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10 Colleges With the Best Campus Life in America

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The college application season is in full swing, with students nationwide applying for admission, receiving acceptances, and making those big decisions about where they’ll spend the next few years. As a recent Florida State University grad, I remember being exactly where you are now – excited, a bit overwhelmed, and eager to find the right school.

Choosing a college isn’t just about academics; it’s also about finding a place where you can thrive, grow, and enjoy every moment. That’s why I wanted to talk about colleges with the best campus life in America today! Campus life is a big part of your overall college experience. It’s where friendships are formed, passions are discovered, and memories are made.

As you navigate this decision, you probably have lots of questions. One of the biggest? How much does campus life matter in choosing your college? Spoiler alert: it matters a lot! From the buzz of student activities to the comfort of dorm living, the vibrancy of campus life can make or break your college experience. So, let’s find out what makes for a great campus life and discover the top colleges where you can learn while living your best life!

Factors that contribute to a great campus life

Have you ever wondered what makes some colleges so full of life and energy? Let me tell you, it’s more than just the impressive buildings or the cool courses they offer. It’s something more – the heart of the campus. So, what exactly makes for an extraordinary campus life? I’ll break it down:

  • Diverse student activities: Picture this – a campus that’s always alive with something fun happening. From quirky clubs and societies to exciting sports events and student-led initiatives, these are the places where friendships are made and passions are discovered. There’s always something new to try or a group that shares your interests, making every day a new adventure.
  • Quality campus amenities: Think modern libraries, state-of-the-art fitness centers, and creative spaces that spark your imagination. These aren’t just “nice-to-haves”; they’re essentials for campus life, offering you the tools and spaces to balance your studies with health and hobbies.
  • Comfortable and safe housing: Your dorm isn’t just a place to crash; it’s your home away from home. It’s about having a cozy, secure spot that supports your college journey, where you can relax, study, and build your own little community. Especially if you’re a homebody like me, this is a huge factor to consider!
  • Community engagement: Exceptional campuses aren’t isolated but deeply connected to their local communities. Whether it’s through volunteering, internships, or cultural events, engaging with the world outside the campus gates can be incredibly enriching and eye-opening.
  • Inclusive environment: Here’s a big one – a campus that celebrates diversity and fosters inclusivity isn’t just a nice place to be but essential. It’s about feeling valued and understood, regardless of your background, and learning from a variety of perspectives.
  • Supportive resources: Life at college can be a rollercoaster, right? That’s why access to solid support – from mental health services to career guidance and academic help – can make all the difference. These resources are your safety net, ensuring you’re never alone in your journey.

Keep these things in mind as we explore the best college campuses. They’re the secret ingredients that turn a good college into a great one. But the best college? It’s the one that feels right for you, aligning with your dreams and aspirations. So, let’s find your perfect match!

Colleges with the best campus life

1. University of California, Los Angeles

  • Star rating: 4.7/5
  • Location and size: UCLA is situated in Los Angeles’ vibrant Westwood district. This prestigious university is one of the largest in California, with a student population of over 44,000.
  • Student activities: Life at UCLA is dynamic, with over 1,000 student organizations. Signature events like the Spring Sing and the JazzReggae Festival reflect the university’s strong emphasis on arts and culture. Sports also play a big role, with the Bruins being a force to reckon with in collegiate athletics.
  • Campus amenities: The campus offers state-of-the-art facilities, including the John Wooden Center for fitness and the Sunset Canyon Recreation Center. The UCLA Hammer Museum and the Botanical Garden showcase their commitment to cultural enrichment and environmental awareness.
  • Housing: UCLA offers a variety of housing options, from classic residence halls to modern suites and apartments. 
  • Community engagement: UCLA’s commitment to community engagement is evident through initiatives like Volunteer Day and the UCLA Community School.

The University of California, Los Angeles, is renowned for its academic and cultural excellence. Located in one of the world’s most dynamic cities, it offers students the perfect blend of top-tier education and a rich, diverse campus life. UCLA’s strong emphasis on community engagement and student-led initiatives fosters a sense of belonging and purpose. The university’s diverse range of academic programs and extracurricular activities ensures that every student has the opportunity to pursue their passions. UCLA is not just a place to learn but to grow, explore, and make lasting impacts.

