THE BLOG

Betcha You Don't Know This About Colleges and College Towns!

05/11/2015 03:05 pm ET | Updated May 10, 2016

There are a whole lot of reasons why students want to attend certain colleges these days, usually including such characteristics as prestige, top-notch academics, presence of winning football and/or basketball teams, and access to great professors. More and more, though, I'm finding that prospective college students are pretty clear about the kinds of towns in which they prefer to live (and not). Some students want only to be in a large city; others prefer a mid-sized one, maybe a suburb; still others declare that a small town is their first choice and a LOT want to be in a college town.

Here is some recent information from the American Institute for Economic Research's "The Top 75 College Cities & Towns in America" and the Houston Chronicle's "The best cities in America for college students" that cover all of those different city and town types. They are ranked 1 through 15, top to bottom, based on such things as a city/town's quality of life, high student concentration, cost of living and low unemployment, etc. Note that under each city name I have identified better-known colleges in and nearby.

BEST CITIES FOR COLLEGE STUDENTS
#1 Boston-Cambridge metro area, MA
(Babson College, Boston College, Boston U, Brandeis U, Clark U, Emerson College, Harvard U, MIT, Northeastern U, Olin Tech, Tufts U, Wellesley College, Wentworth Tech, Worcester Poly Inst.)

#2 Washington DC metro area
(American U, Catholic U, George Mason U, George Washington U, Georgetown U, Howard U, Marymount U, Trinity Washington U)

#3 San Francisco-Oakland metro area, CA
(UC Berkeley, Menlo College, Mills College, Notre Dame de Namur, San Francisco State, U of San Francisco, St. Mary's College, Stanford U)

#4 New York City metro area, NY
(Barnard College, Columbia U, Cooper Union, Eugene Lang College, Fordham U, Julliard School, Manhattan College, Manhattanville College, Marymount Manhattan College, NYU, Pratt Institute, Sarah Lawrence College)

#5 Baltimore metro area, MD
(Goucher College, Johns Hopkins U, U of Maryland, McDaniel College, Towson U)

#6 Seattle-Tacoma metro area, WA
(Pacific Lutheran U, U of Puget Sound, Seattle Pacific U, Seattle U, U of Washington)

#7 Minneapolis-St. Paul metro area, MN
(Carleton College, Macalester College, U of Minnesota, St. Olaf College)

#8 Los Angeles-Long Beach metro area, CA
(Art Center College of Design, Cal Institute of Arts, California Lutheran College, Cal State Long Beach, Northridge and Los Angeles, UCLA, Chapman U, Claremont McKenna College, Harvey Mudd College, Loyola Marymount U, Mt. St. Mary's U, Occidental College, Pepperdine U, Pitzer College, Pomona College, U of Redlands, Scripps College, USC, Whittier College)

#9 Denver-Aurora metro area, CO
(U of Denver, Johnson & Wales U, Regis U)

#10 Houston metro area, TX
(Rice U, Texas Southern U, U of Houston)

#11 San Diego-La Jolla metro area, CA
(Alliant International U, Cal State San Marcos, Pt. Loma Nazarene U, San Diego State U, UC San Diego, U of San Diego)

#12 Philadelphia metro area, PA
(Bryn Mawr College, Drexel U, Haverford College, U of Pennsylvania, Swarthmore College, Temple U, Ursinus College, Villanova U)

#13 Dallas metro area, TX
(Dallas Baptist U, Southern Methodist U)

#14 Tampa-St. Petersburg metro area, FL
(Eckerd College, St. Petersburg College, U of South Florida, U of Tampa)

#15 Chicago metro area, IL
(Chicago State U, Columbia College, Illinois Institute of Art, Illinois Institute of Technology, Lake Forest College, Lexington College, Loyola U, Northeastern Illinois U, Northpark U, Roosevelt U, Chicago Art Institute, St. Xavier U, U of Chicago, U of Illinois, Chicago)

BEST MID-SIZED CITIES/SUBURBS FOR COLLEGE STUDENTS
#1 Santa Clara-Sunnyvale-San Jose, CA
(Cal State San Jose, Santa Clara U)

#2 Austin, TX
(Austin College, Concordia U, St. Edwards U, U of Texas)

#3 Raleigh-Cary, NC
(Meredith College, North Carolina State U, St. Augustine's U)

#4 Pittsburgh, PA
(Carnegie Mellon U, Duquesne U, U of Pittsburgh, Slippery Rock U, Washington & Jefferson U)

#5 Buffalo-Niagara Falls, NY
(Canisius College, Medaille College, SUNY Buffalo, U of Buffalo, Niagara U)

#6 Rochester, NY
(Nazareth College, Rochester Institute of Technology, U of Rochester)

#7 Nashville-Davidson-Murfreesboro, TN
(Aquinas College, Belmont U, Fisk U, Lipscomb U, Tennessee State U, Vanderbilt U)

#8 Columbus, OH
(Ohio Dominican U, Ohio State U)

#9 Hartford, CN
(Trinity College, U of Hartford, U of St. Joseph)

