We’ve lived enough places to know we wanted to settle in a college town and here are my top ten reasons why.
A couple of years ago, when we moved to the middle of Oklahoma, all my friends back in Richmond, VA thought we were crazy. Wait, what? Where? As nerve wracking as it can be to move your family over 1,000 miles away from everything they’ve ever know and loved, I had a feeling it would be okay. Why? Because we were moving back home. Not my home of Auburn, AL but home in the sense that this was a college town. I have had trouble explaining to people why college towns are the best, so this is my humble attempt at letting people know we aren’t crazy…this was our plan all along.
This post may contain affiliate links for your convenience. Please see my full disclosure policy here.
Probably my favorite thing about living in a college town is the fact that you get all the benefits of a small town but all the diversity of a big city. It’s kind of like the best of both worlds. Universities draw people from all over the world to teach, research and offer points of view different from our own. And the kids grow up with people of different cultures and backgrounds. We got some guff moving away from the city, but college towns are way more diverse than the suburbs of the big cities. And lets face it, on a professor’s salary the suburbs are about all you can afford.
I could go on and on about the feel of a college town, but one of the reasons it feels so special is because universities pride themselves on building beautiful buildings and creating a common feel for the space. My 8 year old son will sometimes just say “I want to go walk around campus”. Even on his birthday, when we asked him what he wanted to do, one of the things was “walk around campus for awhile”. There is no way to explain it, other than it’s just collegiate. There is a lot of time and effort spent on making a campus look and feel academic, and when you are walking around campus you almost feel smarter. Plus, sometimes when you live in a college town you have a friend that can get you into an empty stadium to run around on your 8th birthday. Which is the most awesome thing ever. (Thanks Karyl).
3. Theater and Arts
The theater in small college towns is usually some of the best. You may not see the top notch shows you see in the city, but you do get to see some pretty spactacular stuff from what may very well be some of the up and comers in this biz. And you get to see it free or at a fraction of the cost (score). World class musicians come and play their instruments and teach classes, and kids get to experience all kind of acapella groups trying to be the next big thing. It’s awesome. Period.
4. Small Town Community
People in college towns are nice. I’ve never been to a true college town where people aren’t just happier. They are more connected with their community because of their mutual love for the school. No matter what your political affiliation, religion, or thoughts on parenting; we can all agree that the other college in the state is the absolute worst and filled with hillbillies and uneducated people. Which is an opinion that is totally biased and we immediately abandon once friends and family from said school come to visit. I will never forget being a freshman and living in the dorm and the tailgaters came to set up early, maybe Tuesday or Wednesday before the Saturday game. We would walk home from class and they would call us over, feed us, discuss football, ask us about our classes and play a few rounds of corn hole. It makes me all teary eyed just thinking about it. People congregate, talk, eat and play and they are so happy.
Summer in a college town is too cool. As awesome as football season is, when the spring ends and everyone clears out you are left with a sense of calm and serenity. Some refer to it as “ghost town” like, but I think it feels like the time of year that the locals connect, grad students shine and you can really explore your little town. I even love that time, about two weeks before all the students return, when all the shelves start filling up with logo-ed merchandise and school colors. Then the students come back and the stores are packed and everyone complains a little but you know they love it because it means football season is coming.
Like most small towns, college towns tend to be among the safest in the state. This goes back to the whole “small town” thing I know, but I think it also has to do with everyone being connected. Theres a camaraderie that people have that make them happier and less likely to commit crime. I have zero stats to back this up with, that just my general feeling.
7. Universities Empower Young People & The Schools are the Best
Growing up in a college town, we just went to college. That’s what you did. You couldn’t wait to get there. It was just so fun and you didn’t think of working or doing anything other than getting to live in a dorm and going to college. When we were growing up, we would get to take field trips to campus for all different sorts of fun learning activites. I remember the Halloween walk every year: the architecture students would carve these amazing pumpkins and they were graded on that! I thought that was so cool and I couldn’t wait to learn more. Which leads me to…schools.
Schools in college towns tend to be among the best in the state. The younger students get to be involved in what’s going on on campus, and most of the teachers are connected with the university. They are smart and want the kids engaging in the activities, and so college towns tend to have excellent schools. My friends from high school were all so smart. They went out into the world, a huge percentage of them to Ivy league schools, and now they are these amazing thinkers and innovators. Even at the high school level they changed the way I thought and viewed the world, and I am forever in love with and in awe of them for that.
8. College Towns Keep You Young
My husband has always said that one of the reasons he loves being a professor is it keeps him young. He is exposed to young ideas and young ways of thinking all the time. Even when asking my friends what their favorite part of living in a college town was, more than one replied that the energy of a college town keeps them feeling young. Whether it be keeping up on the latest fashions, or just reminding you of that late teen/early 20 time of your life, it is a wonderful nostalgic feeling a college town consistently brings you back to.
9. Low Cost of Living
Considering all the things you get – awesome sports, theater, culture and diversity – the cost of living is usually still really cheap. In the city, we had to live so far away from campus just to afford a little land and get good schools. Now we live 5 min from the heart of everything, we have way more land, and the school my kids ride their bikes to is top notch. We are so much more connected to the university and all it has to offer.
Do I need to explain more? Where else can a town of 45,000 turn into a town of 200,000 on the weekends and everybody is so happy about it? What other towns homecoming is every weekend in the fall and almost everyone that has ever lived here is back or wants to be back. I get a little verclempt whenever my kiddos get their orange on and all the excitement that accompanies game day. Every Friday is “Orange Friday” here and everyone gets their school colors on. Temporary tattoos on the face are totally acceptable at schools, maybe even a little encouraged. Even people who could care less about football come out to argue about the best kind of barbecue – vinegar or tomato base? Who’s sauce is the best? Kids run around and get so excited for Saturdays, even though they mostly don’t care about the game either. Every fall when I enter the stadium, I walk through the gates and get my first glimpse of the field and get chills. The same thing happens, albeit on a smaller scale, in the winter for basketball and pretty much any other time I see college students playing sports. I even love driving by and seeing all the intramural games going on. The other day a group of students actually had formed a Quidditch league. How awesome is that?
There is nothing better than Saturdays in college towns. All other things aside, that is what I missed the most. We so appreciative of our neighbors back in Richmond trying to get on board with the Saturday games. Every week I would make a huge spread, including barbecue of course, and they would try. Bless their hearts, I love them for that. They would laugh at us jumping on our coffee table on a 3rd down conversion and everyone knew not to sit next to me – they might get hit. But you could tell their hearts were for Sunday. The thing I missed the most was tailgating in all of it’s gloriousness. Maybe it’s just because I’m from a college town, but I couldn’t wait to get back. Our little slice of perfection…
You can see there is a pretty intense game of corn hole going on in the background.
Have I convinced you that you should move to a college town? Obviously, Auburn and Stillwater are the best college towns in America, but for a more unbiased opinion on the matter, check out these articles.
- 50 Best College Towns in America
- 20 Best College Towns in America
- 10 Best College Towns
- 10 Best College Towns
Thanks for following along!
College Town Love
Pin for later!