By Douglas Fehlen
1. San Francisco
This naturally beautiful and economically vibrant city is home to popular higher ed institutions that include the College of San Francisco, the University of California - San Francisco and the University of San Francisco. Bay Area schools feature top-tier programs in medicine, nursing, pharmacology and other health sciences. Tech companies are a driving force of the local economy, making the city ideal for IT students with dreams of startups in their heads. San Francisco also features cultural diversity, from Chinatown to the famously liberal Haight-Ashbury neighborhood.
2. New York City
It's easy to understand why New York City is a great place to go to college. Students there have access to some of the most important museums and art institutions in the world, and the city has a literary tradition like no other. Crowded with intellectuals and artsy types, the city is home to Columbia University, New York University and dozens of other colleges. New York features unequaled opportunities for students looking to get experience in finance, publishing, fashion, broadcasting, theater and many other professional areas.
3. Washington, D.C.
Some of the best private schools in the country are located in Washington, D.C., including Georgetown University, Howard University and George Washington University. Strong programs in law, political science and international studies draw aspiring senators and diplomats to the nation's capital, and a multitude of monuments and museums fuel their visions of American grandeur. Additionally, the National Zoo, the National Gallery of Art and the many Smithsonian museums hold treasures not to be beheld anywhere else.
Boston has among the highest concentration of college students in the U.S., which makes it an ideal place to pursue one's postsecondary studies. Renowned area colleges include Boston University, the University of Massachusetts - Boston, Tufts University and, most famously, Harvard University. Students interested in law, medicine, engineering, education and virtually any other academic subject will find a place on one of Boston's numerous campuses. Rich in history, the city features the nation's oldest park and many landmarks from the Revolutionary War. A vibrant nightlife can be found in Chinatown or Little Italy.
With views of 14,410-foot Mount Rainer and Puget Sound, Seattle is a wonder of natural beauty. The city has more books per capita than any other metropolitan area, and the hopping local arts scene features everything from music festivals to ballet. The University of Washington is a strong research institution with popular programs in medicine, engineering and business. The 'U-Dub,' as it is locally known, is the largest college in Seattle - spanning more than 600 acres. Other major local postsecondary institutions include Seattle University and Seattle Pacific University.
A coastal city with a bustling port, Baltimore is also a great metropolitan area for college students. The University of Maryland - Baltimore and Baltimore University are two popular public institutions with students. The more prestigious private Johns Hopkins University is regaled for its innovative medical school. Baltimore's light rail provides students with easy access to every major part of the city. The restaurants surrounding Baltimore's Inner Harbor offer picturesque views and a bustling nightlife.
7. Los Angeles
Second only to New York City in population, Los Angeles features numerous large public higher ed institutions, such as the University of California - Los Angeles, and more intimate private schools like Occidental College. Students about town can take the metro for easy access to L.A.'s many and diverse neighborhoods. Hollywood and its attendant media companies make the city a home base for the bold and the beautiful, but many other groups claim Los Angeles for their own. A vibrant alternative art community thrives throughout the city, and a bustling financial center dominates the downtown area.
8. San Diego
This scenic beachside city features popular postsecondary programs at San Diego State University, the University of San Diego and the University of California - San Diego. San Diego State University is the largest institution, boasting an enrollment of over 24,000 students. The maritime culture, vibrant flora and old Spanish-style architecture are city hallmarks. College students take advantage of downtown's Gaslamp Quarter, which is full of nighttime hot spots. Pacific Beach is a beautiful place to hang out any time of day or night. Students can get around town on the cheap by trolly or the Coaster, which is a local commuter train.
8. Minneapolis-St. Paul
Maintaining campuses in Minneapolis and St. Paul, the University of Minnesota is the largest college in the Twin Cities, with more than 33,000 students. The school helps to define the region with its renowned business and law schools, competitive sports teams and rich arts programming. 'The U,' though, is not the only college around. Prestigious liberal arts colleges such as Macalester College and St. Thomas University also reside nearby. The Twin Cities features great drama and art options, including more than 30 theaters and the Walker Arts Center. Downtown Minneapolis also features a thriving nightclub scene.
Home to the University of Pennsylvania, Temple University and more than a dozen other 4-year colleges and universities, Philadelphia features a robust arts scene. The Philadelphia Museum of Art, Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts and Rodin Museum are a few of the more renowned institutions, though numerous others are spread around the city. Philadelphia also features, of course, a thriving commercial center. Many cobblestone streets and historical landmarks spread throughout the city offer evidence of the city's important role in American history.
Living off campus? Find out how to make the most of your commute to campus in How to Make the Most of Your Commute to Campus.