2. University of Michigan, Ann Arbor

  • Star rating: 4.6/5
  • Location and size: The University of Michigan boasts a large student population in the picturesque town of Ann Arbor.
  • Student activities: Michigan offers over 1,500 student organizations, from the famous Michigan Marching Band to diverse cultural clubs; there’s an activity for every interest. The university’s sports culture is also prominent, with the Wolverines being a central part of campus life.
  • Campus amenities: The campus features impressive amenities, including the impressive Intramural Sports Building and the stunning Hill Auditorium for performances. The University of Michigan Museum of Art and the Nichols Arboretum are prime examples of the university’s dedication to cultural and natural spaces.
  • Housing: A wide range of housing options are available, from traditional dormitories to modern apartments. 
  • Community engagement: The University of Michigan offers lots of outreach and service programs in Ann Arbor, such as the Ginsberg Center, to promote civic engagement and social change.

The University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, is more than just an institution; it’s a community where education meets real-world experiences. Its huge campus is a hub for academic excellence and groundbreaking research. With a diverse student body and numerous extracurricular options, every student finds their place. If you’re looking for a university that values community and tradition and is committed to innovation, this could be the school for you! Students are not only educated here but also inspired to make a difference.

3. Pennsylvania State University

  • Star rating: 4.6/5
  • Location and size: Located in State College, also known as “Happy Valley,” Penn State is one of the largest universities in the U.S., with a student population of over 46,000. 
  • Student activities: Home to more than 1,000 student organizations, Penn State is famous for THON, the largest student-run philanthropy in the world. The school’s athletic spirit is also unmatched, especially during football season.
  • Campus amenities: The university offers outstanding amenities, including the HUB-Robeson Center and the Bryce Jordan Center. The campus also features extensive recreational facilities and cutting-edge learning centers.
  • Housing: Penn State provides a range of housing options, from traditional dormitories to special living-learning communities, where students with similar academic interests live and study together.
  • Community engagement: The university is deeply committed to community service, with numerous programs focused on civic engagement and outreach. 

Pennsylvania State University offers a quintessential college experience with a perfect blend of academic rigor and a lively campus atmosphere. There’s a lot of tradition here, and the Nittany Lion pride is evident in every corner of the campus. From exciting athletic events to impactful philanthropic endeavors, Penn State fosters a sense of unity and purpose among its students. There are tons of clubs and organizations at the university, so everyone can grow and get involved. At Penn State, students are like family, united by a shared spirit and a commitment to serve.

4. University of Washington, Seattle

  • Star rating: 4.6/5
  • Location and size: The University of Washington is based in Seattle and boasts more than 47,000 students. With views of the Cascades and Olympic Mountains, the campus offers the perfect mix of urban excitement and natural beauty.
  • Student activities: The university has over 900 student organizations, from academic clubs to outdoor groups. Husky spirit is especially evident at athletic events, bringing students together.
  • Campus amenities: UW has exceptional facilities, including the Husky Union Building for student activities and the impressive IMA Building for fitness and wellness. The campus is also home to the Burke Museum and the Meany Center for the Performing Arts.
  • Housing: Various housing options are available at UW, from traditional residence halls to modern apartment complexes. 
  • Community engagement: The University of Washington is known for its strong ties to the Seattle community, with numerous initiatives like the Carlson Leadership & Public Service Center.

The University of Washington, Seattle, offers academic excellence and an exciting campus life. There’s so much opportunity for learning and growth at the university. UW encourages students to engage actively with the world around them through research and innovation. Each student can find their community on this lively campus full of cultural, athletic, and social activities. With countless opportunities to explore, engage, and make a lasting impact, the journey is just as important as the destination at UW.

5. University of Georgia

  • Star rating: 4.5/5
  • Location and size: In Athens, Georgia, UGA is known for its historic and charming campus atmosphere. It’s a large university, hosting approximately 38,000 students.
  • Student activities: UGA supports over 800 student organizations, including a robust Greek system, cultural clubs, and various special interest groups. During football season, the Bulldog Nation comes alive with school spirit.
  • Campus amenities: The university features world-class facilities such as the Ramsey Center, one of the nation’s largest student recreational facilities, the Tate Student Center, the Performing Arts Center, and the Georgia Museum of Art.
  • Housing: UGA’s housing system offers a mix of traditional dorms, suite-style living, and apartment options, catering to varying preferences. 
  • Community engagement: UGA strongly emphasizes service and community engagement, with a number of initiatives and programs encouraging students to get involved.

The University of Georgia prides itself on academic excellence and an active campus life. UGA offers a rich, dynamic student experience that seamlessly blends tradition and innovation. From its exciting athletic events to diverse cultural activities, the school provides an environment where students can thrive academically and socially. The campus buzzes with energy, fueled by a passionate student body and a strong sense of community. Georgia students are part of a legacy that champions societal impact and personal growth.

