There’s nothing quite like being at the center of a major city. According to the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS), in 2013, over five million students attended 1,835 colleges within urban centers. Students flock to urban colleges for the sense of adventure; the city becomes the campus, and there’s always something new and exciting to get into.
Metropolitan areas offer unrivaled diversity of experience. Best of all, students’ proximity to countless industries allows for easier access to the career world of their choice. When students attend an urban college, everything they could ever need is just outside their door.
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Columbia University in the City of New York
Located in the heart of the Big Apple, Columbia’s Upper West Side home is a student’s dream. It stands as one of the nine Colonial Colleges founded before the Revolutionary War, and many of the existing buildings serve as architectural proof of the institution’s long history. Today the Ivy League university serves nearly 24,000 students at all academic levels. Applicants should keep an eye on their GPAs and ACT/SAT scores: of the nearly 33,000 applicants for the class of 2019, 6.10% were admitted, making it the third most selective school by admission rate in the nation.
University of Chicago
Located in the leafy Chicago neighborhoods of Hyde Park and Woodlawn, University of Chicago provides students with a beautiful urban setting only seven miles south of downtown Chicago. This private research institution attracts students from across the globe: international students alone make up 19% of the student body, while 26% of overall students identify as members of ethnic minorities. And over 50% of students elect to live in campus-owned housing, which is guaranteed to every student.
University of Pennsylvania
Founded by Benjamin Franklin, the University of Pennsylvania has provided an Ivy League education for 275 years. In addition to being the oldest university in the nation, UPenn also opened the first schools of medicine and business. Taking up 280 acres within West Philadelphia, the institution’s 25,000 undergrad and postgrad students attend classes in the heart of one of America’s most historic cities. Just over 12% of 2014-15 applicants received admissions, taking up studies in popular areas of business management, social sciences, engineering, biomedical sciences and history.
Located in Music City USA, Vanderbilt is a renowned private research university situated moments away from the city’s iconic Music Row. With an acceptance rate of 12.6%, the university is highly selective. Over 12,000 students hailing from all 50 states and more than 90 countries undertake degrees offered by four undergraduate and six graduate and professional colleges. The top five areas of study are economics, interdisciplinary studies, social sciences, mathematics and political science and government. While all incoming freshmen are required to live on campus, overall 86% of the student body choose to live in campus-owned housing.
Located in our nation’s capitol, Georgetown overlooks the Potomac River, providing a bird’s-eye view of the nearby downtown. The private research institution is particularly popular with students looking to gain degrees in the social sciences: 33% of the current student body is enrolled in a related area of study. Other popular degrees include business, English language and literature, health professions and foreign languages. The university maintains excellent connections with many governmental, business and educational institutions in the city, providing opportunities for internships, research assistantships and other real-world experience for students.
Located on a 295-acre campus in Houston’s museum district, Rice University is a private research university consistently ranked in the top 20 postsecondary institutions in the nation. Although distinctly urban, the campus is heavily wooded and has many green spaces. Over 6,500 students take advantage of courses available through 11 colleges and eight academic schools, with top studies in biochemistry, chemical engineering, psychology, economics, and electrical engineering. Nearly 75% of Rice’s undergraduate population lives in residential colleges, which form a significant part of the student experience.
Since 1889, Barnard College has been operating as a private liberal arts college catering exclusively to female students. The school is affiliated with Columbia University and is in the same Upper West Side area of Manhattan. The college is the most selective female-only postsecondary institution, admitting approximately 20% of all applicants. Barnard provides baccalaureate level degrees to nearly 2,500 students, 91% of whom opt to live in campus-owned housing. 27% of students study a social science, with 14% majoring in psychology, 12% in English language and literature, 11% in visual and performing arts and 9% in biological and biomedical sciences.
Johns Hopkins University
Spread throughout Charm City, Johns Hopkins has a number of campuses dotted around town. Three main Baltimore campuses house the schools of arts and sciences, engineering, education, medicine, public health, nursing, business and music, while campuses in Washington D.C. and further afield in Maryland have further studies. The school has over twice as many postgraduate students as those seeking baccalaureate degrees; as the first research university in the nation, the institution has a long and distinguished history of providing excellent specialized studies.
University of Southern California
The University of Southern California has its main campus in the heart of Los Angeles. As the oldest private research university in the state, USC has a long list of respected and successful alumni. The current student body of 43,000 has a slightly larger postgraduate population and an overall acceptance rate of 19.8%. The institution maintains professional ties with many California-based ventures, providing excellent research, internship and real-world opportunities for both students and alumni. And It’s not just Americans who aspire to study at USC: 23% of students are from a country outside of the United States.
