Top 10 Best Student Cities in the US in 2019 | Top Universities

Top 10 Best Student Cities in the US in 2019

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Chloe Lane

Updated Apr 29, 2024



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Along with the UK, the US contains the largest number of student cities featured in the QS Best Student Cities ranking in 2019, with both countries claiming 14 top student cities (one more than in 2018).

Despite the large number of student cities featured, the US cities’ poor performance in the affordability indicator means there are currently no US cities featuring in the top 10 of the best student cities ranking in 2019.

Nevertheless, the US performs remarkably well in other rankings; particularly the QS World University Rankings® 2020, where the US claims half of the top 10 universities in the world.

The Best Student City rankings are based on six indicators; university rankings, student mix, desirability, employer activity, affordability and student view. You can find out more about these indicators in the methodology here. Read on to find out about the 10 highest ranked student cities in the US in 2019.

Top 10 Best Student Cities in the US

Based on the QS Best Student Cities 2019 Rankings

Ranking in the US

World Ranking

Student City






New York



Los Angeles



San Francisco












Washington DC






San Diego

10. San Diego


San Diego


Up four places this year, San Diego is ranked 76th in the Best Student Cities ranking 2019. With perfect sunny weather and sunsets to die for, as well as a relaxing laid-back surf vibe, it’s unsurprising San Diego earns one of its highest scores (49th) is in the desirability indicator.

The city’s highest ranked university is the University of California, San Diego (UCSD), placing 45th in the world university rankings.

San Diego is also home to the world-famous San Diego Zoo, plenty of gorgeous beaches and the 1,200 Balboa Park – so there’s always something to entertain students.

9. Pittsburg




In 9th place we have Pittsburg, ranking 67th this year. Pittsburg contains two excellent universities; Carnegie Mellon University and University of Pittsburgh, which place 48th and joint 140th respectively, and consequently earns an impressive 28th place in the university ranking indicator.

The city is very picturesque, with a beautiful skyline, and plenty of museums and theatres to choose from. In the student survey, one student remarked that they enjoyed “the city’s culture and environment” and also its “diversity”. 

8. Washington DC


Washington DC


The capital of the US, and named after the nation’s first president and founding father George Washington, Washington DC is stooped in history. Coming in at eighth on our list of top student cities, Washington DC places 63rd overall in the QS Best Student Cities ranking 2019. 

This famous city contains five universities featured in the QS World University Rankings® 2020, including the University of Maryland, College Park (ranking 136th) and Georgetown University (226th).

The city earns its highest score in the desirability indicator; with its collection of monuments and landmarks, acclaimed theatres and historic towns, this is hardly a surprise. If you’re looking for something to do in your free time, take a trip to the White House, go and see the Washington Monument or pay a visit to the impressive Lincoln memorial – the possibilities are endless.

7. Philadelphia




Next is Philadelphia, which placed 62nd in the QS Best Student Cities ranking this year. The city contains three universities featuring in the rankings – including the University of Pennsylvania in 15th place. Philadelphia’s highest score is in the university rankings indicator, in 21st place.

Philadelphia has a great deal of history behind it – where the Declaration of Independence was signed in 1776 and also where the Liberty Bell is housed.

6. Atlanta




The capital and most populated city in the state of Georgia, Atlanta, is home to over five million people, including 63,000 students. Atlanta rose five places this year to place 57th in the Best Student Cities ranking.

It’s home to lots of successful companies, including the Coca Cola Company, United Parcel Service (UPS) and Holiday Inn. There are, therefore, plenty of employment prospects for students at Atlanta’s universities. Consequently, the city scores well in the employer activity ranking.

However, the city’s top score is earned in the university ranking indicator, where the city rises two places this year to 30th, due to its three universities that feature in this year’s world university ranking. The highest placing university in Atlanta is the Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech) in 44th place, followed by Emory University (joint 156th) and Georgia State University (701-750th).

5. Chicago




Reaching the top five now, we have Chicago, coming in at 41st. Known as ‘The Windy City’, Chicago scores strongly across several indicators, placing in 26th place in the employer activity indicator, reflecting the city’s outstanding reputation with graduate employers.  

In our student survey, students said they admired the city’s “culture and friendliness” and the abundance of “tourist spots and restaurants”.

Chicago is also home to an impressive five universities, including the University of Chicago (10th) and Northwestern University (31st).

4. San Francisco


San Francisco


In fourth place is San Francisco, rising three places to rank 35th in the Best Student Cities ranking.

The city is home to three world-ranked universities, including two that are part of the prestigious Ivy League group;  Stanford University (ranking second) and University of California, Berkeley (UCB, 28th). Its high caliber of institutions means that San Francisco’s highest score is earned in the employer activity indicator, rising four places this year to rank 11th.

San Francisco is also home to a multitude of successful companies, including Apple, Facebook and IBM, so this too, may have a part to play in the city’s high score for employment activity.

3. Los Angeles




Rising ten places this year to 25th is LA. Known affectionately as ‘The City of Angels’ and the ‘Creative Capital of the World’, Los Angeles is also the home of Hollywood. The city contains three ranked universities, including California Institute of Technology (Caltech, ranked fifth) and University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA, joint 35th).

Los Angeles’ most improved score this year is in the student rank indicator, where it rises 32 places to place 19th. A respondent of the student survey said “there is such a broad spectrum of things to do, especially with the city being in such close proximity to the beach and mountains.”

2. New York




New York is ranked 19th in the Best Student Cities ranking this year. NY has the largest overall population of all the featured US cities this year, with 20,321,000 people. 1.5 percent of these (or 51,300) are students – meaning that the city scores well in the diversity indicator.

The city also scores well in the student view indicator and the ranking indicator. New York boasts no fewer than 10 universities featured in the world rankings, including Ivy League university Columbia University, and New York University, which rank joint 18th and 39th respectively.

1. Boston




The number one student city this year is, once again, Boston, in 12th place! The city is home to eight universities in total, including two of the top three universities in the world; Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Harvard University, ranking first and third respectively in the QS World University Rankings® 2020.

The city performs well in all the indicators, especially the employer activity indicator, where it comes second. It also scores well in the university rankings rank, where it ranks sixth – indicating that Boston’s graduates are highly sought after by employers.

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