Choosing a college is a lot more than picking a school. It’s deciding where you want to live for the next four years — not something to be taken lightly.
To make things easier, the American Institute for Economic Research compiled a list of the country’s top college towns, based on seven quality-of-student-life variables and four preparation-for-work factors. The AIER defines college towns as having a total population of less than 250,000 and does not include colleges or universities in large cities.
The study also put together rankings of the best major, midsize and small metro areas that are home to colleges. Boulder, Colorado, snagged the top spot for small metro area, followed by Durham, North Carolina, and Ann Arbor, Michigan. San Jose, California, was No. 1 for midsize metro area, while San Francisco was the top choice for major metro area.
While classroom learning is a fundamental part of college, a school’s location is also a crucial component of the college experience. “The people students meet, the places they go, and the jobs they made hold are essential supplements to formal education,” the report says.
Rosalind Greenstein, director of research and education at AIER, thinks that accessibility is critical for a good college town. “It helps to have campuses where you can take classes during the day, and walk to a variety of small shops and restaurants,” Greenstein wrote in an email.
What doesn’t make a good college town? “When the college is located in an office park,” Greenstein wrote.