October 2021

This sounds like a silly question…but what makes a college town more than just a town with a college? It is worth taking the time to consider this before making your final college decision. BY ANNE AT MAIALEARNING Recently, I attended a football game at my alma mater and was super excited to be there for the season opener! I saw the familiar streets and buildings and felt pride with a little homesickness. You see, there is a strong sense of belonging that college students experience when a town truly embraces the university within its borders. You notice it when you are out and about, sporting your university t-shirt, and you receive random high-fives, nods, and verbal affirmations. When it feels like the town residents and university students are all on the same team… you know that you are in a great college town! College towns often have a great mix of small-town charm with plenty of big-city opportunities: a lively arts culture, a strong sports fan base, several large employers, a thriving economy, and a total commitment to education that is reflected in elementary schools through college. The town and college develop a strong relationship; they work diligently to support each other. Whether it’s basketball games, music and arts extravaganzas, speaker events, or tech competitions, the community actively supports college activities. The town leadership also does their part by incentivizing good businesses to set up in their community. When a town gets this right, many students choose to stay and work there even after graduating from college. That is what makes a true college town endure and thrive. I was fortunate to attend a university in a true college town. In fact, it is routinely ranked in the top five of “Best College Towns in America” by livability.com and several financial news companies. Did I choose to stay in the same town after graduating? You bet I did! Why? Because I fell in love with the university and the town that supported it. For first-year students, living in a true college town makes it easier to adapt to your new living environment. You feel College Towns W h a t m a ke s t h e m g r e a t ? as if the town wants you there and is embracing you. Towns with a college just don’t make you feel like that. Researchers have the “what makes a good college town” statistics down to a science. In general, if a college’s student population is at least 20% of the town's total population, and the town's primary employer is the college, then there is likely a strong college to town connection. Sure there are other statistics you can consider; lower median age, income, higher education levels, etc. But you honestly don't need the statistics, averages, or median calculations. Just check out the town at your next college visit. Look for the signs detailed above, that the university is highly valued. And... if it looks and feels like someplace you'd like to call "home", then most likely it is a College Town and not just a Town With a College. Look at Bucknell University and Dickinson College as two great examples of college towns.