25 Best College Towns and Cities in the U.S. (2023)

Finding the right college for you (or your kid) is serious business. There’s a lot to consider before committing to your school of choice, including everything from its academic merits to its scholarship offerings, athletics, and even its social scene. But, perhaps the most important thing to consider is real estate 101: location, location, location.

25 Best College Towns and Cities in the U.S. (1)


College towns abound in the U.S. There are nearly 4,000 degree-granting postsecondary schools in the nation, spread across every major city and plenty of small towns. As for what makes a great college town, that’s a little subjective, but we like to think it’s a place that has a good mix of educational and professional opportunities, proximity to schools, and plenty of other co-eds ready to mix it up. Here are 25 of the best college towns to consider when looking for your perfect school.

Boston, Massachusetts

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The capital city of Massachusetts is packed with college students. With 35 colleges, universities, and community colleges, it’s a place where nearly everyone can find the right program. It’s also a place where students can mingle with 152,000 others on their academic journey and where opportunity abounds thanks to plentiful internships and job openings, with companies like General Electric, TJX, Converse, and Wayfair all calling Boston home.

Lynchburg, Virginia

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Nearly one quarter of the entire population of Lynchburg is a student at either Liberty University or the University of Lynchburg, making it an easy spot to make friends. It is also a rather happy place, as it was voted number six on Gallup-Sharecare’s list of Highest Well-Being Communities in 2018.

Madison, Wisconsin

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Madison is home to one of the most educated populations in America, with more than half of the adult population holding a degree. It’s also a place filled with outdoor recreation opportunities, including 200 miles of biking trails and plentiful on-lake activities.

Tuscaloosa, Alabama

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As the home of the University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa is an obvious place to add to this list. With more than 38,000 students, the university really is the center of life here, and its sports teams make for excellent game-day outings.

(Video) The 25 Best College Towns in America

Columbia, Missouri

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The University of Missouri, also known by its more popular nickname Mizzou, can be found in the town of Columbia, but that’s not the only college around. Columbia is also home to Stephens College and Columbia College, making for a vibrant collegiate group. There’s also a lovely restaurant and bar scene where college students are sure to meet plenty of new friends.

Ann Arbor, Michigan


Another destination with a rather large college student population is Ann Arbor, the home of the University of Michigan, which boasts more than 44,000 students. Like other large university towns, the center of life here is the university’s sports teams, specifically its football team, which has the most all-time wins in college history.

Tempe, Arizona

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Looking to surround yourself with other college-aged students? Look no further than Tempe, a town where nearly one out of every four people is a college student. Though that’s no surprise considering the city is home to Arizona State University, which has more than 134,000 enrolled students.

Iowa City, Iowa

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Those looking to study literature should seriously consider a move to Iowa City. After all, it’s a UNESCO-designated City of Literature, making it a stellar spot to learn about (or write) all the great novels. And, as the home of The University of Iowa, it could be a perfect fit.

Gainesville, Florida

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Looking for sunshine in between classes? Make your way to Gainesville, and apply for a spot at the University of Florida. It’s a decidedly young college town, with more than 35% of the population attending a nearby college or university.

Athens, Georgia

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(Video) 2022’s Best College Towns & Cities in America


Athens, the home of the University of Georgia, is most certainly a spot where you’ll find plenty of college-aged friends and stellar academics, but it’s also a place with a thriving music and nightlife scene. More of an early bird? Don’t worry. It’s got a stellar coffee culture too.

Lawrence, Kansas

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Lawrence is yet another destination that blends multiple college scenes into one. It’s where you’ll find the University of Kansas and Haskell Indian Nations University. You’ll also find a great music scene filled with everything from small shows to big-time festivals.

Boulder, Colorado

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Both the University of Colorado and Naropa University can be found in Boulder, boosting the town’s college population above 28%. But that’s not the only reason to go. It’s the perfect place for students interested in spending every second out of class in the great outdoors, with hundreds of miles of hiking and biking trails and easy drives to some of the nation’s best skiing.