Located in the mountains of Colorado, CC attracts students from around the nation and worldwide. The institution employs a unique educational approach, known as the Block Plan, where students take one class for approximately 24 days of intense study. Students then have a four day break before diving into their next class. Currently over 2,000 students are engaged in this type of learning, with top areas of study including sociology, biological sciences, economics, environmental science and fine/studio arts. Campus is an intriguing mix of new and old, with buildings dating from the 19th through 21st centuries.
University of California - Los Angeles
Located in the Westwood area of Los Angeles, UCLA is a well-recognized public research institution that today caters to over 43,000 students. The university receives the most applicants of any university in the nation, with over 112,000 hopefuls in the most recent academic year. 95% of freshmen live in university housing, while overall 39% of the student body take advantage of campus-owned residences. With 337 undergraduate and postgraduate degree programs available, it’s no wonder so many students call UCLA home.
Carnegie Mellon University
Established in 1900 by philanthropist Andrew Carnegie, Carnegie Mellon University sits three miles from downtown Pittsburgh and is near to the Carnegie museum, library and music hall. More than 13,000 students are divided into seven colleges and schools, with top degree programs ranging from science, technology and business, to public policy, humanities and the arts.
New York University
Since opening its doors in 1831, New York University has become the largest private institution for higher education in the United States. The school’s main campus is in Greenwich Village, with further global campuses spread across the globe. International students also come directly to the Big Apple to study: approximately 20% of NYU’s 54,000 students are from outside the U.S. The campus is truly urban, with no distinctions between where NYU ends and the city streets begin.
University of Texas at Austin
Located in the state’s capital, UT Austin is considered a “public ivy,” meaning it is a publicly funded higher education institution that provides a similar academic experience as Ivy League schools. It has the fifth largest enrollment in the nation, consisting over more than 50,000 students undertaking degrees ranging from bachelor’s to doctoral level. The campus is spread over nearly 15,00 acres, with seven museums and 17 libraries housed throughout. Popular areas of study include business, communication and journalism, engineering, social sciences and biological and biomedical sciences.
Yeshiva University is a private school that’s been in operation since 1886. The school’s main campus is in Washington Heights, with three other campuses in Manhattan, the Bronx and Queens. YU also has a campus in Israel. The current student body is composed of under 7,000 undergraduate and postgraduate students, many of the latter drawn by the school’s highly ranked medical and law programs. Other popular programs include biological sciences, psychology, business administration and management, accounting and social sciences.
George Washington University
Students attending George Washington University are placed in the center of our nation’s governmental, political and legal forces. Since 1821, the institution has prepared students to be leaders in their fields and today more than 20,000 students from all 50 states and over 130 countries come to GWU for their educations. Undergraduate students are required to live on campus their first three years, leading to an overall student population of 66% residing in university-owned housing. Students seem to love their time at GWU: the average freshman retention rate is 93%.
Tulane University of Louisiana
With a main campus located in the heart of The Big Easy directly opposite Audubon Park, it’s no wonder over 13,000 students choose to attend Tulane University. A mix of Renaissance, Romanesque and Modern architecture line the 110 acres of the institution’s central location, while students can also take advantage of four additional campuses in the city and satellite campuses across the globe. 22% of students are enrolled in a business, management or marketing related degrees, while other top areas of study include the social sciences, biological and biomedical sciences, psychology and health professions.
CUNY Baruch College
Baruch College is part of the City University of New York (CUNY) system, located in the Gramercy Park area of Manhattan. With studies available in undergraduate, master’s and Ph.D levels, nearly 17,000 students elect to enroll in the business, arts and science and public affairs colleges at the institution. Academic buildings are peppered throughout the neighborhood, providing students with a truly urban learning experience. Popular areas of study include finance, accounting, sales, distribution, business and corporate communications and psychology.
Students enrolled at Macalester have access to the Twin Cities, providing them with a host of professional, social and cultural opportunities. The college caters to just over 2,000 undergraduate students. As of 2013, attendees hailed from all 50 states and 90 countries, giving it one of the largest populations of international students for any postsecondary institution in the nation. Students don’t just come from afar to attend: over 60% of students study abroad for at least 12 weeks. 26% of students are enrolled in social science-related degrees, with other top programs including biological and biomedical sciences, foreign language and literature, interdisciplinary studies and English language and literature.
