Cleveland
Year Built: 1967
Key Architects: Various, including: Frank Gehry

Although renowned for its prestigious engineering and science programs, Case Western doesn't quite offer the whole package. It was also named one of Princeton Review's "Least Beautiful Campuses," following in the trend of technology-centric schools being built in a sterile, Brutalist style. There's little flavor beyond the cold brick here.

images via

31. University of Texas at Arlington

Location: Arlington, Texas
Year Built: 1895
Key Architects: Various

UT Arlington unfortunately has to compete with other, more prestigious campuses, like UT Austin. The Arlington campus gives off a commuter-school vibe, and its basic, unappealing architecture makes it look very due for a remodel. The Planetarium, for one, rises like a giant concrete thermos, interrupting a facade of glass windows. The Chemistry and Science Building is depressingly institutional, with plain bricks and and uninspired details.

images via

30. University of California, San Diego

Location: San Diego
Year Built: 1960
Key Architects: Various

The University of California, San Diego has the unfortunate fate of being compared to other schools in the UC network. Although California is beautiful, UC San Diego campus' architecture lacks a cohesive style, like most of the ugly college campuses in this list. The University's six colleges each maintain their own buildings, which are differentiated by distinct architectural styles. As new colleges have been added, the additions were designed with styles that are vastly different from that of the original campus buildings.

images via

29. University of Illinois at Chicago

Location: Chicago
Year Built: 1965 (Founded: 1858)
Key Architects: Various, including: Walter Netsch

Many students complain that the Chicago campus is unsafe. Ironically, they have also complained about the architecture, mainly the Brutalist style of Netsch's East Campus, stating that it is reminiscent of a prison. Rule #1 of building and updating the architecture of a college campus: don't make it look or feel like a place students are going to as punishment. 

images via

28. Clarkson University

Location: Potsdam, N.Y.
Year Built: 1896
Key Architects: Various

Many students complain that the Clarkson University campus is as dreary as the winters in upstate New York, but that's not deterring Clarkson from trying to change its tune. Recently, the school completed construction on a new, award-winning Student Center designed by Perkins and Will. Hopefully they will continue this string of good architectural decision-making, but in the meantime, the rest of the campus' boring brick needs work.

images via

27. University of Texas at Dallas

Location: Dallas
Year Built: 1969
Key Architects: Page Southerland Page

The Daily Caller describes the UTD campus as "repugnant." While this may be a bit harsh, some parts of the campus do resemble parking garages. The university tried to alleviate this by constructing new buildings, but the iridescent facades and casual architecture of some of the new construction, which has been mocked for looking like fish scales, seem like they would be more fitting for a beach resort in Hawaii. In 2012, Larry Speck of Page Southerland Page actually won an award for the design of the Visitor Center and University Bookstore. Hopefully things are looking up for the future of the school's campus.

images via

26. Rutgers - New Brunswick

Location: New Brunswick, N.J.
Year Built: 1766
Key Architects: Various

As New Jersey's flagship university, Rutgers is already off to a rough start. The entire university is haphazardly laid out, and therefore, relies heavily on buses for transportation (a service that moves so many people, it is second only to NJ Transit) this dependency on public transportation leaves little room for a proper college experience. While some of the older buildings, like Old Queens (built between 1809–1825), are idyllic university gems, the newer architecture is an eyesore next to the original campus, like the alarmingly red and white patterned Civic Square Building.

images via

25. Alaska State University

Location: Anchorage, Alaska
Year Built: 1954
Key Architects: Various

As one design blogger states, "I am perpetually blown away by University of Alaska Anchorage's commitment to interesting architecture." This remark of the school's architecture may be flippant, but it's not totally wrong. Most of the buildings at ASU are sterile, giving the campus an office park or medical center vibe. This is surprising considering the school's efforts to infuse native culture into the university. One newly constructed building is reminiscent of the bow of a canon...possibly their failed attempt at tying in indigenous culture? Probably.

images via

24. Harvey Mudd College

Location: Claremont, Calif.
Year Built: 1955
Key Architects: Edward Durell Stone

Known for its stellar engineering program, Harvey Mudd leaves something to be desired in terms of its facilities. This California school has a beautiful location, but its flat architecture takes away from the natural scenery. Edward Durell Stone's buildings even have bumps (literally nicknamed warts) that make for a comical addition to his already unappealing buildings. 

images via

23. Washington State University

Location: Pullman, Wash.
Year Built: 1911 (Founded: 1890)
Key Architects: Various, including: Rudolph Weaver

Although WSU has beautiful scenery, the campus feels as uninviting as a medical complex. The school has tried to alleviate this with some new construction, but some of their attempts, like the residence halls (which are reminiscent of a motel), have fallen short of expectations.

images via

22. University of South Alabama

Location: Mobile, Ala.
Year Built: 1964
Key Architects: Various

The University of South Alabama has a very distancing design. Student attendance has actually outgrown the supply of dorms, leaving the university to construct many new buildings for the influx of new students. Hopefully, the new construction will do the college some good and finally help the campus become the kind of environment it strives to be. While many of the new designs look impressive, hopefully they will make up for older buildings like the Richard A. Harvill Building, which even the school's website says looks "basically windowless."

images via