Providence, Rhode Island

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Though it’s a small city, Providence packs a major punch when it comes to college life. As the home of Providence College, Brown University, Rhode Island College, and the Rhode Island School of Design, it’s a city that belongs high on everyone’s college town list. This city too comes with a pitch-perfect nightlife scene thanks to plentiful bars and world-class restaurants, and if you can snag tickets to a PC basketball game, you’re surely in for a good time.

Tallahassee, Florida

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Just a handful of schools not good enough for you? Then you’ve got to go to Tallahassee, where you’ll find a whopping nine colleges and universities, including Florida State and Florida A&M University. Because it’s such a youthful spot, it attracts big-name events and musical acts on a regular basis, which you can keep track of here.

Berkeley, California

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(Video) 25 Best College Towns


Located just outside of San Francisco, Berkeley is a college dream. Home to the University of California, Berkeley, it’s a spot where students can learn in the classroom and out, thanks to the city’s energized activist scene and its plentiful green spaces that will make you appreciate all the lessons that Mother Nature has to offer.

Provo, Utah

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In Provo, you’ll find Brigham Young University, which enrolled more than 30,000 undergraduate students in 2021, helping to fill the town with a youthful glow. But what makes this place so special is its affordability. In 2021, it ranked as the number three college town in America in a WalletHub study thanks to its “wallet friendliness” score.

Eugene, Oregon

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If you’re attending college in Eugene, you better be ready to sport some Nike gear. As the birthplace of the famed brand and the University of Oregon, it’s a spot where sports and school go hand-in-hand. Spend time hiking its endless miles of trails, or get tickets to an Oregon Ducks football game for a night of rooting on the home team.

Oxford, Mississippi

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The University of Mississippi can be found in the tiny town of Oxford, a spot with just over 27,000 full-time residents and an additional 16,000 undergrads. Though tiny, the town is still home to major fun, but if it’s not enough, Memphis is just a short 90-minute drive away.

Syracuse, New York


For a city feel with just the right amount of hustle and bustle, make Syracuse your college town hub. It’s where you’ll find eight colleges and universities, including State University of New York and Syracuse University. And with just over 140,000 full-time residents, you’ll still feel like you can manage in a crowd.

Austin, Texas

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Austin is already a happening place thanks to its multitude of high-profile festivals (we’re looking at you, SXSW), but it’s also a growing tech hub filled with early-entry jobs, making it an ideal spot for college students, especially those at the University of Texas flagship campus, who will soon enter the workforce.

(Video) Best College Town in the U.S.

Lincoln, Nebraska

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University of Nebraska, Union College, and Nebraska Wesleyan University all call Lincoln home, making it a melting pot of college students from across campuses. It’s yet again another city that values an academic work/life balance thanks to plentiful outdoor spaces to roam, with a hearty nightlife scene to boot.

Burlington, Vermont

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Winter sports lovers, this college town is for you. Burlington, located along the eastern shore of Lake Champlain, is a drop-dead gorgeous town that’s also the spot where you’ll find both the University of Vermont and Champlain College. Come here to learn and to be within an hour or two’s drive to some of the best skiing in the U.S., including Stowe Mountain, Mad River Glen, and Killington.

Chapel Hill, North Carolina

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Thanks to the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill is a picture-perfect college town. However, school isn’t the only reason to come here. Stay for the culture, including the Ackland Art Museum and the incredible street art you can view for free.

Hartford, Connecticut

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Both Trinity College and the University of Hartford can be found in Hartford, a college town that also boasts plenty of history too. Explore that at Wadsworth Atheneum, the oldest public art museum in the nation, the Harriet Beecher Stowe Center, and the Mark Twain House & Museum.

