When it comes time to select a college, knowing the geographical region you want to be in can go a long way to helping you narrow down your choices and options. For students who are hoping to spend their college years in Florida, there are numerous colleges and universities in southern Florida available that cater to students of all aptitude levels and areas of interest.

What Is the Best College in South Florida?

Depending on the type of education you want and the type of career or post-graduate schooling you intend to pursue, certain colleges may be more appropriate for you than others. Fortunately, the southern region of Florida, which includes the populous Miami-Dade district is home to many top colleges and universities. Selecting the best college in South Florida for you will come down to a decision based around your academic background, the kind of environment where you learn best and your long-term goals.

Because of its warm weather and proximity to some of America's most beautiful beaches as well as the Everglades, south Florida is an ideal location for college students. It's a particularly good fit for a student who loves the outdoors and is hoping to be active and explore the environment during their undergraduate tenure. The University of Miami is one of the very best colleges in southeast Florida and has a number of programs, which are dynamic, rigorous and challenging.

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The University of Miami is known foremost for being a research institution. This means that the faculty there are among the best in the world, and are both active in the classroom and in their field, continuing to do research, to study and to publish. This means students are getting access to some of the most prestigious minds in their respective fields. Socially, there is a large Greek presence on campus, and a large fraction of the students participate in the sorority system.

What Are Some of the Best Small Colleges in South Florida?

Beyond the University of Miami, which is a large and prestigious institution, south Florida is home to many other schools and universities, some which offer a smaller, more intimate learning environment. Nova Southeastern University in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, is a good example of a high-quality southeastern Florida school with a small student body. The school's total enrollment remains under 5,000 students annually. Most classes are small, under 25 students, and the campus is in a small, suburban community.

In a similar liberal arts-focused vein, the New College of Florida in Sarasota is a small institution in the picturesque community of Sarasota. A public school with an enrollment size of 835 students, the school has a 10:1 student to faculty ratio. This means that students get a tremendous amount of personal attention and exposure to close instruction. The school is seen as a leader in the arts and sciences and offers the opportunity for students who are applying for undergraduate admission to also submit an application for graduate school.

Rollins College, located in the beautiful Winter Park area of Florida, is one of the best liberal arts colleges in the country and is regularly ranked highly among southern colleges. The campus has a small fraternity and sorority system and has an undergraduate enrollment of under 2,000 students. Undergraduate students have the opportunity to take courses in the liberal arts, fine arts, sciences and computer studies. The campus is in a small suburban community and offers some graduate study options.

What State Universities are in Southeast Florida?

The state university system in Florida is made up of 12 separate universities. They are scattered around the state and are not limited to south Florida, although many are in the south and southeastern Florida area. Florida A&M University and Florida State University are both located in Tallahassee, Florida. This is Florida's capital city which is in the northernmost portion of the state, in the region commonly referred to as "the panhandle." Florida Atlantic University is located in Boca Raton, a southeastern suburb of Miami.

Florida Gulf Coast University is located in Fort Myers, while Florida International University is situated in the city of Miami. Florida Polytechnic University is in Lakeland, Florida, while the University of Central Florida is located in Orlando. The University of Florida is headquartered in Gainesville, and the University of North Florida is located in Jacksonville, right nearby. The University of South Florida is located in Tampa, while the University of West Florida is located in Pensacola, on the western side of the state.

What Schools Make Up the Florida College System?

Beyond the state university system in Florida, there are a number of colleges that are part of the state's education system. These include a large number of community colleges and smaller state colleges. These colleges are competitive to varying degrees but represent a strong community of educators who are dedicated to helping students achieve their dreams and build successful futures.

Some of the most prestigious state colleges in Florida are located in southeast Florida. Broward College, Miami-Dade College, Eastern Florida State College and the College of Central Florida are academic institutions with excellent reputations. These schools have strong programs in everything from economics, pre-law and business to literature, English and education.

Florida is also home to some excellent community colleges. Tallahassee Community College in the state's capital is a strong choice for students who want to complete an undergraduate degree but would like to stay close to home. Florida Keys Community College is located in Key West, Florida, and provides students in this largely tourist-crowded area the opportunity to study in beautiful, peaceful surroundings with a lot of local history. Hillsborough Community College is located in Tampa and offers two-year programs to students who are seeking an associate rather than the traditional bachelor's.

What Other Colleges Are In Southeast Florida?

Beyond state universities, state colleges, private colleges and community colleges, Florida is home to a number of vocational and trade schools. Historically, the emphasis for students graduating from college has been placed on earning a degree from a four-year college. However, this is not only sometimes unnecessary, but it is also impractical. Four-year colleges are expensive, time-consuming and often require students to take and pass courses in subject areas they are uninterested in simply to fulfill arbitrary requirements.

Vocational schools are the kind of institutions that recognize that not all careers and jobs require the kind of courses or curriculum mastery that a bachelor's program provides. For students who are interested in a career in the automotive industry, the beauty industry, business and technology, culinary arts and design, a vocational or trade school is often appropriate. These schools provide excellent training and experience and often help with job placement in the fraction of the time of a traditional university.

Some of the best vocational colleges in South Florida are Miami International University of Art & Design, Ringling College of Art and Design, College of Business and Technology and Digital Media Arts College. The East West College of Natural Medicine, American College for Medical Careers and the Atlantic Institute of Oriental Medicine are three alternatives to traditional medical school that can allow students to access a career in the healthcare field, without spending years on the traditional track.

About the Author

Ashley Friedman is a freelance writer with experience writing about education for a variety of organizations and educational institutions as well as online media sites. She has written for Pearson Education, The University of Miami, The New York City Teaching Fellows, New Visions for Public Schools, and a number of independent secondary schools. She lives in Los Angeles.