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Last updated: March 16, 2023 • Education Advice

Explore College Towns That Are Hidden Gems

Boulder, CO, Ann Arbour, MI, and Ithaca, NY, are undoubtedly the best college cities in the United States. Every parent wants the best education for their children and will consider sending them to these beautiful and nationally acclaimed places. However, let’s face it, application fees and tuition costs can be way too hefty for a smaller household budget. 

But fear not! We’ll bring you the best small college towns and hidden gems that are viable alternatives to these renowned but overcrowded best college cities. 

Table of contents:

The best small college towns are at arm’s length from you!

teenagers young team together

This article will cover the best college towns to live in. Our picks are often located in the best states for education in the States. However, colleges in relatively unknown towns deliver excellent educational curricula and top-notch facilities. Plus, regularly, they are more reasonably priced than their best college cities counterparts. So, let’s “sharpen our pencils” and explore the best college towns in the south and the best college towns in the west tailored to your budget! 

Suppose you are considering relocating with your family to a new city. And it goes without saying you are interested in regional schools, colleges, and universities. In that case, the safest bet would be contacting the local professionals by finding a real estate agent to bring you up to speed with good schools in your area!

The joys of years spent in small college towns will last forever!

group university students working

We describe “a small town” as a city of 100,000 or fewer residents, where the institution is a driving factor in the town’s identity and life. Undeniably, life in the prettiest college towns has a certain allure. Before the hassle of the exam period, you can spend lazy days on campus endlessly. Then, you can enjoy homemade ice cream downtown with your posse. 

Discover the perks of the prettiest college towns out there!

Let’s not forget the exhilaration of game day accentuated by school colors covering the city streets! Supporting the local college team can be fun and defines a select community. Similarly, you can rub shoulders with tomorrow’s leaders over a latte at the local coffee shop. The best college towns to live in can be fantastic places to study. 

Often, high-school graduates will shrug their shoulders to moving to small college towns instead of big-city ivy-league universities. Still, they must understand that the best small college towns will offer the same amount of opportunities and camaraderie with their classmates. All in all, the best small college towns are idyllic places to thrive and collect memories of a lifetime! Moving to and living in a great metropolis can be a hassle, anyway. 

Which are the best college towns in the south?

Can exploring small college towns in the south be fun? There’s something uniquely refreshing and soothing in discovering the best college towns in the south. Delightful shops, lovely historic venues, and districts will brighten your day! People visiting the best college towns in the south will enjoy the southern hospitality that goes hand in hand with spicy southern cuisine and passionate football season.

Flagler College in St. Augustine, Florida

st augustine cityscape floria

St. Augustine is one of those charming US towns you must see at least once in a lifetime. Not only does it feature countless historical monuments, old homes with uniquely beautiful Spanish architecture, and fascinating museums. It also hosts one of the most prestigious colleges in the Sunshine State, the one and only Flagler College. 

The 16:1 student-to-teacher ratio is excellent. Since there are many pristine beaches in the neighborhood (for instance, Crescent, St. Augustine, and Butler Beach), many classes are held open-air. Besides, Flagler College is eco-conscious and developed a fantastic coastal environmental science program! 

Formative years are exceptional in the small college town due to student-friendly hotspots like The Bunnery Bakery and Café, Burrito Works Taco Shop, and the trendy boutiques on Hypolita Street. Expert local realtors in St. Augustine FL, will confirm that their little community is one of the best college towns in the south!

Hendrix College and University of Central Arkansas in Conway, Arkansas

conway arkansas university

On your journey to uncover Arkansas’ hidden gems, we recommend you stop by Conway (population about 66,000)! One of the prettiest college towns in the south is home to the private Hendrix College and the prestigious University of Central Arkansas. You can also attend the Thunder Road Grand Prix, Cadron Settlement Park, and Baum Gallery at UCA! Expert local real estate agents in Conway Arkansas, will convince you that these fine establishments are more than their town’s only must-see places.

Students at Hendrix College, founded in 1876, can organize and devise their own degrees. More precisely, they can select and connect courses of their choice. On the other hand, the University of Central Arkansas, enrolling over 11,00 students yearly, is one of the most reputable public institutions in the state. It comprises six colleges, the most famous being the College of Fine Arts and Communication, Natural Sciences and Mathematics, and Liberal Arts.

So, if you’re not afraid of haunted houses in Arkansas, give Conway a chance because it most definitely qualifies as one of the best college towns in the south!

Give the best college towns in the west a shot!

Choose the best college towns in the west if you’re fond of the urban environments but looking for a change of scenery for your higher education. The best western hidden gems offer a unique combination of mountains and city life. Still, they are free of noise, pollution, and traffic. 

You won’t spend your formative years in close-knit communities here. Instead, you’ll have exposure to countless new ideas and influences. Broaden your horizon at performing arts centers, galleries, and music festivals!