Ithaca, New York

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Ithaca is perhaps the brainiest college town on the list, thanks to both Cornell and Ithaca College. It’s definitely an isolated spot to attend college, but it can make you feel like you’re in your own college bubble for a brief moment in time. This small town still comes with plenty of nightlife perks too, as well as its fair share of local breweries for upperclassmen to enjoy.

FAQs

What is the #1 college town in the US? ›

Ranking
RankingCityColleges
1Stanford, Calif.Stanford University
2Williamsburg, Va.William & Mary
3Pasadena, Calif.California Institute of Technology
4Princeton, N.J.Princeton University
145 more rows
8 Aug 2022

What is the best college town? ›

The top 9 U.S. college towns
  1. Provo, Utah. DenisTangneyJr/Getty Images. ...
  2. Athens, Georgia. SeanPavonePhoto/Getty Images. ...
  3. College Station, Texas. TriciaDaniel/Getty Images. ...
  4. Iowa City, Iowa. dosecreative/Getty Images. ...
  5. Gainesville, Florida. Sean Pavone/Getty Images. ...
  6. Bloomington, Indiana. ...
  7. Morgantown, West Virginia. ...
  8. East Lansing, Michigan.
17 Jun 2022

What college has the happiest students? ›

Top 25 Happiest Colleges
  • Princeton University.
  • Brown University.
  • Vanderbilt University.
  • College of William and Mary.
  • Kansas State University.
  • University of Iowa.
  • Fairfield University.
  • University of California, Berkeley.
28 Aug 2022

What is the coolest college campus? ›

25 of the Coolest College Campuses
  • Stanford University. ...
  • United States Naval Academy. ...
  • University of Chicago. ...
  • University of Hawaii at Manoa. ...
  • University of Notre Dame. ...
  • Amherst College. © Amherst College. ...
  • University of Washington-Seattle. © Courtesy of dplett - Fotolia.com. ...
  • Yale University. © Courtesy of f11photo - Fotolia.com.
8 Sept 2022

What college town has the most bars? ›

Repeat: 80 bars. Downtown Athens' most famous (and fully accurate) attribute is having more bars per capita than any other city in the country -- 80 bars in a single square mile, to be exact. And yes, they're all steps away from campus.

What city in the U.S. has the most colleges? ›

Los Angeles, California – 230

What city has the most universities and most colleges per capita? Hands down, it's LA. You can find approximately 230 colleges and universities in the greater Los Angeles area.

What is the number 1 college in the world? ›

RankUniversityCountry
RankUniversityCountry
1California Institute of Technology (Caltech)USA
2Harvard UniversityUSA
3Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)USA
80 more rows

Which college is ranked at 6 on the 50 safest colleges in America? ›

6. Pennsylvania State University – State College, Pennsylvania. Penn State's community puts a top priority on safety. The safety crew at Penn State has extensive training in crime prevention and works collaboratively with local police.

What is the most laid back college? ›

Read on to find out our choices for the top 10 most chill colleges.
  • University of Chicago. ...
  • University of Maryland. ...
  • 6. California Institute of Technology. ...
  • Claremont McKenna College. ...
  • University of Rochester. instagram.com. ...
  • Kansas State University. instagram.com. ...
  • Wellesley College. instagram.com. ...
  • Hampshire College. instagram.com.
11 Jan 2021

What college has the nicest people? ›

Nicest Colleges in America
  • University of Michigan. Ann Arbor, MI. ...
  • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Chapel Hill, NC. ...
  • University of California. Los Angeles, CA. ...
  • University of Virginia. Charlottesville, VA. ...
  • University of Florida. ...
  • University of Maryland, College Park. ...
  • University of Wisconsin. ...
  • University of Texas at Austin.
29 Oct 2020

What college has the best quality of life? ›

University of Southern California

#1 Colleges with the Best Student Life in America.

What is the hardest college to get into? ›

1. Harvard University — 3.19% With a record-low admission rate of just 3.19% for the class of 2026, Harvard currently ranks as the most difficult school to get into. This rate reflects admission into Harvard College, the Ivy League university's undergraduate school.