6. Florida State University

  • Star rating: 4.5/5
  • Location and size: FSU boasts an expansive and picturesque campus in Tallahassee, Florida. With over 41,000 students, it strikes a perfect balance between a large university feel and a close-knit community vibe.
  • Student activities: FSU has an abundance of activities, from the renowned Marching Chiefs band to over 700 student organizations. Unique traditions like the Homecoming Pow Wow and the circus ensure that there’s never a dull moment. And yes, you read that right, FSU’s Flying High Circus is something every student must see once!
  • Campus amenities: There is no shortage of amenities at FSU. The Leach Center offers top-notch fitness facilities, while the Oglesby Union is a hub for student life, featuring various dining options and entertainment. The campus is also home to the Museum of Fine Arts.
  • Housing: The university provides a range of housing options, from traditional dorms to suite-style living. 
  • Community engagement: FSU is deeply connected to the Tallahassee community with programs like The Big Event, where students volunteer citywide.

Florida State University, located in the heart of Tallahassee, is known for its academic excellence and spirited campus life. The university’s large campus is filled with culture, arts, and sports, making it an ideal environment for students seeking a well-rounded college experience. With its diverse student body and countless activities, there’s a place for everyone here. And let’s be real, I might be a bit biased as an alum, but FSU genuinely offers an experience that’s both academically enriching and incredibly fun. It’s where you can grow, learn, and enjoy a truly unforgettable college journey.

7. University of Texas, Austin

  • Star rating: 4.5/5
  • Location and size: Located in Austin, Texas, this university has over 50,000 students. 
  • Student activities: UT Austin offers over 1,300 organizations and clubs for students. From the legendary Texas Longhorns spirit to a wide array of cultural and special interest groups, the university presents a rich and varied college experience.
  • Campus amenities: The campus has top-notch facilities like the Gregory Gymnasium and the Texas Union. The Blanton Museum of Art and the Harry Ransom Center highlight the university’s commitment to cultural enrichment.
  • Housing: Housing options at UT Austin range from traditional dorms to apartment-style living, all designed to cater to students’ diverse needs and preferences. 
  • Community engagement: UT Austin is deeply rooted in its community engagement efforts with programs like The Project, an annual day of service, and partnerships with local organizations.

The University of Texas at Austin reflects the vibrant city it calls home. This large campus blends ideas, cultures, and ambitions, making it a popular college destination. The university fosters a dynamic and inclusive environment with rigorous academic programs and various extracurricular activities. Students at UT Austin become part of a community dedicated to innovation, diversity, and social impact. It’s a place where students are encouraged to challenge the status quo and make their mark on the world.

8. University of Florida

  • Star rating: 4.5/5
  • Location and size: Based in Gainesville, Florida, UF is a major public research university with over 52,000 students. 
  • Student activities: UF is home to more than 1,000 student organizations, including numerous sports clubs, cultural societies, and academic groups. Gator spirit is a significant part of campus life, especially evident during athletic events.
  • Campus amenities: The university presents impressive amenities, including the Southwest Recreation Center and the Harn Museum of Art. The Reitz Union is a central spot for students, with lots of services and spaces.
  • Housing: UF provides many housing options, from classic residence halls to suite-style living. 
  • Community engagement: UF is dedicated to community service through programs like Gators Volunteer.

Although they are my alma mater’s biggest rival, I can’t deny the University of Florida’s innovative and traditional atmosphere. With so many opportunities for involvement and leadership, UF students enjoy a diverse and inclusive environment. Students are prepared for meaningful careers and civic responsibilities through the university’s emphasis on research and community engagement. Gator pride goes beyond athletics; it’s about belonging to a community that values excellence, diversity, and making a positive impact.

9. University of Colorado, Boulder

  • Star rating: 4.5/5
  • Location and size: Located in Boulder, Colorado, this large public research university has over 35,000 students and spectacular views.
  • Student activities: UC Boulder offers over 500 student organizations and clubs. Notable traditions here include Colorado Buffaloes’ games, which are central to the college experience.
  • Campus amenities: The campus features modern amenities like the Recreation Center, which has a climbing wall and wellness programs, and the Memorial Center, which houses various services and eateries.
  • Housing: Housing options range from traditional dorms to themed living communities, catering to diverse student interests and needs. 
  • Community engagement: UC Boulder is deeply engaged with its local community, facilitating numerous volunteer and service-learning opportunities. 