University of Redlands in Redlands, California

redlands california university

You’ll find Redlands in Southern California close to San Bernardino and in the middle of Los Angeles and Palm Springs. The picturesque city is known for its Victorian architecture, gorgeous orange groves, Redlands Bowl, and Lincoln Memorial Shrine. Did you know Redlands is one of those cities hosting America’s best farmers’ markets?

Its private university was founded in 1907 but rapidly became one of the top-ranking universities on the west coast. One of the university’s most famous academic programs is the Department of Communication Disorders. Students receive eco-conscious training in green buildings that they can put into practice, especially on the yearly Recycle Day. Besides, they can attend special university-sponsored outdoor recreational programs, such as kayaking, surfing, quidditch, and hot-air ballooning. 

St. Mary’s College of California in Moraga, CA

church tower st marys university

Few have heard about Moraga (population 17,000,) one of the best college towns in the west. The city is in the San Francisco Bay Area and showcases numerous tourist attractions. First of all, we recommend you explore the mindblowing Redwood Trail. Then, visit the students’ favorite hangout destination, “The Commons.” The park hosts a bocce ball pit, skating domes, an open-air theater, and a frisbee golf course. Plus, you can see the most astonishing sunset from the top of the Oakland Hills!

Founded in 1863, St. Mary’s College is a private institution just a 30-minute drive from San Francisco. The college offers students many perks. For instance, they provide internships at huge San Francisco and Silicon Valley companies. Additionally, they provide graduate and undergraduate programs in various domains, such as arts, business administration, humanities, sciences, and education.

Locate the best college towns in the northeast!

The northeast is home to many of the country’s best college cities and institutions, ranging from prominent public research universities to tiny private liberal arts colleges. The best college towns in the northeast have a lot to offer potential college students, with their rich histories, delightful campuses, and challenging academic programs. Did you know that the northeast is known for hosting eight Ivy League institutions? 

Let’s see which best college towns in the northeast give Amherst, MA, Fredonia, NY, West Chester, PA, and Cambridge, MA, a run for their money!

Binghamton University in Binghamton, New York

rain clouds darked

Binghamton (population 48,000) has a thriving local economy with such top national employers as Universal Instruments, IBM, and Lockheed Martin. More than that, the town has become an important cultural center with the famous First Friday Art Walks, a series of events celebrating art life with gallery exhibits and musical performances. 

Binghamton is certainly one of the best college towns in the northeast! Suppose this didn’t convince you to move to this hidden gem. Then, local real estate agents in Binghamton NY, will inform you about the must-see places in “The Carousel Capitol of the World.” For instance, you can visit the Binghamton Philharmonic, Binghamton Zoo, Roberson Museum and Science Center, and Bundy Museum of History and Art, to name only a few. 

Did you know that Binghamton University (founded in 1946) is the highest-rated public university in New York State, built on academics and cutting-edge research? The institution welcomes students on 64 campuses, including Community Colleges, University Centers, University Colleges, Doctoral Degree Institutions, and Technology Colleges.

University of Connecticut in Storrs, Connecticut

storrs ct university usa september

Storrs, CT (population 16,000) is absolutely one of the prettiest college towns in the northeast. Its small size shouldn’t mislead you, though! You wouldn’t believe how many cultural, scientific, and artistic events and venues this vibrant community offers! 

For example, students love the Jorgensen Center for the Performing Arts and the William Benton Museum of Art. They also are fascinated with The Adventure Park at Storrs. These key highlights make Storr one of the best college towns to live in (not only during college years). 

UCONN is impressive, hosting fourteen colleges and schools and over 115 undergraduate majors and degrees. In addition, it provides undergraduate research programs and grants, like UConn IDEA Grants, Education Abroad, Summer Undergraduate Research Fund,  or the Honors Program.


Suppose you’re looking for fine establishments to broaden your knowledge and skills and get a universally-acknowledged degree. In that case, the United States offers plenty of private and public college and university education opportunities. By all means, high-school graduates are hyped to go to the best college cities in New York, Boston, Philadelphia, and Washington. However, the best college towns to live in differ from these major cities! Students are exposed to countless distractions, noise, and pollution. Furthermore, the cost of living and education expenses will skyrocket.

On the other hand, the best small college towns provide almost the same perks as their big-city counterparts, albeit at a more reasonable price. Storrs, CT, Binghamton, NY, Redlands, CA, and Conway, AR, are the prettiest college towns out there, and they’re unspoiled by human meddling. 

Firstly, their colleges and universities offer the same learning facilities, access to educational tools, and acclaimed graduate and undergraduate degrees. Students will have better chances to acquire information and knowledge because the student-teacher ratio is more advantageous than in major cities. Secondly, life on campus in these best small college towns won’t be crowded. Yet, the sense of community and bonds will be even tighter.

Would you choose a big-shot college city over the best small college towns? Which are your favorite best college towns to live in and why? If you enjoyed reading this piece, hit that like button, and share the article on your social!


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