Imagine that the famous Waldo is no longer a bespectacled man wearing red & white stripes and a funny hat, but rather is a place – and not just any place, but the place where you will spend the next four years of your life. Waldo is what you’ll wake up to every morning, the air you’ll breath, and the sights and sounds that will surround you on a daily basis. Just as you would do with a busy “Where’s Waldo?” image, you’re searching a map of the United States, trying to find the perfect place to spend your undergraduate days. Now, we’ve already discussed whether weather should be a consideration of yours when thinking about where to apply to college (it should!), but there’s much more to a school’s location than the annual days of sunshine statistics. The American Institute for Economic Research (AIER) has compiled an extremely useful College Destinations Index that provides detailed information on seventy-five of the top-ranked college towns and cities in the country!
First, sign up with AIER (it’s free) and you’ll then receive an “infographic showing the detailed ranking of all top 75 college destinations.” Using this infographic, you should first decide whether you’re most interested in living in a major, mid-sized, or small metro area, or a college town. Then sit back, relax, and explore! You’ll be presented with pearls of information related to an area’s student life (student concentration, cost of housing, and city accessibility), culture (arts & leisure, international students, and percent of workers in innovative fields), economic health (unemployment rate, entrepreneurial activity, and brain drain/gain), and opportunity (R&D statistics, percent of the population with a college degree, and earning potential). As the AIER points out, these are criteria that can truly “enrich a college learning experience”, and should be duly noted in deliberations on the important question, “Where should I apply to college?” If you don’t want to sign up with AIER, you can still click here to explore different possible destinations. For instance, in terms of the rankings of Major Metros, San Francisco is ranked first, followed by Boston and Seattle. In terms of College Town rankings, Ames, Iowa (home of Iowa State University) comes out on top. And remember, you can also search by Midsize Metros and Small Metros – a very useful website!
Keep in mind that a college’s physical characteristics (which include location) are a crucial component of the “good fit” equation. When you find an area that looks ideal, the AIER helpfully provides you with a list of nearby colleges and universities to investigate. Cartoon Waldo shouldn’t be the only one exploring – have some adventures of your own!