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The Best College Town Rankings in the US and Why

written by: Kate Henschel•edited by: Wendy Finn•updated: 12/9/2011

College towns range from sleepy little towns tucked away in the country to huge metropolises. A college town offers a key part of the college experience, so it's important that the location of your future school has everything you're looking for and is a good fit for your interests...

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    There are many top 10 lists out there for the best college town rankings, but it really comes down to personal opinion. The rankings can take into account many criteria, such as cost of living, arts and leisure, and job opportunities following graduation. We'll take a look at some of the top college cities and towns in these categories.

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    Big Cities

    Big cities seem to have it all - lots of activities, museums, public transportation, great nightlife. They also offer many opportunities for students, such as internships and the ability to do some serious networking. Some top college metro areas (over 2.5 million inhabitants) are:

    1. Boston - With nearly 20 colleges in Boston itself, including Boston University, and MIT and Harvard just around the corner, Boston is one of the best college cities. They have great public transportation, and the city is overflowing with history. There are many research opportunities, and Boston is leader in fields such as medicine and technology.

    2. New York City - Chances are good that if you are looking for something, you will find it in New York City. With colleges for anything from interior design to theology to fashion in addition to big names like Columbia, NYC has got it all.

    3. Washington, D.C. - Our nation's capital is also great for students. Not only are the Smithsonian Museums free, but many of the world's top international organizations and government agencies are located in D.C. This allows students to find many interesting internships and gain unmatched experience.

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    Small Towns

    If big cities aren't your thing, many smaller cities have a lot to offer as well. The cost of living is usually lower than in big metro areas, and the smaller community may be safer than a big urban city. Plus, the small-town feel is something that can't easily be replicated elsewhere.

    1. Boulder, Colorado - Home to the main campus of the University of Colorado, Boulder is perfect for those who love the outdoors. The immense amounts of green space allow students the opportunity to go skiing, hiking, and rock climbing.

    2. Gainesville, Florida - Famous for its live music, Gainesville is a thriving college town. Even in this less-than-stellar economy, Gainesville's student population is helping to keep its economy vibrant. If you're into sports, the University of Florida Gators has great football and basketball teams.

    3. Athens, Georgia - Athens is known for its beautiful botanical gardens and killer music scene (the B-52s and R.E.M. got their start here). Also home to the University of Georgia, the downtown area is full of independently-owned coffee shops and restaurants.

    If you're looking for even smaller towns, be sure to check out Ithaca, New York, State College, Pennsylvania, and Ames, Iowa.

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    Best College Towns for Recent Grads

    All recent grads have one thing on their mind: finding a job. After spending four or more years building a life and relationships in a city or town, many graduates would like to stick around to find a job nearby. Many universities, especially research universities, have a lot of job opportunities for recent grads, and many companies set up branches near colleges in order to nab bright young employees fresh out of college. Some of the most promising college towns are:

    1. Charlottesville, Virginia: The University of Virginia employs 12.7% of the nearby community, and they've been creating more and more jobs recently.

    2. Seattle, Washington - With an employment increase of 2.19%, Seattle may be a great option for those wishing to live in a big city and potentially find a job after graduation.

    3. Oklahoma City - Several large universities in this college town have created jobs even during this economic crisis, and employment is up 1.51%.

    Employment is also up in College Station, Texas, Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and Durham, North Carolina.

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    College Towns Everywhere

    There are so many college towns in the US, and the ones mentioned above only make up a very small percentage of them. Be sure to look at all the college towns that interest you to see what is offered. The best college town rankings offer only a small insight into what is available, so don't rely on them. Try to visit the campus to get a feel for the location and town before you make your decision.

    References:

    Bocquet, Greg. "The Best College Towns in America." http://www.mainstreet.com/slideshow/career/students/gen-y/best-college-towns-america

    Livability Staff. "Top 10 College Towns: Great Cities for School & Life After Graduation." http://www.livability.com/top-10-college-towns

    MSN Travel. "Travel to America's Best College Towns." http://guides.travel.msn.com//Guides/MSNTravelSlideShow.aspx?cp-documentid=1088261&imageindex=1

    Woolsey, Matt. "Top College Towns for Jobs." http://www.forbes.com/2009/05/19/college-towns-jobs-lifestyle-real-estate-jobs.html