Top 10 College Towns

There are thousands of college towns across the country. The size, ambiance, and offerings vary from one town to the next, but there’s something for everyone within these communities. Here are our top college town picks!

1. Chapel Hill, North Carolina

University of North Carolina

You can get a bit of everything in Chapel Hill. This cozy college town, nestled within more than 700 acres of natural parks, has delicious restaurants, lively bars, quirky museums and galleries, and beautiful Georgian architecture.

Chapel Hill’s claim to fame is the University of North Carolina and its Tar Heels basketball team. The university is also a part of the Research Triangle, whose three points are Raleigh (NC State), Durham (Duke), and Chapel Hill (UNC). This foodie, sporty, and outdoorsy town offers plenty of opportunities in tech and healthcare.

2. Ann Arbor, Michigan

University of Michigan

College students make up a large percentage of the Ann Arbor population. The active nightlife, restaurants, and bars provide entertainment to students and other residents of Ann Arbor, but it is not the number one source of entertainment.

The Michigan Wolverines are Ann Arbor’s top entertainment. The competitive football team is the number one reason the Big House fills up every Saturday. Ann Arbor also offers countless career opportunities for post-graduates, including employment at Google AdWords, JSTOR, and Toyota.

3. Madison, Wisconsin

University of Wisconsin

Madison, Wisconsin is an active, outdoorsy city and home to large companies like Microsoft and Google. The University of Wisconsin lies in the center, surrounded by lakes and rolling prairies. Madison radiates a unique charm and has many restaurants, cafes, boutiques, and bars. The entire community supports the school’s athletic teams, who regularly dominate many sports.

4. State College, Pennsylvania

Penn State-University Park

Penn State University is the centerpiece of the city of State College. This beautiful, medium-sized town has a thriving art and live music scene. The most prominent source of activity is the school’s college football program. Companies like Raytheon and AccuWeather offer employment opportunities for graduates. 

5. Iowa City, Iowa

University of Iowa

The University of Iowa has established itself as a community focused on giving back. The hospital system hosts numerous events concentrated on service. The university holds a dance marathon that raises millions of dollars annually for the children’s hospital. This town also has lots of school spirit, supporting the Hawkeyes in their top football and basketball programs. The university is known as a top party school, perfect for social butterflies. Iowa City is also associated with well-known writers like Kurt Vonnegut, Robert Frost, and Flannery O’Connor. Every year the city hosts a book festival and a Literary Walk attracting visitors from all over the country.

6. Champaign-Urbana, Illinois

University of Illinois

Champaign-Urbana is not your average urban city because it’s surrounded by farmland. This extra greenery provides a breathtaking landscape for the University of Illinois, one you wouldn’t expect in a metropolitan setting. Champaign-Urbana has an active music scene with several museums and festivals. The city also offers low living costs and little traffic. Large companies like Kraft Foods offer plenty of employment for students and graduates.

7. Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Carnegie Mellon University
University of Pittsburgh

Steel City is home to two top universities: Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Pittsburgh.These universities strengthen Pittsburgh’s status as a research city, as it is the federal headquarters for robotics, energy research, and cyber defense. Steel City has some of the most famous sports franchises in the country, including the Steelers, Pirates, and Penguins. You can also find many libraries, cultural districts, and bars. Pittsburgh’s wide range of offerings makes it an ideal metropolis to attend college.

8. Charlottesville, Virginia

University of Virginia

The elegant and historic town of Charlottesville is home to the University of Virginia. Former presidents James Monroe and Thomas Jefferson also resided here. Known as one of the “Public Ivies,” it’s no surprise that UVA is the central focus in Charlottesville. The university’s prestige, coupled with its sports, unites the town. They also have one of the largest outdoor shopping malls in the country.

9. Ithaca, New York

Cornell University
Ithaca College

Ithaca is a small, picturesque town nestled amongst serene lakes and trees in tranquil upstate New York. Cornell University and Ithaca College both call Ithaca home. Academics and research are selling points, but the town offers much more! Ithaca’s community, music, restaurants, and beauty make it a phenomenal place to study.

10. College Station, Texas

Texas A&M University

Sitting on barrels of oil, College Station has more to offer than its abundance of natural resources. Located in the heartland of the Lone Star State, the town is home to Texas A&M University. The Aggies have a rich football history but also boast impressive academic programs.

Texas A&M prides itself on its commitment to explorative studies, giving grants to land, sea, and space research. The town continuously ranks high among all US cities as one of the most educated places in the country.