Top party schools in America

Written by:
May 17, 2018

Top party schools in America

It’s often said that college is the best four years of one’s life. It’s a time to learn, to explore, to sign up for an 8 a.m. class thinking, “that’s not too early,” and subsequently miss every last lecture because yes, that is too early. College is the padded barrier between childhood and adult life, full of adventures and ice cream for dinner, but devoid of grown-up problems like mortgages and cholesterol. College gives you a chance to figure out who you ultimately want to be.

An added bonus to all that meaningful self-discovery? Parties. Most colleges, in addition to anthropology courses and mediocre dining hall grub, offer their own particular brand of social scene. While some studies have found that your typical college freshman is partying less and using social media more, Instagram hasn’t killed off the college party yet: 60% of students in a national survey reported drinking alcohol in the past month and more of them are regular users of marijuana than they were a decade ago.

Whether students are binge drinking or sipping a glass of water while they spend time with their friends, parties offer the opportunity to socialize and connect with classmates. As a growing number of today’s college students report struggling with depression, anxiety, and feelings of isolation, these moments of human connection outside the classroom become even more important. However, not all college parties are created equal. Certain schools really know what they’re doing in the way of parties, and it’s those schools that are honored with a place on this list.

To create this party school ranking, Stacker used data pulled from Niche. Niche’s party calculations account for access to bars and restaurants, athletics culture, Greek life, and student polling data. Every school on this list received an A+ party grade, so grab a red plastic cup, drink responsibly, and enjoy Stacker’s list of the top 50 party schools in America.

You may also like: Party schools whose grads go on to earn the most money

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Paolo Zampella // Wikicommons

#50. Loyola University New Orleans

Location: New Orleans, LA

Acceptance rate: 68%

Net price: $24,119

It’s no wonder that a school located in New Orleans would know how to party—the city itself seems to value food, drink, and parades above all else. However, the university is also Jesuit, which may account for its lower ranking on this list.


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Nylandmarks // Wikimedia Commons

#49. The New School

Location: New York, NY

Acceptance rate: 60%

Net price: $45,504

The New School’s party scene can mostly be attributed to its location: smack in the middle of New York City. While the university doesn’t have a traditional campus of quads and football fields, it does provide access to all the nightlife NYC has to offer—and the tens of thousands of other college freshman who flock the city each year.

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Bhockey10 // Wikimedia Commons

#48. Bowling Green State University

Location: Bowling Green, OH

Acceptance rate: 76%

Net price: $17,313

The city of Bowling Green may be small, but it’s also full of bars and college kids, meaning parties are sure to ensue. For BGSU, St. Patrick’s Day is perhaps the biggest party event of the year; when the holiday fell on a Saturday in 2018, students prepared for absolute madness

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NYU-Stern // Wikimedia Commons

#47. New York University

Location: New York, NY

Acceptance rate: 32%

Net price: $35,147

Like The New School, NYU’s party scene is based on its location in one of the most exciting and nightlife-heavy cities in the world. Students here have everything at their disposal, from dorm parties to dive bars, clubs to karaoke—plus almost everything’s open until 4 a.m.

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Tomwsulcer // Wikimedia Commons

#46. Rutgers University

Location: New Brunswick, NJ

Acceptance rate: 57%

Net price: $15,614

In many ways, Rutgers students have the best of both worlds: access to all the craziness of New York City, and all the benefits of a smaller city with local options. Students here can travel to Manhattan for everything happening there, or hit up bars, comedy shows, and music in New Brunswick.

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Billy Hathorn // Wikimedia Commons

#45. Texas State University

Location: San Marcos, TX

Acceptance rate: 71%

Net price: $12,647

San Marcos, Texas is a college town through and through, with the university all but dominating the city itself. 60% of Students polled on Niche cite Riverfest, an annual spring concert, as the school’s biggest party of the year.

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Caroline Culler // Wikimedia Commons

#44. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Location: Chapel Hill, NC

Acceptance rate: 27%

Net price: $10,077

Athletics certainly play a role in social life at UNC Chapel Hill: the school has some of the top teams in the country, particularly in basketball. The university has even launched initiatives to help keep parties going while keeping students safe, such as its “Party, Police Free” program.