What is the cheapest college in America? ›

Cheapest Colleges in the US
  1. University of the People. ...
  2. The City University of New York. ...
  3. 3. California State University, Long Beach. ...
  4. Alcorn State University in Mississippi. ...
  5. Minot State University in North Dakota. ...
  6. South Texas College. ...
  7. Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art in New York.

What is easiest Ivy League to get into? ›

Cornell University

Out of all the Ivy League schools, Cornell has the highest admissions rate: 8.7%. For reference, you should be aware that 84.2% of Cornell matriculants were in the top 10% of their graduating class and 96.4% of Cornell matriculants were in the top 25% of their graduating class.

What college drinks the most alcohol? ›

College Towns with the Most Alcohol Consumption
  • Chico and California State University, Chico.
  • Boulder and the University of Colorado.
  • Billings and Montana State University Billings.
  • Tulane University in New Orleans, Louisiana.
  • The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
  • Fargo and North Dakota State University.
13 Jun 2022

What colleges consume the most hard liquor? ›

UC Santa Barbara has topped Princeton Review's list for schools that drink the most hard liquor. Princeton Review has just released its list of college rankings for the top schools that drink the most alcohol. And in the hard liquor category, the University of California Santa Barbara takes the top spot.

What is Americas best college town? ›

Here are 25 of the best college towns to consider when looking for your perfect school.
  • Boston, Massachusetts.
  • Lynchburg, Virginia.
  • Madison, Wisconsin.
  • Tuscaloosa, Alabama.
  • Columbia, Missouri.
  • Ann Arbor, Michigan.
  • Tempe, Arizona.
  • Iowa City, Iowa.
9 Sept 2022

Which city in the US has the best education? ›

Here are the top 10 most educated U.S. cities and metro areas for 2022:
  • Ann Arbor, Michigan.
  • San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, California.
  • Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-Virginia-Maryland-West Virginia.
  • Madison, Wisconsin.
  • San Francisco-Oakland-Berkeley, California.
  • Boston-Cambridge-Newton, Massachusetts-New Hampshire.
18 Jul 2022

What is the best state to study in USA? ›

Best state to be a student in the USA 2022
StateOverall RankThings to do
California127872
New York216303
Minnesota34049
Utah43075
29 more rows

What is the largest college in the US? ›

Ten largest public university campuses by enrollment during the 2019–20 academic year
RankingUniversityLocation
1University of Central FloridaOrlando, Florida
2Texas A&M UniversityCollege Station, Texas
3Ohio State UniversityColumbus, Ohio
7 more rows

What is the most modern college? ›

Check out our list of the 25 colleges and universities across America with the most mind-blowing futuristic design and features:
  • Cadet Chapel.
  • Krishna P. ...
  • Lee Hall Complex.
  • Emerson College Los Angeles.
  • Academic Support Center.
  • Tinkham Veale University Center.
  • Austin Community College San Gabriel Campus.
  • S. R. Crown Hall.
29 Aug 2022

Who has the largest college campus? ›

Berry College

Berry College, tucked into the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains, covers more than 27,000 acres — nearly twice the land area of Manhattan. Not surprisingly, Berry College boasts not only the largest contiguous college campus in the U.S., but the largest one in the world.

What is the most respected University ranking? ›

RankUniversityScore
RankUniversityScore
1Harvard University100.000
1Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)100.000
3Stanford University99.850
81 more rows

What is the most prestigious school in the world? ›

Here are the best global universities
  • Harvard University.
  • Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
  • Stanford University.
  • University of California--Berkeley.
  • University of Oxford.
  • Columbia University.
  • University of Washington.
  • University of Cambridge.

What is the safest campus in America? ›

Complete list of the safest colleges in America
RankRow LabelsState
1Lincoln Memorial UniversityTennessee
2South Georgia State CollegeGeorgia
3Elon UniversityNorth Carolina
4Jackson State Community CollegeTennessee
104 more rows
7 Jan 2022

What is the safest school in America? ›

Thanks in part to his determination and the community support of Shelby County, Indiana, parents, students, and teachers have created a pilot program that's led many to call Southwestern High School the safest school in the country.