University of Nebraska - Lincoln
The Lincoln campus of this public research institution serves as the largest and oldest member of the University of Nebraska system. Founded in 1869, the school has built up an international reputation for preparing leaders in their fields of study. Over 24,000 students learn at two campuses within minutes of downtown Lincoln, the most popular majors being business, management and marketing, engineering, family and consumer sciences, agriculture and education. UNL is a leader in agricultural science research, with over 1,000 academic papers published within a decade.
Southern University at New Orleans
Located in the heart of New Orleans, students attending Southern University have access to a city filled with cultural diversity, history and plenty of activities outside the classroom. Founded as a historically black university in the 1950’s, today SU serves nearly 2,000 students out of its four colleges and school of graduate studies. Top programs include criminal justice, psychology, health information, business and public administration. In addition to the many opportunities in this urban setting, students also have access to over 30 student organizations and clubs.
Founded in 1898, Northeastern is a private research university stretching across multiple neighborhoods in central Boston. With over 24,000 student enrolled, the institution also has other satellite campuses throughout the state. The school has a cooperative education program that allows students to combine traditional classroom-based study with professional experience. Programs are available on all seven continents, with nearly a third of students participating. Top areas of study include business and management, health professions, engineering, social sciences and communication and journalism.
Georgia Institute of Technology, or GIT, is located in a bustling area of Atlanta, yet provides a peaceful, tree-lined campus for more than 23,000 enrolled students. The school was founded in 1885 and much of the architecture reflects the school’s long and distinguished history. Today the school has six colleges and over 30 departments, with 58% of students enrolled in an engineering-related degree. Other prevalent areas of study are business, computer and information sciences, biological and medical sciences and interdisciplinary studies.
North Carolina State University
North Carolina State University forms part of the “Research Triangle,” alongside Duke in Durham and UNC in Chapel Hill. Operating as a public research institution, the school provides educations for over 34,000 students at the bachelor’s to doctoral level. Nearly 273 degree programs are available, with top majors including engineering, business and management, biological and biomedical sciences, agriculture and social sciences.
Ohio State University
Columbus is home to Ohio State University, the third largest university in the nation. Founded in 1870, the university has grown to accommodate more than 64,000 students. In addition to academics, student life plays a vital role: there are over 1,000 organizations, clubs and recreation activities. The large campus is only two miles from downtown Columbus, providing students easy access to a buzzing city environment. Students have many degrees to select from, however the most popular majors are psychology, finance, speech communication and rhetoric, biology and marketing.
San Diego State University
Of the 23 public universities comprising the California State University system, SDSU is the third-oldest and also one of the largest. Today’s student body is composed of 35,000 students enrolled in over 300 separate degree programs. Given its large size, the university is unable to accommodate all students in campus-based housing; however, 63% of freshmen live in university residences. The institution is considered selective and maintains an acceptance rate of 37.2%.
University of Washington
Although a publicly funded research institution, the University of Washington has been dubbed a “public ivy,” referring to its reputation for providing an education on par with those received at Ivy League institutions. Since being founded in 1861, UW has become a leader in postsecondary education and is considered to have one of the best medical schools in the world. Students consistently praise the university’s campus, which is situated on two bays with views of two different mountain ranges.
University of California - San Diego
Spread over nearly 1,200 acres, the University of California in San Diego is located in La Jolla near the coast of the Pacific Ocean. The current university has nearly 30,000 students, the majority of them undergraduates. In the 2013 admissions cycle, the school received over 72,000 freshman applications. The institution includes six undergraduate colleges, three graduate schools and two professional medical schools. The top undergraduate degrees include social sciences, engineering, biology, science/math, arts and humanities.
University of Tulsa
Formed in the late 1800’s, the University of Tulsa occupies a beautiful 200-acre campus filled with both English Gothic style buildings and more modern architecture. Nearly 4,500 undergraduate and postgraduate students take advantage of nationally recognized programs in English, petroleum engineering, clinical and industrial psychology, computer science, natural sciences and engineering. Though Tulsa is nearby, 74% of all undergraduates elect to live in housing provided on-campus.
Located in the Eagle Rock neighborhood of Los Angeles, Occidental College is the oldest private liberal arts college in LA, having opened in 1887. The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching found the college to be a “community engagement institution,” recognizing a high level of community service activities. Just over 2,100 undergraduates attend today, taking advantage of 31 majors. Recent top degrees include economics, international relations and affairs, biology and biological sciences, psychology and English language and literature.
University of Minnesota - Twin Cities
The University of Minnesota Twin Cities is comprised of two campuses five miles apart, in both Minneapolis and St. Paul. Established in 1851, UMTC is the largest and oldest institution within the University of Minnesota system. The school has over 51,000 students enrolled at all academic levels across 19 colleges and schools. The most popular majors are the social sciences, engineering, business management, biological and biomedical sciences and psychology.
