Going away to college is an exciting time in anyone's life. You're starting your journey toward independence and maturity as well as achieving an academic milestone. However, not all colleges are equal, and making the decision about which institutions you want to apply to can be complicated.
You’ll need to weigh the differences between varying college courses, consider financial implications, view the amenities and social aspects of the campus and then make your decision. If you're moving far from home, you’ll also want to check out the area and make sure that you can see yourself setting up home in this new city.
Whether you prefer ocean or mountain views, these are the top 10 colleges in the United States in the coolest locations.
The University of San Francisco
San Francisco is one of the most exciting cultural cities in the world. Students here are able to enjoy street and music festivals and a range of museums and galleries including the de Young Museum, the California Academy of Sciences in Golden Gate Park, SFMOMA, the Exploratorium and the Asian Art Museum. Take a ride on a cable car along San Francisco’s hilly streets as you look out for the painted ladies – those pretty Victorian homes painted in bright colors. At Hayes and Steiner Streets, you can see these beauties silhouetted against the skyscrapers of downtown. The city has a great food truck scene, so you’ll never go hungry, even after a night of partying. For special occasions, you’ll find plenty of fine dining options. San Francisco is a hugely popular tourist destination, so you'll likely have plenty of visitors who want to come and see you during your studies. The university has a plush new dining hall and student residences planned for completion in 2020. For the student-athlete or those that just like to enthusiastically cheer on the home team, you’ll find lots of sports pursuits at U of SF, including tennis.
Berry College, Georgia
If you're looking for a movie-worthy campus, choose Berry College. It boasts gothic architecture, ornate fountains, meadows, streams and 27,000 acres of beautifully landscaped gardens and grounds. Film crews often use the campus, which was featured in Hollywood titles “Remember the Titans” and “Sweet Home Alabama.” Founded in 1902, this private liberal arts college is one of the most beautiful spots to study in the United States. There are lots of opportunities to hike around the grounds and relax around the outdoor fireplaces. At just an hour and 20-minute drive from Atlanta, you’ll also be close enough to take advantage of the shopping, entertainment and dining available in this vibrant state capital.
The University of Hawai’i at Mānoa, Hawai'i
What could be better than going away to college just steps from the beach? Here, you’ll head to classes in the shade of palm trees and enjoy the cool breeze off the Pacific ocean. You can choose from 98 different majors, including medicine and law, at this tropical island university that boasts a fantastic beach locale that's only four miles to downtown Honolulu. You can shop, dine or visit museums or galleries before heading out into nature to enjoy the beaches, hike extinct volcano sites or head into conservation areas. The extracurricular activities at the University of Hawai’i at Mānoa are taken to the next level – choose from over 200 student organizations including options to learn how to sail, snorkel and surf. The school was founded in 1907 and sits on 320 acres of lush Mānoa Valley on the island of Oʻahu.
University of Wisconsin-Madison
If dating is at the top of your priority list, head to the University of Wisconsin-Madison, which was voted the sexiest university in the United States by the Daily Beast. This midwest school is also the birthplace of the satirical site The Onion, and once winter arrives, the 936 acres are blanketed in beautiful, picturesque snow. Lake Mendota freezes and ski trails open up to ensure you can still get out and stay active during the colder months of the year. Summer brings outdoor film and music festivals and concerts, patio dining and the chance to wander along Memorial Union Terrace in the sunshine. Academics are varied and diverse with an astonishing 9,000 courses to choose from, leading to over 230 options for your undergraduate major.
Going to school in New York City is undoubtedly a cool experience. Living in the Big Apple is an exciting venture as you have all the world-class entertainment, dining and sports events at your fingertips, as well as all the trappings of life in a huge metropolitan hub. However, Cooper Union has more going for it than just its setting in lower Manhattan. It also has a rich history. Founded in 1869, it is one of the nation's oldest institutes of higher education, and Abraham Lincoln even gave an important speech here way back in 1860. The full name of the college is The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art, and as you'd imagine it offers courses in architecture, fine arts and engineering, among others. The on-site writing center offers one-on-one instruction in all aspects of writing at an advanced level and is available for all students to access. The historic Great Hall at Cooper Union has seen speakers ranging from suffragettes to Presidents Grant, Cleveland, Taft, Theodore Roosevelt and Barack Obama. Located in the East Village, students are close to all the nightlife, bars and music venues, which makes this college a particularly cool choice.