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Nehrams2020 // Wikimedia Commons

#43. San Diego State University

Location: San Diego, CA

Acceptance rate: 35%

Net price: $14,344

If a school is located just a short drive from the beach, and the average temperature doesn’t go below 65 degrees even in winter, it’s hard not to have a good time there. Varsity sports, and their requisite tailgates, are also a big part of life at San Diego State.

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Thomson200 // Wikimedia Commons

#42. Clark Atlanta University

Location: Atlanta, GA

Acceptance rate: 72%

Net price: $27,725

This historically African American university was originally two separate schools—they joined together in the 1930s to form today’s Clark Atlanta University. On Niche, 78% of students name Homecoming as the school’s top social event, in which sports games, concerts, and a Miss Clark Atlanta Coronation and Ball form several days worth of excitement.

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Bgervais // Wikimedia Commons

#41. University of Maryland - College Park

Location: College Park, MD

Acceptance rate: 48%

Net price: $15,757

If somehow the name didn’t already give it away, College Park is absolutely a college town. The city is less than six square miles in size, but students find plenty to do—including attending the hugely popular Maryland vs Duke basketball games.

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Kevin Dooley // Wikimedia Commons

#40. Arizona State University

Location: Tempe, AZ

Acceptance rate: 83%

Net price: $13,007

This sprawling university is home to over 70,000 students and is one of the largest universities in the country. With this many people, there’s always a lot going on— including major sports events and a seemingly endless stream of pool parties (the average year round temperature is 87 degrees).

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Matt Casey // Wikimedia Commons

#39. Lehigh University

Location: Bethlehem, PA

Acceptance rate: 26%

Net price: $27,478

Lehigh was founded in 1865, and since then its students have been working hard and playing harder. Greek life is big (according to Niche, 40% of men and 45% of women on campus take part in fraternities and sororities), and a Niche survey also revealed that 67% of students say there are raging parties every single night of the week.


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MARELBU // Wikimedia Commons

#38. California State University - Chico

Location: Chico, CA

Acceptance rate: 65%

Net price: $13,645

Cal State Chico is located just walking distance from a great variety of restaurants, bars, and clubs in its downtown area, making multiple nightlife options very accessible. What’s more, Sierra Nevada beer has its headquarters in Chico, so you can get the stuff straight from the source.

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Alanmak // Wikimedia Commons

#37. University of California - Santa Barbara

Location: Santa Barbara, CA

Acceptance rate: 36%

Net price: $15,149

Set before a backdrop of rolling mountains and nestled on two sides by stretches of beach, UC Santa Barbara knows how to have fun and look good while doing it. From major events like Extravaganza and Halloween, to frat parties, to food and drink options downtown, UCSB students are never bored.

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Brandonrush // Wikimedia Commons

#36. University of Arkansas

Location: Fayetteville, AR

Acceptance rate: 63%

Net price: $15,411

Fayetteville is a young, laid back city that’s often ranked amongst the best college towns in the nation, making it a great place for students to live, work, and party. At the university, sports contribute largely to social life—it doesn’t hurt that the Arkansas Razorbacks have won 44 NCAA championships.

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Cargoudel // Wikimedia Commons

#35. University of Delaware

Location: Newark, DE

Acceptance rate: 70%

Net price: $15,894

Newark, Delaware may be small, but its Main Street (right near UD campus) is packed with plenty of options for shopping, dining, and of course, drinking. And there are good times happening on campus, too—72% of UD students interviewed for Niche say that there’s a great social atmosphere in the dorms.

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Ken L. // Flickr

#34. University of Southern California

Location: Los Angeles, CA

Acceptance rate: 17%

Net price: $32,932

Located in Downtown Los Angeles, USC students have access to all the clubs, bars and fun of the city. But for those who wish to stay on campus (or are not yet of age), there are lots of parties and events around both Greek life and USC sports.

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Rough Tough, Real Stuff // Wikimedia Commons

#33. University of Missouri

Location: Columbia, MO

Acceptance rate: 75%

Net price: $16,317

Commonly referred to as “Mizzou”, University of Missouri enrolls over 30,000 students. Socially, the school boasts a healthy dose of Greek life and athletic pride (go Truman!).

