There are so many college towns scattered throughout the United States; some are large, some are small, and some fall right in between. The ambiance varies from one town to the next, but there’s something for everyone in these communities. Many college towns embody the ideal experience of higher education, with students dominating the population, shops and businesses flourishing, and a community overall shaped and enhanced by the university. With that being said, here are our top picks:
1. Chapel Hill, North Carolina
University of North Carolina
You can get a bit of everything in Chapel Hill. There are tasty dives, neat bars, quirky museums and galleries, and beautiful Georgian architecture. All of this is nestled in over 700 acres of natural areas and parks.
Chapel Hill’s claim to fame as a top college town rests in the hands of the University of North Carolina. The Tar Heels basketball team is infectious as it’s been a historically dominant program. The university is also a part of the Research Triangle whose three points are Raleigh (NC State), Durham (Duke), and Chapel Hill (UNC). The foodie, sporty, and outdoorsy town offers plenty of opportunities in tech and healthcare. These are reasons why Chapel Hill heads the list of the top college town in the country.
2. Ann Arbor, Michigan
University of Michigan
A large percentage of the population of Ann Arbor are college students reinforcing the perfect neighborhood for undergraduates to study. The mix of restaurants and bars certainly provide entertainment to students and other residents of Ann Arbor, but it is not the number one source of entertainment.
The Michigan Wolverines provide all the enjoyment needed for those in Ann Arbor. The always-competitive football team is the number one reason why the Big House is filled every Saturday. There is also active night-life with a surplus of bars and restaurants. As far as career opportunities for post-graduates, there are several employers nearby including Google AdWords, JSTOR, and Toyota.
3. Madison, Wisconsin
University of Wisconsin
The University of Wisconsin lies in the center of its state capital. The downtown is surrounded by lakes and rolling prairies. Given its location, Madison serves as an active, outdoorsy city. Along with Madison’s beauty, it is home to large companies like Microsoft and Google.
More than anything, there is a unique charm to Madison. The social scene is optimal, complete with restaurants, cafes, boutiques, and bars. When it comes to showing school spirit, the whole community supports the Badgers. This team dominates in many sports year after year showing no sign of slowing down.
4. State College, Pennsylvania
Penn State-University Park
Penn State University is the centerpiece for State College, PA. This medium-sized town is stunning with fresh greenery and has a thriving art and live music scene. Raytheon and AccuWeather are set up in the area contributing to employment opportunities for students. The most prominent source of activity is the enthusiasm for the premier college football program.
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 a lot of school spirit, especially when it comes to supporting the Hawkeyes in their top football and basketball programs. Consistently listed as a top party school, the university proves itself to be perfect for all social butterflies. Iowa City is also associated with well-known writers like Kurt Vonnegut, Robert Frost, and Flannery O’Connor. Every year there is 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, for it is surrounded by farmland. This extra greenery provides a breathtaking landscape for the University of Illinois, one you wouldn’t typically expect from a metropolitan setting. The cities have everything to offer culturally as well as low living costs and little traffic. Due to large companies based nearby such as Kraft Foods, there are several employment opportunities in Champaign-Urbana. Champaign-Urbana also has an active music scene with several museums and festivals. Although it is surrounded by farmland, Champaign-Urbana is packed with things to do.
7. Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Carnegie Mellon University
University of Pittsburgh
Two great universities can be found in the Steel City: Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Pittsburgh. While Pittsburgh is a larger city, these two universities have a great presence. The two schools continue to strengthen Pittsburgh’s status as a research city, as it is the federal headquarters for robotics, energy research, and cyber defense. The Steel City has some of the most famous sports franchises in the country including the Steelers, the Pirates, and the 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 University of Virginia is located in a historic area where both former presidents James Monroe and Thomas Jefferson resided. 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. Between the history of Charlottesville, the elegant landscapes, and the devoted community, this college town sets itself apart from all the others.
9. Ithaca, New York
Even though it’s a small town nestled amongst serene lakes and trees in tranquil upstate New York, Ithaca is anything but isolated. Not one, but two colleges are located in Ithaca: Cornell University and Ithaca College. It’s easy to point to academics and research as Ithaca’s selling point, but the town offers so much more.
There is a fostered sense of community in the town as it endures cold, snowy winters together. The close-knit community features great local musicians at different venues year round. If you’re a foodie, Ithaca is the place for you. The options are endless in this picturesque town. Ithaca’s research, 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, TX has more to offer than its abundance of natural resources. The town is home to Texas A&M University. As a large university located in the heartland of the Lone Star State, the Aggies have a rich football history. While the town huddles together on Saturdays for football games in the fall, it also boasts impressive academic programs.
Texas A&M prides itself on its commitment to explorative studies, the university giving grants to land, sea, and space research. In addition to the numerous and large-scale research projects, those who call College Station their home are certainly a knowledgeable bunch. The town has continuously ranked high among all U.S. cities as one of the most educated places in the country.