Top 15 Best College Towns Ranking

A college town can be defined as a location or a place where the city’s identity is shaped by and complementary to the educational institution.

The neighborhoods are enjoyed by all of the residents, those who have matriculated students and those who are not.

In this article, we’ll be listing the best college towns in 2022; carefully read through!

What To Look Out For In A College Town

A true college town is where younger students connect with old traditions, and residents welcome and embrace all cultural, social, and political philosophies.

Here’s a rundown of things to look out for in a typical college town.

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1. Cost of Living

Cost is a significant factor when moving to another city — especially if you’re a college student. A recent survey by Temple University showed that more than one-third of college students find it difficult to cater to housing and food insecurity.

Because of this, our list of best college towns doesn’t contain places where the cost of living is above the national average.

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2. Off-Campus Housing

In most college towns, there’s a problem with limited housing available on campus. This trend has led students to look for houses off campus.

In this situation, students are given access to affordable and high-quality housing. Housing costs often rise with proximity to a university —Spielmann says apartments near his campus tend to be scarcer and more expensive. In his final year at Loyola Marymount, he lives a 30-minute walk from campus.

So, if you are considering a college town, you should also factor in the cost of housing

3. Culture and Community

College towns are cultural settings that are progressive and often have more educated residents. There are independent bookstores, coffee shops, record stores, and a greater presence of locally owned businesses. A strong sense of community is also essential. The more involved and active the surrounding community is on the college campus, the more likely the students will become involved in their communities.

This environment exposes students to more experiences through active participation in local events. Additionally, college towns offer many opportunities for students to learn about their city.

Whether you are living on campus or off campus, always make out time to visit a museum, check out an outdoor music festival, shop at the farmer’s market, or attend community events.

4. Convenience

The ability to conduct errands on foot or via public transportation is particularly important for younger students attending four-year colleges and living in college towns, as they may not have access to a car.

A college town should afford students the privilege of walking from one destination to another.

The distance between locations in a college town is key; the lesser time you spend moving from one destination to another or having to travel for daily activities, the more time you will have to study, relax, and experience college life.

5. Social Entertainment

College towns are known for their high level of excitement and social lifestyle.

For example, collegiate sporting events, whether football, basketball, baseball, or another athletic pastime, are frequently the talk of college towns. Furthermore, you will most likely see various college-hosted events, such as community service projects, social mixers, and music festivals. The local academic institution may have such a large impact on the community that finding social outlets that are not affiliated with the school becomes difficult.

6. Consumer Goods and Services

Before moving to a college town, ensure the surrounding area has things like a grocery store, pharmacy, summer storage facilities, and dry cleaning. Any town without one of these businesses could be a tough place to live in, considering their use by almost every student.

Here are the 15 Best College Towns in 2022

Our list of best college towns is selected based on the population of residents and students in the college town, cost of living, safety, and livability.

1. Madison, Wisconsin

Many things make Madison, Wisconsin, one of the best college towns. For one, Madison has an extensive network of biking, running, and walking trails, making it less difficult to get outside and enjoy all four seasons in Wisconsin.

Madison is a college town that never goes to sleep or falls short of activities. They usually host events like; farmers’ markets, music festivals, Art Fair on the Square, and Great Taste of the Midwest. Madison has a thriving craft beer scene and is renowned for its homemade custard and creamy cheeses.

Madison houses many colleges, including the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Edgewood College, Herzing University-Madison, and Madison Area Technical College.

2. Corvallis, Oregon

Corvallis, located in central western Oregon, is best known as the home of Oregon State University. It has six breweries and is only a one-hour drive from a dozen Willamette Valley wineries.

Corvallis has over 60 miles of biking trails and is considered a safe and accessible city for walkers, runners, and cyclists. This bustling college town regularly hosts farmers’ markets and music and beer festivals, meaning there’s no shortage of fun.

3. Manhattan, Kansas

Manhattan, Kansas, is home to Kansas State University. The city prides its prairie history with several cultural, historical, and environmental museums. For college students, Manhattan is one of the best college towns to live in, owing to its thriving arts and culture scene, which includes The Beach Museum of Fine Arts and the Flint Hills Discovery Center.

This small town’s walkability and accessible public transportation bonuses don’t hurt either.

4. Boulder, Colorado

Boulder, Colorado is one of the best college cities to live in, thanks to its booming economy, stunning mountain backdrop, and 300 days of sun a year. If you are studying at The University of Colorado at Boulder the town becomes exceptionally enjoyable because you get access to a historic college campus and city made of red brick, plus a vibrant school culture that loves sports and the arts.

5. Fayetteville, Arkansas

Arkansas may not be the first choice for college students looking for adventure, but Fayetteville will surprise you. The University of Arkansas has strong pride in this college town. You’ll also have access to natural beauty, such as Lake Fayetteville Park, the Botanical Garden of the Ozarks, and Kessler Mountain Regional Park.

