Downtown Chicago skyscrapers and Lake Michigan at dusk with cloudy purple sky

Great Colleges and Universities If You Want to Live in the Big City

If you want the hustle of city life as your academic backdrop, consider adding some of these schools in three major US cities to your college list.

Many students dream of life in the big city, where there are thousands of restaurants, shops, museums, and other fun places to explore. There are events happening every day and hundreds of thousands of new people you could potentially meet. And when is a better time to experience that lifestyle than when you’re young and in college? Start exploring potential schools by checking out this list of featured colleges and universities in three of the biggest cities in the country—New York City, Chicago, and Philadelphia. The best part is you can connect with any of these schools by clicking the green “Connect Me” buttons to request more information instantly. Start searching for the big-city college of your dreams right here!

New York, New York

New York is the city everyone thinks of when you have dreams of moving to the big city and chasing your passions. It’s home to Broadway, world-renowned restaurants, Wall Street, some of the best shopping, and so much more. If you’re looking for that high-energy lifestyle to back your academic pursuits, you should seriously consider these colleges and universities in the Big Apple.

College of Staten Island

CSIThe College of Staten Island is a public liberal arts college with a 204-acre campus in the heart of Staten Island. As the largest single college campus in New York City, CSI is a rural oasis in an urban setting with picturesque trees, lawns, and gardens. CSI St. George—a new campus extension conveniently situated near the Staten Island Ferry and the Island’s transportation hub—offers an assortment of undergraduate and graduate classes as well as easy travel for commuters and access to New York City. 

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Columbia University

Columbia UniversityColumbia University is a private coeducational institution in the heart of New York City. With a student body of 1,500 coming from all 50 states and more than 100 countries, students benefit from over 250 years of rich history and distinction, easy access to the immense resources of the city, and a dynamic residential community. Columbia’s unique Core Curriculum of philosophy, history, politics, literature, art, music, science, and writing offers a strong foundation for the 100 undergraduate majors and concentrations offered through four undergraduate colleges.

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Fashion Institute of Technology

Fashion Institute of TechnologyThe Fashion Institute of Technology is a public school of art, design, business, and technology located in midtown Manhattan, near the center of the city’s fashion industry. Being one of FIT’s 2,000+ undergraduates means you’ll have tremendous opportunities to learn, play, and explore the abundance of New York City from the lively Chelsea neighborhood. The Institute’s 25 undergraduate degrees concentrated into 10 majors offer dynamic classes that reflect real-world industries while also providing internships for hands-on learning in those industries across the city.

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Fordham University

Fordham UniversityFordham University, known as the Jesuit University of New York, is a private Roman Catholic institution in the Bronx. Fordham’s two residential campuses offer more than 60 majors in the liberal arts, sciences, and business. Rose Hill, adjacent to the New York Botanical Garden and the Bronx Zoo, is a quintessential leafy green college campus featuring beautiful Gothic architecture. The Lincoln Center campus is in the cultural heart of Manhattan, a landscaped urban setting near Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, Central Park, and Columbus Circle.

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Marymount Manhattan College

Marymount Manhattan CollegeMarymount Manhattan College is a private liberal arts college in midtown Manhattan. The College’s location on the Upper East Side means students are just a few subway stops away from Wall Street, Broadway, Museum Mile, the United Nations, and major TV networks. Marymount offers 31 majors, more than 40 minors and pre-professional programs, and the unique CityEdge college-to-career program, which provides students with a personalized education paired with top-notch career development opportunities across the city.

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New York University

New York UniversityNew York University is one of the largest private universities in the country, with 18 schools, colleges, and centers on campuses in 15 major cities across the globe, including New York City; Washington, DC; Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates; London, England; Madrid, Spain; and Shanghai, China. The University champions academic and student diversity by ensuring accessibility and inclusion, creating one of the most diverse student bodies in the world. Being in the heart of the city removes the boundary between classroom and real-world opportunities in more than 270 areas of study.

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Pace University

Pace UniversityPace University is a private comprehensive university with two campuses in the heart of NYC and suburban Pleasantville-Briarcliff. The University offers more than 100 majors and accelerated bachelor’s/graduate degree program, extensive career preparation, and over 100 clubs and organizations for students. The city is your campus at Pace, with cultural and professional activities, learning opportunities, and internships at places like the Federal Reserve, Microsoft, Lincoln Center, the New York Stock Exchange, and more.

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St. John’s University

St. John’s UniversitySt. John’s University is a private Roman Catholic institution with a main campus in the Jamaica section of Queens. The University offers more than 100 programs based on an “options-oriented” core curriculum, which include numerous study opportunities throughout New York and around the globe. St John’s also supports student life and exploration by offering discounted tickets to things like sporting events, Broadway shows, and countless other cultural events in the city.

