The 10 Colleges With the Happiest Students

For many students considering a college education, a school’s “happiness quotient” is its most important factor. 

High-achieving learners want to attend a school where they will be both challenged and supported by their peers, professors, and advisers. 

They want to enjoy their surroundings and feel empowered by many ways to get involved in the community.

So, where do the happiest students tend to go to college? 

As it turns out, there’s no miraculous “blue zone” when it comes to the happiest college campuses and student bodies.

According to The Princeton Review, the happiest students attend schools in New England, the West Coast, the Southeast, the Midwest, and the South. 

Perhaps sunny skies and temperate year-round climates have something to do with college students’ happiness.

The Princeton Review publishes an annual list of the ten colleges with the happiest students. Their sole determining factor? 

How strongly participating students agree or disagree with the statement, “I am happy at my school.” The question is asked on a Likert scale with answers ranging from “Strongly Disagree” to “Strongly Agree.”

The following list of the top 10 colleges with the happiest students in the United States is based on where the schools are ranked according to each one’s place in The Princeton Review’s list of happiest students in the US

From bustling cities and diverse student populations to engaging mentors and abundant experiential learning opportunities, many reasons contribute to a college student’s overall happiness. 

Let’s start exploring them now!

10. Brown University (Providence, RI)

Brown University
Kenneth C. Zirkel, Alumnae Hall, Brown University (edited), CC BY-SA 4.0

Brown University students are likely pumped up about the school’s signature Open Curriculum. At Brown, students are not limited to fulfilling general education requirements. Each Brown scholar can design their own course of study, consisting of coursework focused on their interests, curiosities, and future career realms.

More than 80 interdisciplinary programs (Brown’s term for majors) are designed to ignite student inquiry. 

Undergraduates can pursue a B.A. in business, entrepreneurship, and organizations, for example, which exposes them to intersecting concepts in sociology, engineering, and economics. 

Students apply their new learning in meaningful real-world contexts and even occasionally create their own start-up companies.

With such freedom, Brown students can expect significant guidance in determining the best path forward. 

In addition to academic advising deans, Meiklejohn Peer Advising sophomores, juniors, and seniors are trained to provide first-year students with sound guidance on all topics related to living and studying at Brown.

9. College of William and Mary (Williamsburg, VA)

College of William and Mary
Ser Amantio di Nicolao, Camm and Dawson Halls, William and Mary, CC BY-SA 4.0

In addition to being ranked among the top ten happiest schools, the College of William and Mary is also highly ranked in race/class interaction and community service engagement. 

Feeling accepted in a diverse college environment means that your opinions are heard, and your contributions are valued. Many W&M students remark that their favorite part about attending the school is its close-knit community.

For a school so committed to giving back, it is no surprise that giving students feel significant happiness in return. 

W&M students partner with nearly 100 local nonprofits, schools, and dozens of national community centers to mentor students, build homes, and provide direct service to those in need.

Speaking of community, Williamsburg is an excellent place to attend college. A premiere international landmark supporting the preservation of American colonial history, the town offers a rare juxtaposition of early and modern life. No need to worry – William & Mary’s college campus comes with all of the modern conveniences. 

The school’s “Public Ivy” status also makes it a high-value school, considering the tuition. That’s sure to put a smile on some financially savvy students’ faces!

8. Thomas Aquinas College (Santa Paula, CA)

Maintaining a long-held affiliation with the Catholic Church, Thomas Aquinas College is named after an Italian theologian and doctor who supported using reason to understand God and the universe better. 

Aquinas’ principles involve questioning the cause of every result, the utility of objects, and the idea of perfection.

All students pursue a BA degree in liberal arts and sciences and attend weekly classes in the same subjects, including philosophy, mathematics, and language. 

The curriculum is centered on a study of “The Great Books,” which include the original works of St. Thomas Aquinas and other minds like Plato, Descartes, Shakespeare, and Newton.

Thomas Aquinas’ community of more than 400 students spends significant time in student-led discussions, like Socratic seminars, where they explore concepts in an interdisciplinary fashion. 

In these environments, students often leave conversations with more questions than answers, which is celebrated. 

In a curriculum that merges reason and religion, students who genuinely love engaging in deep, respectful conversations about the meaning of life and the reason for human existence will flock to Thomas Aquinas.

7. Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology (Terre Haute, IN)

Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology
Waterlizard403, Moench Hall Rear View 2022, CC BY-SA 4.0

An invigorating STEM curriculum keeps students energetic and engaged at the Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology. 

Students learn in intimate environments where all of their professors know them by name. The shared passion for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics provides common ground for students to build solid friendships and networking connections.

Rose-Hulman is also ranked in the top 1% of colleges for state-of-the-art technology

Who doesn’t love playing with shiny new toys?! Students can expect to gain hands-on experience using up-to-date equipment and software. 

Projects range from individually driven to team-focused, preparing students to thrive in a variety of leadership roles after college.

Another reason Rose-Hulman students are smiling? Their career prospects look amazing! 

More than 98% of RHIT graduates gain employment after graduating, and the school hosts three annual career fairs to expose undergraduates to exciting and interdisciplinary careers in the greater STEM industry.

6. University of Dallas (Irving, TX)

University of Dallas
Wissembourg, SB Hall with Braniff Tower, CC BY-SA 4.0

Perhaps a hidden gem to those outside the lone star state, many Texas natives know just how special the University of Dallas is.