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Kzollman // Wikimedia Commons

#32. Kansas State University

Location: Manhattan, KS

Acceptance rate: 94%

Net price: $16,431

Manhattan, Kansas doesn’t have Broadway or world-renowned pizza, but Kansas State University has a thriving party scene. One of its most exciting events is known as “Fake Patty’s Day”, during which the six square blocks of bars and restaurants in the other Manhattan (known as Aggiesville) dedicate a full day to drinking in early March.

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Thomson200 // Wikimedia Commons

#31. College of Charleston

Location: Charleston, SC

Acceptance rate: 84%

Net price: $18,877

There’s tons to do in Charleston, and a lot of it includes food ideal for a late night—who doesn’t love 4 A.M. chicken and waffles? This Southern hot spot is a stellar college town full of nightlife options like bars and live music—and according to Niche, house parties are a constant as well.

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Jbaker08 // Wikimedia Commons

#30. Vanderbilt University

Location: Nashville, TN

Acceptance rate: 11%

Net price: $23,150

Nashville is not just a college town—it’s a vibrant spot full of food, music, history, and lots and lots of bars. On campus, Vanderbilt students are also very active in Greek life, with 42% of students participating in fraternities and sororities during the 2016–2017 school year.

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Dfscgt21 // Wikimedia Commons

#29. University of South Carolina

Location: Columbia, SC

Acceptance rate: 68%

Net price: $19,913

A school that has a beloved and longstanding food tradition of “Chicken Finger Wednesdays” definitely knows what’s good in life. University of South Carolina also goes far and beyond comfort food—on Niche, the most popular answer for favorite campus events is “tailgating on Saturdays for football games.”

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Bryan Y.W. Shin // Wikimedia Commons

#28. University of Pennsylvania

Location: Philadelphia, PA

Acceptance rate: 9%

Net price: $22,944

With an acceptance rate of only 9%, Ivy League status, and a top ten ranking on Forbes’ list of America’s Top Colleges 2017, one might think Penn keeps students chained to the library. That’s definitely not the case—often referred to as “the social Ivy”, Penn’s Greek-life-heavy social scene is nothing to sneeze at.

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Kai Brinker // Wikimedia Commons

#27. Syracuse University

Location: Syracuse, NY

Acceptance rate: 52%

Net price: $31,823

Despite being located in a city that’s often buried in snow, Syracuse University has been consistently ranked as one of the nation’s top party schools. With a passion for basketball, involvement in Greek life, and major events like Juice Jam and Mayfest, Syracuse students know how to have a good time.

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MECU // Wikimedia Commons

#26. University of Colorado - Boulder

Location: Boulder, CO

Acceptance rate: 77%

Net price: $22,727

As a leader in the decriminalization and recreational use of cannabis, the state of Colorado seems to know a thing or two about kicking back and enjoying life. Consequently, 4/20 is a popular event at the university. Students also enjoy frequenting Boulder bars and cheering on Ralphie the Buffalo at football games.

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Bestbudbrian // Wikimedia Commons

#25. University of Virginia

Location: Charlottesville, VA

Acceptance rate: 30%

Net price: $15,945

Of 188 students interviewed on Niche, 78% say that “varsity sports are a huge part of campus life” at University of Virginia. And then are the campus traditions that require a little less clothing: streaking the lawn has been a staple of Virginia life for decades.

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InaMaka // Wikimedia Commons

#24. University of Kansas

Location: Lawrence, KS

Acceptance rate: 93%

Net price: $18,014

There’s year-round fun to be had at the University of Kansas, but it’s March Madness that really takes things to the next level. Kansas students have some crazy, well-deserved basketball pride, which lays the foundation for the school’s social life.

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Wikiuser2787 // Wikimedia Commons

#23. East Carolina University

Location: Greenville, NC

Acceptance rate: 70%

Net price: $12,817

East Carolina cracked the top 50 in Niche’s 2018 ranking of “Best Greek Life Colleges in America.” and students agree that it’s a big part of life there. They also agree that Halloween is one of the biggest party nights of the year—and there are plenty of on- and off-campus spots to rock your incredibly last-minute costume.

