Best Places to Live

2012 10 Best College Towns

True college towns are places where the identity of the city is both shaped by and complementary to the presence of its university, creating an environment enjoyable to all residents, whether they are enrolled in classes or not. They're true melting pots where young minds meet old traditions, and political, social and cultural ideas of all kinds are welcomed.

The recently released 21st edition of Princeton Review's Best Colleges guidebook was used as a starting point to identify top-ranked universities within's own listing of Best Places to Live. In the book, author Robert Franek lists what he called "key factors" that make a college town a great town for students, including: good location, weather and public transportation; a beautiful environment; friendly people; access to and availability of career opportunities; fun things to do off campus; and good college-community relations.

The ratio of students to non-students in a city was examined, because it doesn't seem right to call a place a college town if you can't tell classes are in session with a quick glance at the mix of people on a busy sidewalk. The college in towns being considered had to be a big economic player in terms of jobs, as well as impacting the strength and diversity of the city's retail sector. Also factored in were cost of living and walkability. 

Uncovered were 10 great towns where the college and city are inextricably linked to make it a great place to live, whether in a dorm or permanent home. Take a look at our picks for the Top College Towns of 2012. (And see who made our latest list here.)

Ranking Criteria
Best Colleges (According to Princeton Review)
Environment, weather, public transportation
High student to resident ratio
Top Employers (must be a college)
Low cost of Living
High walkability
Low unemployment rate
  • 10

    Blacksburg, VA

    Population: 43,530
    Photo: Jim Stroup

    Visit the Blacksburg, VA section of for more info, articles, and photos. 

    Blacksburg, VA, has one of the highest student to resident ratios in the country. There are nearly two students for every non-student. A cost of living that is about seven percent higher than the national average kept the city from being ranked higher on our list. While Blacksburg is a town that caters to students, it also offers much to families and recent graduates. And because fall is dominated by football, on Saturdays Blacksburg rocks when the Hokies play at home.

    Downtown Blacksburg features more than 150 local restaurants, pubs, shops, galleries and boutiques. The city is located between the Blue Ridge and Allegheny mountains, both home to scenic drives, great hiking, camping and biking. The cost of living here is slightly higher than the national average, but the perks are well worth it.

    In 2013, Virginia Tech will open a new arts center with a 1,260-seat theater and galleries. The Perspective Gallery, located in the Student Center, is free and open to the public. The general community has limited access to the University's BreakZONE Recreation Center, which offers bowling, billiards and other games. Community members are also invited to partake in Venture Out, a program sponsored by the university, which organizes outdoor excursions and rents out gear.


    City Population (2010 Census): 42,620

    Student Population: 30,000

    College(s): Virginia Tech

    Don't Miss: Lyric Theatre for movies, The Rivermill for drinks, Sycamore Deli for food

    Check out our previous College Towns Lists:

    Top College Towns in 2011

    Best College Towns in 2010