California State University - Long Beach
Operating as a member of the 23-school California State University system, CSU Long Beach is one of the largest universities in the state, with over 35,000 enrolled students. And with over 230 degree options, and programs going up to the doctoral level, students have access to excellent education and a beautiful, urban campus in the Los Altos neighborhood of Long Beach. A number of the university’s programs are well regarded and popular among students; these include business management, communication and journalism, health professions, social sciences and visual and performing arts.
CUNY Lehman College
Operating as a member of the City University of New York system, Lehman Colleges caters to baccalaureate and postgraduate students from its Bronx-based campus. It is one of the newer schools on the list, founded in 1967. Today the college serves over 12,000 students with more than 90 programs and concentrations offered. The campus is peppered with both Gothic and Modern architecture and provides a seamless connection to the city streets surrounding the institution.
This private research university operates out of two campuses in the heart of Boston. The main campus is near Fenway Park, while the university medical center is located in South End amongst many other medical institutions. The Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education categorizes the school as an RUVH (very high research activity) research university. Top degree areas include business and management, social sciences, communication and journalism, health professions and biological and biomedical sciences.
Case Western Reserve University
Although five miles from downtown Cleveland, Case Western Reserve University is situated in a part of town known as University Circle, a Mecca for other educational, cultural and medical institutions. The institution has a number of notable alumni, particularly in the technological and cyber security realms. The over 10,000 student most often gravitate toward degrees in bioengineering and biomedical engineering, biology and biological sciences, psychology, mechanical engineering and registered nursing.
Operating out of Atlanta, Spelman College is an exclusively female liberal arts college. The school has been a historically black institution since opening in 1881. Today the university serves approximately 2,200 undergraduates, with popular degree areas including psychology, biology and biological sciences, political science and government, English language and literature and economics. In addition to academics, the university is located minutes from downtown Atlanta, providing a wealth of business and leisure opportunities for students.
CUNY John Jay College of Criminal Justice
Founded in 1964 as the only liberal arts college focused on criminal justice and forensic-related topics, John Jay College has developed a reputation for being a leader in the field. The college is part of the City University of New York system and is located in the Midtown area of Manhattan. Over 13,000 undergraduates and 2,000 postgrads call John Jay home, taking advantage of both the urban setting and popular degrees in criminal justice and law enforcement administration, forensic psychology, social sciences, legal students and English language and literature.
Located in northwest D.C. in the Spring Valley neighborhood, the nearly 13,000 students enrolled at American University are truly in the heart of our nation’s capital. The university is surrounded by affluent neighborhoods, leading many students to take advantage of more affordable student housing. The school is considered highly selective, with 35% of first-time freshmen admitted in 2015. Once enrolled, the top undergraduate degrees include international relations and affairs, business administration and management, political science and government, mass communication and criminal justice.
CUNY Hunter College
Operating as a member of the City University of New York system, Hunter College is based out of the Upper East Side of Manhattan and caters to both undergraduate and graduate students. The school has been in operation since 1870, with its main campus located on Park Avenue. The college is highly selective: in the most recent admissions cycle, 25.1% of hopefuls were admitted. Once enrolled, students can take advantage of over 150 degree programs, including popular studies in psychology, social sciences, English language and literature, health professions and visual and performing arts.
Located in the heart of Bean Town, Emerson is unique in its exclusive offering of degrees focused on arts and communication, taught within a liberal arts context. The college has over 35 degree available at the undergraduate and postgraduate levels, with popular programs available in creative writing, cinematography and film/video production, marketing and marketing management, radio and television and broadcast journalism. Students can take advantage of all Boston has to offer, including the many cultural and historic parts of the university’s Back Bay neighborhood.
University of Pittsburgh
First opening its doors in 1787, it’s no wonder the University of Pittsburgh is in Oakland, one of the most historic neighborhoods of Pittsburgh. The campus is peppered with Greek revival, Italian Renaissance, Neogothic and modern architecture, giving students a truly immersive, urban environment for study. The campus is also within walking distance of many cultural activities, including the main branch of the Carnegie Public Library. Nearly 30,000 baccalaureate and post-grad students are currently enrolled; the top five majors include business and management, social sciences, health professions, engineering and English language and literature.
