College is a great adventure for everyone fresh out of high school, but the thought of being miles away from home can be daunting to any budding student (and parents of said budding student).
If a change of scenery with a shorter trip back to where you call home is what you’re after, look no further: after all, you don’t have to hop coastlines to explore and make your mark. We’ve sought out the seven best college towns in the Midwest on your behalf and—trust us—not a single one will disappoint.
1. Ann Arbor, MichiganStarting at the northernmost point of the Midwest region, Ann Arbor was named America’s top college town in 2015 by WalletHub. WalletHub showcased Ann Arbor’s “youth-oriented environment” and employment opportunities for students and graduates as two of their most valuable assets.
Ann Arbor is also known for its thriving restaurant scene, including nationally known Zingerman’s Deli, in addition to the ever-popular Ann Arbor Art Fair and the city’s general walkability and local friendliness.
Its most notable school is the University of Michigan.
2. St. Louis, MissouriApproximately 10% of St. Louis’ population is comprised of college students spread out amongst more than 20 different institutions. Alongside historical draws—the St. Louis Arch and their famous zoo to name a couple—the shopping and dining components of this city (particularly those of the Central West End) are of a very metropolitan standing.
St. Louis’ most notable schools are Washington University and St. Louis University.
3. Columbus, OhioLike St. Louis, Columbus is a large, populous city with a culture all its own. In fact, when one writer referred to Columbus simply as a “college town,” she was overwhelmed with arguments from Columbus residents informing her that there was so much more to do than just activities related to campus.
Columbus’ most notable university, The Ohio State University, commonly referred to as Ohio State, is one of the largest universities in the country. Choose this school to call home and you’ll have no shortage of classmates and places to eat and shop.
4. Madison, WisconsinMadison regularly ranks among the best places to live in America and the University of Wisconsin is a big reason for that. Lively yet not too big, Madison holds plenty of spots for nightlife and dining that will fit every budget. And, according to Songkick, Madison has more rock shows per capita than any other city in the U.S., on par only with Austin, Texas.
Madison’s most notable school is the University of Wisconsin.
5. Chicago, IllinoisAny Midwest native will know that Chicago is the unofficial “capital” of the Midwest and the third biggest city in the U.S. Chicago is a hotspot for just about everything from the arts to sports and has something for everyone, 24 hours a day, year-round. With plenty of opportunities to find internships and gain work experience at some of the top companies in the country, Chicago is a catchall for aspiring students.
The city is most notably home to Loyola University, University of Illinois Chicago, and DePaul University.
6. Bloomington, IndianaLike food? Bloomington boasts restaurants ranging from fancy fare to buffalo wings. With international cuisine ranging from Indian to Greek to Italian and more, this city offers a diverse variety of delectable choices to satisfy any college student’s cravings. University life plays an important role in the city, as Bloomington has an approximate ratio of 237.8 students per 1,000 people.
Also large in Bloomington is art culture, and galleries around town open up for the Gallery Walk every other month. Bloomington’s most notable university is Indiana University.
7. Fort Wayne, IndianaFort Wayne is a bit of a “hidden gem” among Midwestern college towns, but it’s Indiana’s second-largest city and growing more and more every year. Downtown is becoming completely revitalized with new restaurants, farmer’s markets, and places to see live music. Off-campus housing is also very affordable, even in the best historical neighborhoods. For sports fans, Fort Wayne’s minor league baseball team the TinCaps is considered one of the best minor league teams to see in the U.S.
Fort Wayne’s most notable colleges are the Indiana Institute of Technology and, of course, Indiana University–Purdue University Fort Wayne (IPFW). With more than 13,000 IPFW students, Fort Wayne truly is Mastodon country. If you’d like to learn more about one ofFort Wayne’s premier local colleges, download the IPFW Viewbook to see what we’re all about!