Located on a 744-acre campus, the University of Dallas is an educational institution focusing on the core liberal arts philosophy. Overall, the school is ranked among the top western regional universities by US News.

Perhaps one of the more intriguing offerings on campus is the Haggerty Art Village, a graduate fine arts program with facilities for art students with interests as widely varied as printmaking to sculpture.

University of Dallas boasts a number of impressive alumni. These include Jason Henderson, a highly successful fantasy novelist; Emmet Flood, who served as counsel to president George W. Bush in the mid-2000s; and Thomas Hibbs, the former president of the University of Dallas.

5. Texas Christian University (Fort Worth, TX)

Texas Christian University
Michael Barera, Texas Christian University (Ed and Rae Schollmaier Arena), CC BY-SA 4.0

Not too far away from UT Dallas, students at TCU spend their free time watching Saturday football games in the fall, going bar hopping in downtown Fort Worth, and attending popular fraternity and sorority events. 

On-campus facilities like the University Recreation Center offer diverse opportunities for students to stay active and keep those endorphins firing. 

Sports like sand volleyball, rock climbing, and racquetball are open to students with varying levels of experience.

Student organizations maintain a prominent presence on campus, and there are unique events going on any night of the week. 

Some students might compete in a video game tournament at the Carter Tech Center, while others might catch a newly released action movie screening in the BLUU Auditorium. Concerts frequently draw crowds to eclectic venues throughout the Dallas-Fort Worth area.

Many students are cheerful about combining their academic pursuits with love for Christ. 

All TCU grads take at least one religion class in their course of studies, though many go on to major in the sciences and liberal arts. 

In fact, TCU has a reputation for being the top Texas school for two professions that aren’t going anywhere: nurses and teachers.

4. Kansas State University (Manhattan, KS)

More Kansas high school students apply to Kansas State than any other university, and for a good reason! 

We aren’t kidding when we say Kansas State sweeps the rankings, earning top accolades in categories like students who love their college, the college with the happiest students, and the college with the best quality of life. What is the secret to KSU’s success?

School leaders attribute its likability to robust career preparation services as well as emotional health services provided by organizations like the Morrison Family Center for Student Wellbeing and the YOu@KSU initiatives. 

Other factors that bring joy to Wildcat hearts are promising career prospects and affordable tuition costs. 

Voted a best-value university by SmartAsset, the school gives more than $72 million in annual scholarship funds. Once students graduate, an impressive 97% of them find employment or gain admission to graduate school within several months.

3. Auburn University (Auburn, AL)

Auburn University Samford Hall
Public domain photo by Daderot via Wikimedia Commons

Auburn students have a lot to be happy about. Winning sports teams, a charming campus, and palpable student pride, not to mention exceptional opportunities for undergraduate research, are the reasons to attend Auburn!

Students at Auburn dedicate time to playing as much as pursuing their degree coursework. There are over 500 organizations to get involved in, and the school hosts popular concerts and events. 

Each spring semester, Auburn clubs organize a major country music festival known as Old Row, complete with mechanical bull-riding competitions, delicious barbeque, and all the school spirit to accompany it. 

Students love the small-town feel of Auburn, Alabama. 

Other cities like Atlanta, Birmingham, and Montgomery are only a short drive away, increasing opportunities for fun weekend trips and shared volunteer commitments.

2. Vanderbilt University (Nashville, TN)

Vanderbilt University
BugsMeanee, Warren College, CC BY-SA 4.0

Vanderbilt is no stranger to The Princeton Review’s ranking of the students who love their colleges the most. 

They’ve sat atop the list on several occasions! Students report their quality of life as a significant contributor to their happiness. 

Many Vanderbilt students do not have to worry about the stress that accompanies paying for four years of tuition at an elite university. 

Over two-thirds of Vanderbilt undergraduates receive some form of merit- or need-based financial aid, meaning they can focus more on their studies and less on affording to sit in the classroom.

In particular, Vandy strongly emphasizes supporting the first-year student transition to college. 

All first-year students live within ten houses on the Martha Rivers Ingram Common, and Vanderbilt regularly holds team-building games and competitions to foster unity. 

The Commons Cup is similar to the points accumulation at Hogwarts in the Harry Potter series – all of the Vanderbilt houses compete in sports, eating, video game, and whimsical activities to win the Commons Cup at the end of the year. Fun incentives like the Commons Cup keep Vanderbilt students in good spirits.

1. Tulane University (New Orleans, LA)

Tulane University Newcomb Hall
Whatevergb, Newcomb Hall Tulane University, CC BY-SA 4.0

Laissez les bon temps rouler! Tulane students let the good times roll in New Orleans, a richly diverse city that always seems to have something fun going on. 

From visiting aquariums, voodoo temples, aquariums, and unique bars and restaurants, someone can spend four years at Tulane and still feel like there is more to uncover in the Crescent City!

The multidisciplinary approach Tulane takes is one of the schools’ best assets. 

All first-year students, for example, take an interdisciplinary TIDES Course, which challenges students to solve real-life problems in the city of New Orleans. 

There are over 120 seminars to choose from, like “Reproductive Politics in New Orleans,” “Memory and Public Space,” and “Frames, Films, and Femme Fatales: Women in Film.”