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Jha4ceb // Wikimedia Commons

#22. University of Michigan - Ann Arbor

Location: Ann Arbor, MI

Acceptance rate: 29%

Net price: $16,107

The University of Michigan boasts some impressive stats: in 2018, Niche ranked it #3 for “Colleges with the Best Student Life,” #2 for “Best Big Colleges,” and #1 for “Top Public Universities in America” To top it all off, Michigan students also excel at partying—embracing the ultimate “work hard, play hard” mentality.

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NCinDC // Flickr

#21. Howard University

Location: Washington, DC

Acceptance rate: 30%

Net price: $22,712

Greek life certainly plays a role in Howard’s social life, and though not the main focus, varsity sports contribute as well. In fact, the hands-down most exciting event in Howard life is its homecoming.

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Jeffness // Wikimedia Commons

#20. Michigan State University

Location: East Lansing, MI

Acceptance rate: 66%

Net price: $14,970

East Lansing has it all: karaoke, quiet pubs, and plenty of places to dance. On campus, there are plenty of weeknight parties, as well as some particularly intense, rivalry-filled football games to attend.

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Harrier233 // Wikimedia Commons

#19. University of Miami

Location: Coral Gables, FL

Acceptance rate: 38%

Net price: $37,424

Beach access and people who notoriously look great in bathing suits are not a bad combo, and the University of Miami has both. On Niche, 34% of Miami students polled named “tropical paradise” as the phrase to best describe their school, and the beloved varsity sports don’t hurt either.

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Rkevins82 // Wikimedia Commons

#18. The Ohio State University

Location: Columbus, OH

Acceptance rate: 54%

Net price: $17,971

Sports are a major part of life at Ohio State, and the Buckeyes give Ohio students a reason to be proud. And for those heading off campus for a night in Columbus, $1 grilled cheeses are a great way to begin or end the night (or both).

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DouglassGreen // Wikimedia Commons

#17. University of Florida

Location: Gainesville, FL

Acceptance rate: 46%

Net price: $14,761

There’s plenty going on at the University of Florida, and the nightlife scene is vast enough to provide something to all of the school’s 50,000 students. But only one event can cover it all, and that’s Gator Stompin’, where a ticket buys participants free drinks at dozens of Gainesville bars.

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Stuart Adams // Wikimedia Commons

#16. Louisiana State University

Location: Baton Rouge, LA

Acceptance rate: 76%

Net price: $15,095

55% of LSU students polled on Niche say that “almost everything on campus revolves around sports.” The active nightlife scene in Baton Rouge provides plenty of fun options as well.

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Ken L. // Flickr

#15. University of Mississippi

Location: University, MS

Acceptance rate: 78%

Net price: $14,678

“Ole Miss” prides itself on taking tailgating to a “higher plane.” Most of the Mississippi tailgating experience is centered around The Grove: normally a 10-acre park in the middle of campus that easily transforms into the pinnacle of a tailgating city.

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Jeffrey Beall // Wikimedia Commons

#14. Southern Methodist University

Location: Dallas, TX

Acceptance rate: 49%

Net price: $37,499

In 2012, SMU received the high honor of being named the school with the #1 Nightlife in the Country by Playboy. According to the magazine, Southern Methodist University is “Dallas’s never-ending house party.”

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Richard Hurd // Flickr

#13. University of Wisconsin

Location: Madison, WI

Acceptance rate: 53%

Net price: $15,874

Of all the things the state of Wisconsin does well, cheese might have to be first and foremost. But a close second is the nightlife and social scene at the University of Wisconsin, which includes going out and about in Madison and cheering on the Badgers.

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#12. University of Alabama

Location: Tuscaloosa, AL

Acceptance rate: 53%

Net price: $20,133

If there’s one phrase to sum up everything University of Alabama, it has to be “Roll Tide!” This school knows how to party everywhere—from football games, to local bars, to frat houses, considering that 34% of the student body goes Greek

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Ed! // Wikimedia Commons

#11. Ohio University

Location: Athens, OH

Acceptance rate: 75%

Net price: $21,899

Not only are people having fun at Ohio University, they’re also very happy—57% of students polled on Niche say that the campus is “beautiful” and their “second home.” The school has also been ranked as Playboy’s #1 Party School in the past.

