The 10 Most Intelligent College Towns In America

Oh, if only summer could last forever. How is it that we all love vacation away from school, traveling to foreign places, making exciting memories on the hot sands of the worlds beaches, and embracing the ideals of relaxation and peace during the offseason of college. Fun and summer are two of the seemingly most intricately synonymous words in the English language, and for good reason.

And yet, believe it or not, it is only less than two months from now until summer break for students will be over. In less than two months from now class is back in session, and for good! Pack your backpacks and get ready to learn, because it is time for us to find out one simple question; which college towns are the ones that yield the highest intelligence?

Before we begin, let’s define the often loosely used term “college town.” A college town is a municipality in which a university is a driving economic force for the entire population of the town. Most “college towns” have the primary college or university as one of the county’s highest employers.

In addition, a college town has to be bigger than just the college. For example, the town of Annandale-On-Hudson, NY is a very intelligent town, but there not much else outside of the city’s Bard College except for a few small businesses and residencies. Cities like Amherst, MA and Ann Arbor, MI, on the other hand, are bustling with life inside of the university as well as with culture, businesses of all sizes, and a population dense with graduate degrees.

So without further ado, here are the 10 most intelligent college towns in the entire United States.


10. Austin, TX

austin texas photo

Austin Lake Front: Photo by StuSeeger Via Flickr Creative Commons

Possibly the hippest, most intelligent town in the southern US, Austin is very notable for being a hot center for students and young professionals in their 20s and 30s. The University of Texas at Austin has not only many of the brightest young students throughout the entire state and country, it also graduates thousands of people with diverse training skills, including engineering and computer science, that help drive Austin’s defense sectors. Nearly 50% of the entire population of Austin has a bachelor’s degree, with nearly 20% of them having a graduate degree or better. Austin is regularly ranked in the top 10 cities in the US that have the highest education rates, with a no. 8 ranking in 2009, according to the Brookings Institute.

Previously ranked as the no. 1 overall college town by The Travel Channel, Austin is also known as being the premiere hotspot for intellectual young entrepreneurs. Indeed, young graduates of UT Austin and other residents of the town are consistently starting up some of the most successful businesses nationally and internationally.

Don’t believe me? Some of the most notable startups created in Austin in the last 15 years include the job board aggregate Indeed.com, the DIY vacation booking agent homeaway.com, and the sports entertainment website fansided.com, among literally thousands of others.


9. Amherst, MA

umass amherst photo

Umass Amherst: Photo by Massachusetts Office of Travel & Tourism Via Flickr Creative Commons

Perhaps Massachusetts’ most well-known college town, Amherst is among the most intelligent cities in America, with over 40% of the population boasting either a graduate degree or another nationally recognized professional certificate. Because of the driving economic power of three institutions of higher education, notably UMass Amherst, Amherst College, and Hampshire College, over 50% of the population is employed in the education sector. The town is noted for supporting an intriguing amount of cultural diversity, as it is home to a number of important composers, authors, jazz musicians, and poets, many of which work at UMass Amherst. Nearly 55% of the population during the school year is students, intelligent students who study at one of the world’s top universities.


8. Chapel Hill, NC

chapel hill north carolina photo

UNC Campus: Photo by calamity_sal Via Flickr Creative Commons

In 2009, The Daily Beast ranked Chapel Hill, NC as the smartest college town in America, and it is easy to see why: almost half of the population of Chapel Hill has a graduate or doctoral degree! In fact, according to the 2008 US Census Bureau, nearly ¾ of the population had, at the very least, a baccalaureate degree, making Chapel Hill, in terms of population proportion, the most well-educated city in the entire United States. Many graduates of the city’s resident college and driving economic force, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, go on to lucrative careers in business, with Bloomberg Businessweek naming MBA graduates of UNC Chapel Hill as among the highest paid business school graduates in the entire world.

As is the case with nearly every intelligent city throughout America, Chapel Hill is bursting with healthy doses of large corporations, small businesses, and unique, diverse, and inviting cultures. The town is home to the Chapel Hill headquarters of the insurance company Blue Cross Blue Shield, as well as one of the most popular indie record labels of all time, Merge Records, which is home to the international sensation Arcade Fire. It is also considered a hot-spot for foodies, recently named by Bon Appettit Magazine as one of the “foodiest small towns” in America.


7. Bloomington, IN

indiana university photo

IU Bloomington Campus: Photo by nichcollins Via Flickr Creative Commons

Bloomington is home to a diverse landscape of intelligence driven by one the nation’s finest universities, Indiana University @ Bloomington. Indeed, graduates of the college as well as the university itself propel the city’s economy, which is notably excellent in providing jobs in the life sciences and technology communities, as well as in manufacturing and, of course, education. Known in recent years as an entrepreneurial community, many startups in consulting, business incentive programs, and technology have emerged in Bloomington, Indiana, with Entrepreneur Magazine recently naming it in the Top 50 “Hottest Small Cities for Entrepreneurs.” Residents of Bloomington are treated to a number of well-attended cultural sightings and festivals, including the famous Little 500 bicycle race, the entrepreneur conference The Combine, and Greater Bloomington’s Business Expo.

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