Is NYC a college town? ›

There are around 120 universities and colleges in New York City. These include New York University, Barnard College, and the SUNY Empire State College in Manhattan. New York City is not considered a college town as it is much larger than most cities, especially a typical college town.

Is Los Angeles a college town? ›

By most definitions of "college town," Los Angeles doesn't really qualify. That's because L.A. is much larger than the typical college town, and it boasts many more colleges. In fact, BestColleges has a ranking list dedicated to the best colleges in Los Angeles.

Is Gainesville a party town? ›

Nightlife Entertainment

If you like to go out with friends, don't worry because Gainesville offers many lively nightlife and entertainment options to enjoy. There are bars both for 18+ and 21+ and the main locations for these establishments are in the downtown and midtown areas.

What is considered a college town? ›

A college town or university town is a community (often a separate town or city, but in some cases a town/city neighborhood or a district) that is dominated by its university population.

What makes a good college town? ›

Culture and Community

College towns are cultural mosaics that are progressive and often consist of residents who are more educated. There are independent bookstores, coffee shops, record shops, and the prevalence of more local businesses. A strong sense of community is also very important.

Is Clemson a good college town? ›

Located near the South Carolina-Georiga border, Clemson University is a driving distance away from the beach and mountains and is the top-ranked public university in South Carolina, according to the 2022 U.S. News & World Report ranking.

Is Ann Arbor a college town? ›

Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan

Ann Arbor might be the perfect college town for you! Home to the University of Michigan—which is consistently recognized as a top public research university—Ann Arbor is the perfect place for students who love innovation!

Where are the most college students? ›

Ten largest public university campuses by enrollment during the 2019–20 academic year
RankingUniversityLocation
1University of Central FloridaOrlando, Florida
2Texas A&M UniversityCollege Station, Texas
3Ohio State UniversityColumbus, Ohio
7 more rows

What state has the most colleges? ›

In 2021, there were 384 institutions of higher education in the state of California. Of these 384 institutions, 247 were four-year institutions and 137 were two- year institutions. California had the most higher education institutions of any state in that year.

Is Boston the biggest college town? ›

One of the biggest college towns in America, Boston supports more than two dozen degree-granting institutions, including the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Harvard University, Tufts University, and Berklee College of Music.

Is Gainesville Florida a good college town? ›

On the heels of U.S. News announcing the University of Florida as the number 8 top public university, Livability.com names Gainesville a top 10 college town. After looking at more than 2,000 cities across the nation, Gainesville landed in the ninth spot.

What is there to do in Gainesville on a Wednesday night? ›

Best Wednesday Night Near Me in Gainesville, FL
  • All "wednesday night" Results in Gainesville, FL. Showing 1-60 of 86.
  • That 80s Bar Gainesville. 2.3 mi. Hookah Bars, Cocktail Bars, Karaoke. ...
  • Arcade Bar. 2.3 mi. $ ...
  • Skate Station Funworks. 3.8 mi. ...
  • The Top. 2.3 mi. ...
  • Loosey's. 2.2 mi. ...
  • Fluid Lounge. 7.0 mi. ...
  • Palomino Pool Hall. 2.4 mi.

Is Austin a college town? ›

WalletHub has rated Austin, Texas as the best college town in the U.S. for 2022.

Does UCLA have a college town? ›

Explore Westwood, No Ordinary College Town

Nestled at UCLA's southern entrance, Westwood is a bustling village full of coffeehouses, shops, movie theaters — some with rich histories — and over 100 restaurants.

What is a student city? ›

Cities with a large student community tend to be well set up to support and welcome students – in terms of academic resources, but also factors such as the availability of student accommodation, support services for new students, and of course lots of student-focused activities, sports and nightlife.

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