Sarah Lawrence College
If you're looking for a school that scores high in student satisfaction and achievement yet manages to go its own way, check out Sarah Lawrence College. You’ll find personal attention to your academic goals as classes are always capped at a maximum of just 15 students. You can also expect one-on-one bi-weekly meetings with your professors, which provides an unparalleled chance to reflect on your own education and set ambitious goals for the future. This leads to a tight-knit community where students feel valued. Located just a 30-minute train ride from Manhattan, on a leafy wooded campus across 44 acres, Sarah Lawrence offers the best of both worlds. This college is a prestigious university, which bucks official rankings yet still manages to top the charts. Often mentioned in pop culture, Sarah Lawrence is the choice of many a leading lady heroine, including Allie in the movie “The Notebook.”
World-renowned, Harvard University has produced more U.S. presidents than any other college and is often ranked as one of the best schools in the country. Mark Zuckerberg and Bill Gates both attended college here, although neither graduated, so make sure you outdo them by actually completing your course. You could spend days in the stunning library, which is the biggest private library in the world and ensures that you’ll never need to look anywhere else for study resources. Once you step off the amazing campus you can explore Boston, which is just 15 minutes away by train. Learn all about the American revolution in this historic city before enjoying a game at the famous Fenway Park, or visit one of the many museums and galleries throughout the city. Harvard has been the setting for a range of movies such as "Good Will Hunting," "Legally Blonde" and "Love Story." Studying at Harvard is a unique experience that can help launch a prestigious career.
The University of Akron
The University of Akron in Ohio may seem like an unusual inclusion on a list of the universities in the coolest locations, but it earns its position in part due to its student recreation and wellness center. This 295,000-square-foot building hosts a lazy river, a large spa, five gyms, a climbing wall and pools. This luxury amenity is well utilized during the long cold Ohio winters and is reason enough to put UA on your list of prospective colleges. Founded in 1870, the college is also a historical building offering over 200 different courses of study. The city of Akron, with its arts district and bustling nightlife, was recently profiled by Vogue magazine as a city that should be on your radar and is well worth a visit. Apparently, the hamburger was invented in Akron, and you'll find plenty of students enjoying one at the two-day National Hamburger Festival held annually. You might even see Akron’s most famous face here if you’re lucky – LeBron James is a resident.
Future thespians should head to the Fisher Center for the Performing Arts at Bard College, which has one of the most amazing campus locations in the country. Designed by Frank Gehry, it's a stunning piece of architecture and a fantastic venue for artistic pursuits. Here, you can be inspired by performances in dance, theater and song and maybe end up on the stage yourself some day. Bard College is an exclusive private liberal arts college that only accepts 2,000 undergraduate students per year. Located in the beautiful Hudson Valley, the Montgomery Place campus that's adjacent to the main campus is a designated National Historic Landmark and a 380-acre estate overlooking the Hudson River. You can see the majestic Catskill Mountains from campus and make a day trip to the natural playground. You’re also just 90 miles from all the excitement of New York City. Students often visit the Big Apple on weekends or holidays and yet still have all the rustic charm of nature on the river during class time.
University of North Florida, Osprey Fountains
If you're hoping that your college experience will feel just like a vacation, you might want to apply to the University of North Florida as its Osprey Fountains housing complex is often described as a resort. This dorm houses 1,000 students and was part of an $86 million renovation. Featuring the inclusion of a video game room, karaoke and open-mic comedy lounge, a sports and entertainment lounge, a fitness center and lap pool, you’ll never be bored at this dorm. Outside you’ll also find a lazy river, tennis courts, basketball courts, a putting green and a running track. You don't have to worry about being late to class as a shuttle bus gets you from your “resort” to your classroom in no time at all. If you can bear to leave the campus, you’ll find Jacksonville has a lot to offer visitors and residents. There are 22 miles of beaches to explore as well as delicious coastal cuisine. If you follow the Jax Ale Trail, you can taste the best of the region's craft beers. Jacksonville offers a different view of Florida life and is a cultural hotspot of entertainment, museums, galleries and city walks. Expedia included Jacksonville in its list of “21 Supercool U.S. Cities.”