Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Dueling Cities: Best College Towns in America

Charming neighborhoods, historical landmarks, enthralling sports teams, and over 50 different universities and colleges make Boston, MA one of the top college towns in America. Over the years, Boston has been able to maintain its position on this prestigious list, but students in Washington, DC are hoping it will soon have to share the title. In an interview with three D.C. residents, internships and job openings, political involvement, access to public resources, and proximity to other cities were all listed as reasons for bumping Boston off the list and putting D.C. in its place.

American University student Madeline Shattow considers educational opportunities to be the city’s greatest asset: “There are so many resources and so many internship opportunities for students. Being an intern is such an important part of being a student in D.C. You’re constantly putting your skills to work in a real life setting.” In addition to internship opportunities, Shattow adds that D.C. has the best applicant to job opening ratio of any major city in the U.S., making it an ideal environment for transitioning from full-time student to full-time employee.

By living in D.C., students also have a chance to experience political and social activism first hand. Shattow explains that professors encourage their students to participate by incorporating different events into the course material. These events often include think tanks, demonstrations, political rallies, and protests.

For those put off by the political world of D.C., there is also an active social scene that brings together art, music, food and festivals. Devinne Mack, also a student at American University, wants to remind us that this city is not just about government and politics. Mack explains, “There is a great nightlife in D.C. for students, especially in the Adams Morgan and Dupont neighborhoods. Different festivals are always being held around the city. The Adams Morgan Day Festival and the Dupont Drag Race Halloween are always favorites.” 


The bustling bar crowd gathers on 18th Street in Adams Morgan.

New England native and Mount Holyoke graduate Sarah Schaefer works for the Teach for America program in D.C. Schaefer admits that leaving New England opened her eyes to a bigger picture: “Living in this city gives you the opportunity to participate in a national and international community. Boston is important because it holds a lot of New England’s history, but D.C. is home to our national history.” Schaefer elaborates on her affection for D.C. by adding: “There are so many resources available to students because everything is free; all museums, the national library of congress, and even the zoos are free.” Free admission for all allows family and friends to experience the city without needing a student I.D.

The quiet courtyard in the National Portrait Gallery is a perfect place for students to study.
Small but important details that make D.C. a great college town include city layout, public transportation, and geographic location. The city is relatively small and easy to navigate. Everything extends outward from the Capitol building. Public transportation consists of an efficient subway system and multiple bus lines. Stations, train cars and buses are kept clean and well maintained (a characteristic that may seem unfamiliar to the Boston student traveling on the MBTA). Because of its location, D.C. is easy to travel in and out of. Nearby cities such as Baltimore, Philadelphia, and New York City provide great escapes for the D.C. student looking to get out for the weekend.

Boston may never be replaced or removed from the list of greatest college towns, but it will have to share the limelight with a very deserving contender. Prospective students, recent graduates and young professionals looking for a city to call home should take time to add Washington, D.C. to their list.

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