University of New Orleans
Operating as one of the younger institutions on this list, the University of New Orleans has been around since 1958. It is located on the lakefront in New Orleans, providing students with a variety of professional, cultural and historical opportunities. Today, nearly 10,000 students are enrolled in five colleges; top degrees include business and management, engineering, visual and performing arts, interdisciplinary studies and biological and biomedical sciences. In addition to academics, UNO also has over 120 student clubs and organizations, including a vibrant Greek life.
Students at Lipscomb have access to a thriving and culturally vibrant city, with the campus sitting just minutes from popular areas like Belmont, 12 South and Hillsboro Village. The university provides a distinctly Christian education and is affiliated with the Church of Christ. Top undergraduate majors are business, management and marketing, biological and biomedical sciences, education and psychology. There are currently over 4,500 students enrolled, with the majority studying at the undergraduate level.
Rhodes College is located in the Midtown neighborhood of Memphis and is a campus that always draws admiration. Filled with Gothic architecture, many of the buildings are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The school is minutes away from many notable sites in Memphis, providing a rich urban learning environment for the college’s 1,800 enrolled students. Current students hail from 46 states and 10 countries, while 20% of students identify as a racial minority.
Located less than two miles from Philadelphia’s business district, students at Temple University have many opportunities to gain real-world experience during their educations. The university is recognized for graduating one of the largest numbers of professional practitioners in the country, and many potential students are drawn to the university both for its academics and its location. Over 38,000 students are enrolled in more than 400 degree programs. The top five undergraduate majors are business and management, communication and journalism, visual and performing arts, psychology and health professions.
Georgia State University
Located in downtown Atlanta, Georgia State is one of four research universities comprising the University System of Georgia. This public research institution is home to over 32,000 students, of whom over two-thirds are undergraduates. Over 250 programs are offered, with a sizable concentration of students enrolled in business, social sciences, psychology, education and visual and performing arts. The school is in the heart of downtown, providing excellent personal and professional opportunities for students.
Texas Christian University
Texas Christian serves nearly 10,00 students from its campus based three miles from downtown Fort Worth. Operating as a private university, the university provides educations for a largely undergraduate population, with select postgraduate programs also available. As the name implies, the curriculum is rooted in biblically based teaching, with top degrees being business and management, communication and journalism, health professions, social sciences and education. The university maintains a selective enrollment, with an acceptance rate of 37%.
North Carolina A&T State University
Operating as a public research university in Greensboro, NCATSU started as a historically black college, and remains the largest institution of this type in the nation. Today over 10,000 undergraduate and postgraduate students take up degrees in more than 200 different programs. The campus is located just nine blocks from downtown Greensboro, providing easy access to the thriving business and cultural areas of the city. The institution is considered less selective, with an acceptance rate of 56%.
University of South Florida
Operating as part of the State University System of Florida, USF is the fourth largest publicly funded university in the state, with nearly 50,000 students enrolled in baccalaureate and postgraduate studies. The campus is in the heart of Tampa, containing 14 colleges; it is also the campus within the USF system that grants doctoral degrees. The top five undergraduate degrees are finance, criminology, registered nursing, medical microbiology and bacteriology and psychology.
CUNY Brooklyn College
Brooklyn College is a member of the City University of New York (CUNY) system and is headquartered in downtown Brooklyn. The campus has been rated one of the nation’s most beautiful postsecondary educational sites thanks to a mix of historic and modern buildings. The school is also well regarded for its academic offerings: top degree programs include business administration and management, psychology, accounting, early childhood education and elementary education. Within the CUNY system, Brooklyn College is known for having the most rigorous academic programs.
What are the benefits of an urban school?
Depending on the major students intend to pursue, urban colleges can provide unique and significant benefits. In addition to serving as gateways to cultural, historical and commercial hubs, many urban schools are able to offer their students access to high-powered internships and opportunities for networking and post-graduation employment. Urban schools also offer easy access to activities and events taking place in large cities. Students without cars are also drawn to urban settings, as they can take advantage of public transportation.
Key things to consider with urban schools?
Traditionally, there are two types of urban schools: self-contained and interspersed. Self-contained campuses are often within or nearby a large city, but remain separate from the actual hustle and bustle of the metropolitan area. Conversely, many schools are woven into the very fabric of the city, providing less of a traditional college experience but higher access to metropolitan life. Before committing to any higher education institution, prospective students should visit the campus to learn both about academics and campus settings.
Who might want to attend an urban school?
Students seeking arts and science and business degrees in particular are often drawn to urban postsecondary institutions, as they will be placed in the center of the worlds they are hoping to work in once completing their degree. Access to internships, volunteer opportunities and residencies are key when trying to secure a job out of college, and metropolitan universities provide easy access to these extracurriculars.