The 15 Best College Towns and Cities in America

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College students riding bicycles in a city
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You don’t need to be an honors student to know that location greatly affects a student’s choice of college.

Some want to be far enough away from home that Mom and Dad can’t just drop by on a Tuesday, but close enough to return for holidays or long weekends. Some want a college that thrums with the heartbeat of a bustling metropolis, where internships with major companies are nearby. Others want a spot where you can wander the entire downtown in an afternoon and Saturday football is the big event.

For its 2021’s Best College Towns & Cities in America report, personal finance data site WalletHub analyzed more than 400 municipalities of varying sizes in the U.S.

It evaluated them on 30 key indicators of academic, social and economic opportunities for students. It also looked at crime rates and cost of living, even examining the cost of a night of bowling and the number of food trucks per capita. Then, WalletHub gave each city and town an overall score and ranked them accordingly.

The town that nabbed their No. 1 ranking may not be the best choice for everyone, but this is a useful ranking for students and parents wrestling with this major decision.

Here are the top 15.

15. Storrs, Connecticut

african american female university student sitting campus laptop
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Total score: 56.82 out of 100 points

Storrs, Connecticut, isn’t as well-known as many places on this list, but since it’s home to the University of Connecticut, this town does college with a capital C.

14. Orlando, Florida

University of Central Florida
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Total score: 56.84 out of 100 points

Orlando is home to the enormous University of Central Florida, which boasts more than 71,000 students, making it the largest university in the state.

Don’t think this means Orlando is just for the young, however. WalletHub also has ranked it the best U.S. city for retirees, as we reported in “The 10 Best Places to Retire in 2020.”

13. Princeton, New Jersey

Princeton University
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Total score: 56.86 out of 100 points

Princeton is home to the Ivy League’s Princeton University, as well as higher-education institutions ranging from Westminster Choir College to Princeton Theological Seminary.

12. College Station, Texas

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Total score: 56.87 out of 100 points

The city of College Station, Texas, owes its name to the flagship campus of Texas A&M University, originally the Agricultural and Mechanical College of Texas. Country singer Lyle Lovett attended A&M and has reminisced how his dream of being a musician was nurtured there.

11. Seattle

University of Washington
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Total score: 57.11 out of 100

Colleges located in Seattle include the University of Washington, Seattle Pacific University and Seattle University.

10. Scottsdale, Arizona

Old Town Scottsdale in Scottsdale, Arizona
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Total score: 57.37 out of 100

Scottsdale is home to Scottsdale Community College (whose mascot, incidentally, is Artie, the artichoke) and Arizona’s branch of the Mayo Clinic School of Medicine.

9. Cambridge, Massachusetts

Rowing on Charles River, Harvard & Cambridge, Massachusetts
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Total score: 57.51 out of 100 points

Colleges located in Cambridge include two Ivy League schools, Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

8. Gainesville, Florida

Jillian Cain Photography /

Total score: 57.87 out of 100 points

Gainesville is home to the University of Florida as well as Santa Fe College.

7. Rexburg, Idaho

Mormon Temple in Rexburg Idaho
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Total score: 57.9 out of 100 points

Rexburg is home to Brigham Young University-Idaho.

6. Raleigh, North Carolina

Raleigh, North Carolina
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Total score: 57.9 out of 100 points

Raleigh is home to North Carolina State University.

5. Ithaca, New York

Cornell University
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Total score: 57.95 out of 100 points

Ithaca, New York, is the home of Cornell University as well as Ithaca College.

4. Irvine, California

Irvine, California
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Total score: 58.25 out of 100 points

Irvine is home to the University of California, Irvine, and Irvine Valley College, among others.

3. Provo, Utah

LaVell Edwards Stadium is an outdoor athletic stadium in Provo, Utah, on the campus of Brigham Young University (BYU) and is home field of the BYU Cougars
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Total score: 58.68 out of 100 points

Provo, Utah, is the base of Brigham Young University.

2. Austin, Texas

The University of Texas in Austin
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Total score: 62.25 out of 100 points

Colleges located in the capital of Texas include the University of Texas at Austin and St. Edward’s University.

1. Ann Arbor, Michigan

University of Michigan football stadium
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Total score: 62.92 out of 100

Ann Arbor is the home base of the University of Michigan.

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