Tempe is often seen as the face of ASU, a larger-than-life campus bustling with students and rowdy with football games and the hallmarks of the "college experience."
This perception tends to devalue the unique offerings of the Downtown, Polytechnic and West Valley campuses, where students have an experience that is just as exciting and rewarding.
Although Tempe is the largest campus, with over 57,000 students enrolled, its large size can be a liability for students seeking more one-on-one learning and a tight-knit college community. For Tymber Klahr, a freshman studying journalism, Downtown's compact campus is ideal for building community connections.
“I feel like it’s very community-based," Klahr said. "I sense a lot more community Downtown than I do in Tempe. Coming from a small town to one of the biggest schools in the country, being downtown, I feel that helped me adjust a lot more.”
Karah Mayer, a sophomore studying biology who lives on the West Valley campus, said attending a smaller campus helps her connect with the people around her.
“I enjoy that I'm seeing a lot of the same people in all my classes and that I've gotten to make really close connections with people living on campus and stuff like that,” Mayer said. “So I've enjoyed that tight-knit aspect of living and taking classes on the West campus.”
In comparison, Tempe has an entirely different atmosphere. It feels like everyone is going out on the weekends and romanticizing this idea of the "college experience" – what adults look back on and call the best years of their lives. It pressures students to have a vibrant social life and constantly seek out new, interesting things to do.
Fiorella Vultaggio, a senior studying applied biological sciences with a concentration in pre-veterinary medicine, doesn’t think the college experience Tempe offers is necessary to enjoy campus life, primarily if the student is focused on the academic side of college.
“When you think about a traditional college experience, a lot of people want to do the sororities, go to all the events and be with big groups of people,” Vultaggio said. “But if you're looking for more of an academic experience, I think that Poly is a better place to be.”
Vultaggio said that despite being smaller than Tempe, Polytechnic still puts on fun events and has "beautiful facilities," showing that students there aren't socially desolate.
Students often equate having a good college experience with the stereotypical Tempe college experience. Although that may be true for some, others may have different ideas of what they want their college experience to look like.
The good thing about ASU is that all students don't have to compromise, since all four campuses are connected as part of ASU's One University in Many Places model.
“(At) West, I've had a really good experience because, at the end of the day, it's still part of ASU," Mayer said. "So you still have access to all of the ASU-based resources. So I know that I've been able to still make close connections to faculty here and still have those same opportunities as students down at Tempe.”
Despite the physical distance between each campus, the ASU shuttle system keeps everyone connected. Sun Cards work on every campus so students can use facilities on other campuses and socialize with students outside of their home campus.
This means that students can still travel to Tempe whenever they want to. Being at the Downtown, Poly or West campus isn't solitary confinement away from the main ASU campus, but rather a refuge away from the bustle. In some ways, those campuses have less going on than Tempe, but that's their charm.
Even if there’s not as much going on in the smaller campuses as in Tempe, perhaps it’s that expectation that there needs to be a lot going on that’s letting people down.
Vultaggio thinks that students getting involved on campus is vital to have a solid college experience, not the size of the campus.
“Be involved with something, whether it's a sports club, whether it's another type of club [or] getting a job on campus,” Vultaggio said. “Those are all things that I've been able to get more connections with. Be more interactive with people and faculty."
Ultimately, no universal college experience works for everyone. For too long, Tempe has been positioned as the best ASU campus to be on, when in reality, the Downtown, Polytechnic and West Valley campuses also have a lot to offer for students looking for community.
A great "college experience" should be what students do with their own time and based on their interests. Whether that's rushing for a sorority in Tempe or sitting quietly in the shade of West Valley, every ASU campus has its own vision of a great college experience.
However, these differences should not discount the value ASU's three satellite campuses bring.
Edited by Mia Osmonbekov, Walker Smith and Sadie Buggle.
Reach the reporter at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Editor's note: The opinions presented in this column are the author's and do not imply any endorsement from The State Press or its editors.
Want to join the conversation? Send an email to email@example.com. Keep letters under 500 words, and be sure to include your university affiliation. Anonymity will not be granted.
Like The State Press on Facebook and follow @statepress on X.