College of Charleston boasts campus beauty and city culture – plus it’s near the beach, too

Heidi Finley

College of Charleston’s Randolph Hall. Photo by the College of Charleston

Facts and stats: 

The College of Charleston is a public liberal arts and sciences university. Situated along the South Carolina coastline, it was named “America’s Most Beautiful College Campus” by Travel + Leisure magazine for 2017.

The college’s top five undergraduate programs are business administration, biology, psychology, communication and exercise science, school officials said.

Eighty percent of students who complete applications are admitted. Enrolled freshman had an average SAT score of 1161.

In the 2017-18 school year, tuition and fees were about $12,423.

What’s new on campus?

The college will reopen the Hollings Science Center for fall 2018, with 140,000 square feet of renovated and new space. The science center provides 77 new research, teaching and support labs, seven classrooms, 58 offices and a multi-purpose auditorium/classroom space. The project also includes a new telescope observation deck and better access to the deck for public viewing events and community involvement.

A new commercial real estate finance major is one of the only finance-driven commercial real estate programs in the country. 

The college’s new Sustainability Literacy Institute is also making a big impact on curricular and co-curricular aspects of the college, officials there said. Any student can apply to become an SLI Scholar and receive one-on-one mentoring in their specific area of interest.

Marty’s Place is a new vegan/kosher/vegetarian restaurant on campus.

What’s life like on campus?

“The College of Charleston is inseparable from the city of Charleston, said Mike Robertson, senior director of media relations at the College of Charleston. “They’re both perfectly sized for students – big enough to support a vibrant cultural life – huge concerts and small clubs, dance troupes and opera, historic sites and professional sports – and small enough for students to feel right at home from their very first day.”

The college has 19 varsity sports teams and is an NCAA Division I university in the Colonial Athletic Association. The men’s basketball team went to the Big Dance this year.

 ​Student Rodrick Bellamy said, “CofC offers a unique campus life experience. Our campus is full of historic architecture, which really sets the tone. It gives off the vibe of a small institution, despite its very large student population. The student, faculty, and staff population are all very welcoming and accepting individuals. It is very easy to ‘find your people’ as long as you are willing to put forth the effort to find them!”

Clyde and students cheer on the Cougars. Photo by Al Samuels, the College of Charleston

What do students like best?

“We are located in the heart of downtown Charleston, literally steps away from the finest shopping and dining that Charleston has to offer.​ It offers a wonderful opportunity, as we are already immersed in the Charleston community and feel that immediately,” Bellamy said.

He added, “We are able to find internships or work opportunities that are in walking distance from our Residence Halls​. Our campus is also located only 15 minutes from the area’s 3 beaches!”

Fun traditions: 

Students at the College of Charleston pass through the arch at Porters Lodge on their first day and enter the Cistern Yard to officially sign “the book.” Inscribed in Greek on the arch are the words “Know Thyself.” Upon graduation in the spring, students exit the Cistern yard by passing underneath the same arch.

Unlike at other colleges and universities, students completing their undergraduate degrees at the College of Charleston do not wear caps and gowns for the spring commencement ceremony. Instead, students wear white dresses and summer tuxedos.

Students celebrate graduation on the Cistern in front of Randolph Hall. Photo by College of Charleston

What do students like least?

“Everyone loves being at the College, but no one really shows up to the sporting events,” student Lilly Fredrick said. “There really isn’t a huge sports following at CofC, which can be disappointing.”

Bellamy said, “​What I have observed students like the least is the guest policy in the underclassmen residence halls. Each guest must be signed in and out by their resident host upon arrival or departure from the building. This rule, however, may be slowly phased out in the coming years. “

Best advice from current students: 

“Be open,” Frederick said. “College can be overwhelming those first couple weeks of class, but the college puts on welcome week activities to get new students involved. I highly suggest going to some of those because it’s a great way to meet people. Don’t feel awkward going up to someone and starting a random conversation with them because that’s the most effective way to make new friends.”

Bellamy’s advice was to “come to college with an open mind,” referencing the “know thyself” inscription on Porters Lodge. “We all take the vow to know ourselves by the end of our undergraduate experience when we enter Porters Lodge at freshman convocation. This vow means that we will grow ourselves through our liberal arts education and take full advantage of the opportunities we have to experience new things, even if it means stepping out of our comfort zone.

“Being willing to immerse yourself in campus organizations and activities is key to feeling ‘at home’ no matter what institution you attend,” he added. “So, my advice is, be open-minded and willing to accept a challenge on your journey to ‘know thyself!'”

What surprises people most about the College of Charleston? 

“Most people are unaware that we have the oldest, continuously used classroom in the nation,” Bellamy said. “It is located in Randolph Hall​, features a white picket fence in front of its windows, and is where one of our Classics classes are held. Another thing that surprises people is that we do not have a football team. We love to make the joke, however, that we still have a football field as our library is the size of 3 football fields stacked on top of one another!”

Harbor Walk is home to the College’s Department of Computer Science. Photo by the College of Charleston


Finley is the editor of Carolina College Bound. Send questions to