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Dori // Wikimedia Commons

#10. University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Location: Champaign, IL

Acceptance rate: 60%

Net price: $16,683

In 1995, local Champaign bar owners were met with a problem: St. Patrick’s Day, typically a hugely profitable day for bars, fell during the University of Illinois Spring Break. Thus was born “Unofficial,” a fake St. Patrick’s Day that quickly became the biggest party event of the year for Illinois students.

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IT Communications Office // Wikimedia Commons

#9. Indiana University - Bloomington

Location: Bloomington, IN

Acceptance rate: 79%

Net price: $12,621

Social life is a big part of the IU experience, and both Greek life and major athletic pride play a role in making Indiana the good time it is. One particularly popular event at Indiana is the Little 500, a bicycle race on campus that also becomes what the town refers to as “The World’s Greatest College Weekend.”

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Prayitno // Flickr

#8. Penn State

Location: University Park, PA

Acceptance rate: 56%

Net price: $25,055

University of Pennsylvania students may be hellbent on reminding people that they are “not Penn State,” but being Penn State doesn’t look so bad. There’s Greek life and strong athletics, and more than half of students surveyed on Niche agree with the statement “I love everything about my school and have a lot of campus pride.”


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Larry D. Moore // Wikimedia Commons

#7. University of Texas - Austin

Location: Austin, TX

Acceptance rate: 40%

Net price: $16,010

Austin really does have it all. There’s amazing music and culture, great food and drinks (even after midnight), and a good dose of Southern hospitality. UT Austin follows in the city’s footsteps as a university that knows how to have fun, especially at renowned events like Round Up.

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Aparkswv // Wikimedia Commons

#6. West Virginia University

Location: Morgantown, WV

Acceptance rate: 76%

Net price: $10,814

Morgantown may not be a huge city, but West Virginia University is a school with a big personality. The Niche statistics say it all: nearly half of students polled agree there are wild parties every night of the week, and most also agree that football games and Fall Fest are some of the most fun a WVU student can have.

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Jackson Myers // Flickr

#5. Florida State University

Location: Tallahassee, FL

Acceptance rate: 58%

Net price: $16,506

New York City may be the city that never sleeps, but apparently it’s got a rival: FSU’s home, Tallahassee, is the “college town that never sleeps,” and that’s because there’s too much fun to be had while awake. It’s full of great bars, clubs, and restaurants, and the student house parties are a weekend feature as well.

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KMSatoh202 // Wikimedia Commons

#4. University of Iowa

Location: Iowa City, IA

Acceptance rate: 84%

Net price: $14,161

Iowa’s party school rep is nothing new, and it’s long been known that Hawkeyes know how to party. There’s a heavy Greek presence and the football stadium is always packed on game nights—not to mention all the wild tailgating before the game even begins.

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Theodonc // Wikimedia Commons

#3. Miami University

Location: Oxford, OH

Acceptance rate: 65%

Net price: $20,186

Lest the name fool you, Miami University is actually located in rural Ohio, north of Cincinnati. But being landlocked has not put a damper on Miami University students—in fact, this top three spot is earned by the variety of bar access, music, sporting events, and house parties available at Miami.

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Pruddle // Wikimedia Commons

#2. University of Georgia

Location: Athens, GA

Acceptance rate: 54%

Net price: $14,956

Greek life is huge at the University of Georgia, and a large portion of the social scene and nightlife is centered around this fact. Additionally, Downtown Athens is jam-packed with bars of every variety.

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Vegasjon // Wikimedia Commons

#1. Tulane University

Location: New Orleans, LA

Acceptance rate: 26%

Net price: $32,515

And the winner is...Tulane University! Located in one of the most infamously wild cities in the country, Tulane gives students access to all the food, music, and bars that New Orleans has to offer. Tulane students really aren’t messing around when it comes to going out — they “party with a purpose.” 

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