For parents and teens looking at colleges, it’s not just the school that draws you in, it’s also the town or city where it’s located. WalletHub just released its report on 2021’s Best & Worst College Towns & Cities in America and it’s a valuable resource to use when deciding this important next step in your child’s education.

To help college-bound high school seniors and their parents, WalletHub compared more than 400 U.S. cities – also grouped by city size – based on 30 key indicators of academic, social and economic growth potential. The data set ranges from the cost of living to the quality of higher education to the crime rate.


It’s no surprise that the environment the school is located in can be a big determiner of positive outcomes for students. From the cost of living and the amount of available job opportunities to the sense of community and safety, where your school is located makes all the difference.

Not surprisingly, NJ ranked well on the list. Princeton, known for its prestigious Princeton University, came in at number seven on the list of best small college cities and number 13 on the overall list of best towns and cities. Here are more results:


Best Large College Cities* Best Midsize College Cities* Best Small College Cities*
1. Austin, TX 1. Irvine, CA 1. Ann Arbor, MI
2. Raleigh, NC 2. Gainesville, FL 2. Provo, UT
3. Seattle, WA 3. Scottsdale, AZ 3. Ithaca, NY
4. Tampa, FL 4. Orlando, FL 4. Rexburg, ID
5. Pittsburgh, PA 5. Cary, NC 5. Cambridge, MA
6. San Diego, CA 6. Roseville, CA 6. College Station, TX
7. Mesa, AZ 7. Vancouver, WA 7. Princeton, NJ
8. Atlanta, GA 8. Chandler, AZ 8. Storrs, CT
9. Columbus, OH 9. McKinney, TX 9. Chapel Hill, NC
10. Las Vegas, NV 10. Tempe, AZ 10. West Lafayette, IN

(*for simplicity, the term cities is used for both towns and cities)

Princeton took the number one spot when it came to the category “highest quality of higher education” (Go, Tigers!). Other important categories the study considered were the cost of living for young people, the share of rental units, cost of higher education, number of students per capita, the share of available part-time jobs and the amount of “brain drain” felt by students.

Be sure to check out the list of Best Colleges and Universities in NJ from WalletHub’s report earlier this year!