#10 Salt Lake City, UT
(U of Utah, Westminster College)

#11 Portland, OR
(George Fox U, Lewis & Clark College, Portland State U, U of Portland, Reed College)

#12 Milwaukee, WI
(Alverno College, Marquette U, Milwaukee School of Engineering, Mount Mary U, U of Wisconsin, Milwaukee)

#13 New Orleans, LA
(Dillard U, Loyola U, Tulane U)

#14 Oklahoma City
(Oklahoma City U, Oklahoma State U)

#15 Indianapolis, IN
(Butler U, Purdue U, Marian U, U of Indianapolis)

BEST SMALL TOWNS FOR COLLEGE STUDENTS
#1 Boulder, CO
(U of Colorado, Boulder, Naropa U)

#2 Durham, Chapel Hill, NC
(Duke U, North Carolina Central U, U of North Carolina, Chapel Hill)

#3 Ann Arbor, MI
(U of Michigan, Ann Arbor)

#4 Madison, WI
(Edgewood College, U of Wisconsin, Madison)

#5 Gainesville, FL
(U of Florida)

#6 Fort Collins, CO
(Colorado State U)

#7 Lincoln, NE
(Nebraska Wesleyan U, U of Nebraska)

#8 Bridgeport, CT
(U of Bridgeport)

#9 Trenton, NJ
(Thomas Edison State U)

#10 Huntsville, AL
(U of Alabama, Huntsville)

#11 Albany, NY
(College of St. Rose)

#12 Lansing, MI
(Michigan State U)

#13 Anchorage, AK
(Alaska Pacific U, U of Alaska)

#14 Omaha, NE
(College of St. Mary, Creighton U, U of Nebraska)

#15 Provo, UT
(Brigham Young U)

BEST COLLEGE TOWNS FOR COLLEGE STUDENTS
Just in case you don't know, a "college town" is a community--large or small--which is dominated by college students, people employed by and visiting the university and whose businesses often cater to college/university related people, sports and activities. Ann Arbor, Michigan is often cited as the epitome of a college town.

#1 Ithaca, NY
(Cornell U, Ithaca College)

#2 Ames, IA
(Iowa State U)

#3 Corvallis, OR
(Oregon State U)

#4 Iowa City, IA
(U of Iowa)

#5 State College, PA
(Pennsylvania State U)

#6 Fargo, ND
(North Dakota State U)

#7 Champaign-Urbana, IL
(U of Illinois)

#8 Columbia, MO
(U of Missouri)

#9 Missoula, MT
(U of Montana)

#10 College Station, TX
(Texas A & M U)

#11 Charlottesville, VA
(U of Virginia)

#12 Lafayette, IN
(Purdue U)

#13 Lawrence, KS
(U of Kansas)

#14 Fairbanks, AK
(U of Alaska, Fairbanks)

#15 Bloomington, IN
(Indiana U)

BEST COLLEGE CAMPUSES
Every student with whom I work completes my College Selection Questionnaire, a list of various characteristics offered by colleges and universities. Almost all students check an item that says "Beautiful, well-kept campus." Fortunately, this is a major element in the Business Insider's recent Best College Campuses list. If you're going to be particular about where a college is, why not make sure that the college campus itself is a great place to be. Here is that list of best college campuses:

#1 Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering (Needham, MA)
#2 Washington University (St. Louis, MO)
#3 Virginia Tech University (Blacksburg, VA)
#4 Whitman College (Walla Walla, WA)
#5 Claremont McKenna College (Claremont, CA)
#6 Southern Methodist University (Dallas, TX)
#7 Bowdoin College (Brunswick, ME)
#8 Pennsylvania State University (University Park, PA)
#9 Kansas State University (Manhattan, KA)
#10 Columbia University (New York City, NY)
#11 Rice University (Houston, TX)
#12 Scripps College (Claremont, CA)
#13 Clemson University (Clemson, SC)
#14 Sweet Briar College (Sweet Briar, VA)
#15 Yale University (New Haven, CN)
#16 US Military Academy (West Point, NY)
#17 Wabash College (Crawford, IN)
#18 Tulane University (New Orleans, LA)
#19 Vassar College (Poughkeepsie, NY)
#20 Northeastern University (Boston, MA)

In adMISSION POSSIBLE®, my book on college admissions, I say that when you see a college and/or its nearby city or town for the first time, your gut feeling about it is very important. The author, Malcolm Gladwell calls it the "blink" factor. That is, if you like (or don't like) the look and feel during the first few minutes you are there, you will probably feel the same about it from that point on.

For each college you consider, hopefully you will be able to visit it before you decide to attend. Ask yourself these questions:

  • Do I like the look and feel of this town or city?
  • Am I turned on by the look of the campus?
  • As I walk around, do I feel myself smiling and feeling comfortable with what I see?
  • Is the atmosphere friendly and inviting?
  • Do I feel excited by the prospect of spending four years here?

Finding a college campus and a city/town in which you are comfortable are key elements in choosing a college that is the best for you. Heads-up: my next blog is on the best college towns for food AND the colleges known for having the best food. I can't wait to share this with you!