Set against the stunning Rocky Mountains, the University of Colorado, Boulder, offers a dynamic and engaging campus experience. Here, academics meet outdoor adventure, and students can explore their passions both inside and outside the classroom, which sounds pretty awesome to me! Students at the university are forward-thinking and environmentally conscious thanks to the university’s commitment to sustainability and innovation. UC Boulder’s strong sense of community and diverse involvement opportunities make for an enriching college experience.

10. University of Wisconsin, Madison

  • Star rating: 4.4/5
  • Location and size: Nestled between two lakes in Madison, Wisconsin, this university is known for its scenic beauty and sizable student population, housing over 45,000 students. 
  • Student activities: UW-Madison is home to over 900 student organizations, including an active Greek life, professional societies, and numerous special interest groups. The Wisconsin Union Directorate brings students together through a range of cultural, social, and recreational programs.
  • Campus amenities: The campus features excellent facilities like the Nicholas Recreation Center, Chazen Museum of Art, and Memorial Union Terrace. The Union South is another hot spot for student activities.
  • Housing: On-campus housing at UW-Madison offers a variety of options, from traditional residence halls to learning communities; the emphasis is on creating a home away from home.
  • Community engagement: The university has a strong tradition of community involvement, with initiatives like the Morgridge Center for Public Service.

The University of Wisconsin, Madison, transcends higher education, integrating life experiences and academics. With a picture-perfect setting, the university’s research-driven approach and diverse student life make it a great place to study. Students will find endless opportunities to explore their interests, make lasting connections, and contribute to a larger cause. Here, tradition meets innovation, and students are encouraged to pursue their passions.

How to choose the right college campus

Picking the right college is a major decision because let’s be real, it’s where you’ll be spending the next four years. Speaking from experience, campus life is a big piece of that puzzle and you should do your research. Of course, the classes are important, but you also need to consider where you’ll be living, who you’ll be hanging out with, and what you’ll be doing in your free time. Here are my top recommendations:

  • Identify your priorities: First, think about what you love doing. Do you want to make new friends and attend every event you can? Maybe you’re a nature lover who needs easy access to trails and mountains. Or are you looking for a place with clubs and groups that match your interests? Jot down what’s at the top of your list. For me, I was eager to make new friends and participate in Greek life.
  • Consider location and size: Location, location, location! Do you see yourself navigating busy city streets or taking it easy on a more laid-back, rural campus? Also, think size – a massive university with thousands of students or a smaller, more intimate college vibe? Everyone has their preferences!
  • Explore student activities and organizations: Whether you’re a future athlete, artist, or activist, finding a college with the right clubs and societies is key. These groups are where you’ll make some of your best college memories, so make sure your college has what you’re passionate about.
  • Check out campus amenities: Good food, a cool library, artsy spots, or a gym that doesn’t skimp on equipment – these amenities can be game changers. If you can, take a campus tour (even virtually) to see what they offer. You’ll be amazed at some of the facilities provided.
  • Examine housing options: Your dorm is going to be your home away from home. Some colleges have modern suite-style rooms, while others offer cozy, traditional halls. Think about where you’ll hit the books, chill out, and catch those Zzz’s.
  • Look into community engagement opportunities: If you’re into volunteering or getting involved in local projects, look for a college with strong ties to its community. It’s a great way to do some good and get real-world experience.
  • Talk to current students or grads: There’s nothing like getting the scoop from someone who’s already been there. Chat with current students or alumni to get their take on what it’s really like.
  • Consider your academic goals: Of course, the main focus is still your studies. Make sure the college is strong in your chosen field. You want a place that’ll push you to be your best.
  • Visit campuses when possible: Try to visit the colleges on your list. As you walk around the campus, you’ll get a feel for the school and whether it feels right. I highly recommend touring your top schools and seeing everything in person, it was an eye-opener for me!
  • Trust your gut: At the end of the day, go with a place that feels like you. If it feels right in your gut, it probably is.

Choosing a college is a big decision, but it’s also an exciting one. There’s something special about every school on this list, but the best campus for you is one where you feel connected, challenged, and happy. It’s where you’ll find friends who become family and experiences that turn into stories you’ll tell for years to come.

Embrace this time of exploration and discovery. Visit campuses, talk to current students, and listen to your heart. Your perfect college experience is out there waiting for you. And remember, college is what you make of it. No matter where you go, your enthusiasm, openness to new experiences, and willingness to step out of your comfort zone will define your college life. Good luck!

Can’t decide which college major to pursue? Check out our expert guide on how to choose a college major.