Best College Towns in Florida
Editor & Writer
Writer & Editor
Editor & Writer
Writer & Editor
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- Some of the best colleges in Florida are in college towns, not major cities.
- College towns in Florida have culture, character, and scenic beaches.
- Many Florida college towns are home to more than one college.
- Florida college towns' populations range from 50,000-200,000 — many of those students.
Florida may be known as a haven for retirees, but the Sunshine State is also great for students wanting that classic college experience (plus beaches). Over 850,000 students enrolled in Florida in spring 2023 — the fourth-highest student population of any state.
With over 400 schools to choose from, you may want to narrow down your options by researching ideal college locations. Some of the best colleges in Florida are located outside the major cities. We’ve found five of the best college towns in Florida to get your search started.
How We Chose
Florida is a big state, but Florida’s college towns shouldn’t be — size was one of the leading factors that determined which schools made it onto our list. Plenty of students flock to Florida’s biggest cities like Jacksonville, Miami, Tampa, and Orlando, but the destinations ranked below are more suited to those looking for that smaller college-town feel.
We also paid attention to factors like student population, affordability, walkability, access to outdoor recreation, and cultural attractions.
Data Note: Town populations come from the United States Census Bureau’s July 2022 population estimates. Student populations are the sum of all listed local colleges’ fall 2022 enrollment figures, according to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES).
- Local Colleges: University of Florida, Santa Fe College
- Town Population: 145,000
- Student Population: 67,940
Life in Gainesville revolves around the University of Florida — the eighth-largest college in the U.S. as of fall 2022. The town has classic college town vibes, with historic districts and a renowned indie music scene.
Students can catch an art house film or theater production at the Hippodrome Theater or attend The Fest, an annual multi-day music festival held in Gainesville around Halloween.
2. Boca Raton
If that Florida beach life is what attracts you to college in Florida, Boca Raton might be the college town for you. With a two-mile stretch of lifeguard-protected shores, there’s plenty of beach to go around.
Students eager to commune with Florida’s coastal animals can snorkel at Red Reef Park or check out the trails, aquariums, and butterfly garden at the nearby Gumbo Limbo Nature Center. But just 45 miles north of Miami, this Florida college town also provides easy access to urban exploration.
In addition to being one of the best Florida college towns, Tallahassee is also the state capital, making this a great choice for students interested in government or law careers. In fact, the state government outstrips Florida State University as the city’s biggest employer.
In addition to typical college town attractions like great cafes and coffee shops, the town also has a bevy of museums highlighting the state’s natural, political, and cultural history.
4. Fort Myers
- Local Colleges: Florida Gulf Coast University, Florida SouthWestern State College
- Town Population: 96,000
- Student Population: 30,295
Interested in coming to the Sunshine State for its good weather? You’re not the only one — famous inventor Thomas Edison and industrialist Henry Ford both had winter homes in Fort Myers, which visitors can now tour.
The area around Fort Myers is also a seashell collector heaven, and nearby Sanibel Island even has a museum dedicated to shells.
- Local Colleges: University of West Florida, Pensacola State College
- Town Population: 54,000
- Student Population: 21,502
Located on the western tip of the Florida Panhandle, Pensacola is home to miles of white sand beaches perfect for swimming, shelling, fishing, and maybe even a little bit of studying.
Pensacola is also the headquarters of the U.S. Navy’s aerobatic team, the Blue Angels. After catching one of their famed flight shows, students staying in this Florida college town can visit the National Naval Aviation Museum to learn more about the planes and pilots.
Frequently Asked Questions About College in Florida
What is the #1 college in Florida?
The University of Florida is considered the #1 best college in Florida. Our ranking is based on academic quality, affordability, college reputation, and student experience. Students from all over the world travel to attend the University of Florida for its renowned academic programs and research opportunities.
What Florida city has the most colleges?
Miami has the most colleges out of any city in Florida — 45 schools, according to NCES data from fall 2022. Jacksonville and Tampa both have 25 schools each, and Orlando has 20 schools.
What Florida college is the easiest to get into?
Florida Atlantic University has the highest admission rate of all public four-year colleges in the state, at 81% as of fall 2022, according to NCES.
What is the biggest college town in Florida?
St. Petersburg, Cape Coral, and Tallahassee all have populations over 200,000 and could be considered college towns. Orlando, Tampa, and Miami are typically considered major cities rather than college towns, with populations between 300,000-450,000.