This city is also adored for its age-long spots that feel like a step back in time, including a drive-in movie theater, and Terra Studios — a labyrinth of rock statues, glass sculptures, and pottery creations.

6. Charlottesville, Virginia

Charlottesville, Virginia has a rich academic history, particularly because it is home to the prestigious University of Virginia. Students in Charlottesville can explore the lively downtown for shopping, bars, and restaurants that stay open late.

Charlottesville is also close to the coveted Blue Ridge Parkway, which is popular with fall foliage enthusiasts. Days of adventure await those who want to explore nature after a long week of classes on the famous Appalachian Trail.

7. Ames, Iowa

The thriving Iowa State University campus is located in the beautiful town of Ames, Iowa. This small city packs a powerful punch with five-star hotels and dining, as well as stunning nightlife that college students adore. The vast size of Iowa State’s college campus makes you feel like you’re in a city; take a trip to Ames, and you’ll get much more than you bargained for.

According to Bankrate, Iowa is also known for its student-friendly transportation options and it has been recognized by the League of American Bicyclists as a Bicycle Friendly Community. For writers and creatives, Iowa City is a UNESCO City of Literature, and the city regularly hosts author events, writing workshops, and more.

8. Austin, Texas

Austin, Texas is best known for the University of Texas at Austin, but it is also home to St. Edward’s University and Concordia University Texas. This town is consistently ranked as one of the best college towns in Texas due to its abundance of culture and flavor.

There’s no shortage of delicious tacos in Austin, and the nearby Texas Hill Country watering holes make it easy to float through the hot days. Austin has a laid-back vibe and is full of artists and musicians, so creative types will feel right at home in this eclectic city with plenty of street art and live music to enjoy.

9. Ithaca, New York

It’s no surprise that Ithaca, New York, is consistently ranked as one of the best college towns in America. Ithaca is a lovely town with many parks, delicious restaurants, and a network of woods and gorges to swim and play in.

Ithaca is more like Pennsylvania or Minnesota than New York City, with plenty of farms and fields to enjoy. If you know you’d like to visit a larger city on occasion, New York City is only a four-hour drive away.

Cornell University and Ithaca College are two prestigious colleges in Ithaca.

10. Providence, Rhode Island

Providence, home to world-renowned colleges such as Brown University and the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD), is a city with a rich history and modern flair.

If you are looking for a northeastern college town with a beach and history. Providence is the ideal location.

11. Tuscaloosa, Alabama

Tuscaloosa, a cozy southern town with lakes, state parks, and museums, is a clear choice for our list of best college towns.

Students from the University of Alabama and Stillman College can enjoy a newly revitalized city with a bustling downtown, creative shops, and top-rated restaurants and drinking facilities to keep you fueled throughout your studies.

12. Chapel Hill, North Carolina

Did you know that the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill was the country’s first public university? Chapel Hill’s competitive admission rate reflects its rich history, and the town of Chapel Hill delivers for those who get in.

With a downtown strip that begs for a Sunday stroll and very little traffic (except on Tar Heels game days), this charming East Coast town offers an easygoing, quiet life.

13. Gainesville, Florida

Gainesville is one of the best small cities in all of Florida, and students at the University of Florida can testify. The small city is a perfect blend of everything you want in a college town.

Whether you want to try vegan ice cream, taste beer at a local brewery, visit local art galleries, or bike under live oaks dripping with moss, Gainesville has something for everyone.

14. Berkeley, California

Berkeley is a lovable city on its own, boasting a rich culture inspired by the Beat Generation and rock musicians in the 1970s.

It is the perfect place for a student who loves to cozy up at a coffee shop during the day and visit an underground poetry reading by night.

The University of California at Berkeley is located in the San Francisco metro area, making it easily accessible for everything you need.

15. Tempe, Arizona

Arizona State University is located in the unassuming small town of Tempe, Arizona. Many people neglect this town for Phoenix or Flagstaff, but Tempe is a nature lover’s haven.

Unlike Boston, Massachusetts, where there are dozens of colleges and universities. Tempe inspires residents to get out and explore, whether kayaking at Town Lake or hiking over Hayden Butte.

FAQs On Best College Towns

Is it good to live in a college town?

A large population of young and highly educated people makes college towns dynamic and intellectually stimulating places to call home. If you’re looking to expand your social circle, you’ll find no shortage of interesting people to connect with around the campus.

What does college town mean?

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) dominated by its university population.

Is there any disadvantage of living in a college town?

Yes, there are a few cons of living in a college town. One of which is the loudness of students and also the possibility of living close to students who belong to fraternities.

What makes up a college town?

A college town is usually known for its high population of students, affordable standard of living, high social lifestyle, affordable housing, and convenience, to name a few.


While college towns come in all sizes, from small enclaves of less than 10,000 to mega-metropolises of 1 million, if you opt for a smaller college town, you’ll find it easier to get to know your neighbors and make an impact on the community.


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