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SUNY Maritime College

SUNY Maritime College logoSUNY Maritime College is a multipurpose public college for maritime and other related industries in Throggs Neck, New York. On a narrow peninsula bordered by the Long Island Sound and the East River, the 55-acre campus in is the perfect place for the College’s 1,800+ to learn through specialized academic courses and offerings with the benefits of both the city and access to the water. From SUNY Maritime, students have access to top internships and real-world experience, industry experts, leading faculty, and a dedicated alumni network.

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Wagner College

Wagner CollegeWagner College is a private liberal arts college on Staten Island. Set on a hill overlooking the Atlantic Ocean and New York Harbor, the College’s park-like campus is just a ferry ride away from the cultural, intellectual, and professional heart of Manhattan. Wagner’s 2,175 students benefit from practical learning experiences throughout the city grounded in a broad-based liberal arts curriculum, with 35 academic majors, 25 minors, and 14 interdisciplinary minors to choose from.

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Chicago, Illinois

Chicago is the city for the best deep-dish pizza, food festivals that’ll ignite your taste buds, outdoor concerts and sporting events for your utmost entertainment, and much more. If you want everything a big city has to offer but would like to escape once in a while, Chicago is just a hop, skip, and a jump to the Great Lakes. Check out these colleges and universities in the Windy City for a college experience that will blow you away!

Moody Bible Institute

Moody Bible Institute Moody Bible Institute is a private Christian university on Chicago’s North Side. Students can choose from 20 areas of study and gain a foundation in Bible and Theology as well as explore their passions through 40 student organizations focused on leading, learning, and serving. Moody’s location gives students the opportunity to earn a degree and gain experience both inside and outside the classroom through its career development and ministry offerings that broaden your opportunities after graduation.

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North Park University

North Park University North Park University is a private Christian university on the northwest side of Chicago. The University is proud to educate students from diverse backgrounds, with 42% of the student body identifying as people of color. North Park’s unique Catalyst 606 program capitalizes on its location in the city with experiential learning opportunities for students to develop valuable skills in conjunction with the curriculum, which includes more than 60 undergraduate and graduate degree programs.

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Northwestern University

Northwestern University logoNorthwestern University is a private comprehensive university in Evanston, Illinois—12 miles north of Chicago—with a second campus in the city. The University's diverse programs in the arts, business, communications, sciences, social sciences, and much more are led by renowned faculty members, allowing 8,000+ undergraduates to pursue their passions in their chosen fields in an academically supportive environment. To get there, students ride the CTA Purple Line, cruise down Lakeshore Drive, take leisurely rides on the bike path leading all the way downtown, or catch the Intercampus Shuttle that runs between the two campuses.

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The University of Chicago

The University of ChicagoThe University of Chicago is a comprehensive university just seven miles south of the city’s downtown area. UChicago’s Core Curriculum is the perfect foundation for any of the University’s 50 majors and more than 40 minors, enhanced by undergraduate research opportunities in more than 160 institutes and centers across the city. Students have a plethora of ways to explore and learn in Chicago through internships, sporting and cultural events, and more.

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Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Did you know before DC was the nation’s capital that the federal government congregated in Philadelphia? It was where the Constitution was signed and is generally home to a lot of important historical events. If you’re looking for an academic home with a rich background and a lot of opportunities, check out these schools in Philly—the city where freedom rings.  

Haverford College

Haverford College logoHaverford College is a private liberal arts college in Haverford, Pennsylvania—only eight miles from downtown Philadelphia. Haverford’s 1,400+ students pursue more than 30 majors in the humanities, social sciences, and natural sciences with the benefits of a 9:1 student-faculty ratio. The city of Philadelphia has a significant impact on the student experience both on and off campus as the urban environment is rich with service, career, and internship opportunities as well as nationally recognized sports, restaurants, art exhibits, and more. 

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Holy Family University

Holy Family UniversityHoly Family University is a private comprehensive university with a 47-acre main campus in northeast Philadelphia, with additional locations in Bensalem and Newtown, Pennsylvania. With more than 3,000 total students, the University offers 40 undergraduate programs and 600+ courses designed to develop learning proficiencies and self-advocacy skills that help students feel empowered to achieve academic and personal success. Nestled in the heart of a historic residential neighborhood in the Northeast, the University is just minutes from the excitement of Center City. 

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Saint Joseph’s University 

Saint Joseph's University logoSaint Joseph’s University is a private Catholic university close to downtown Philadelphia. Over 4,500 undergraduates call SJU home and learn in top-ranked programs taught by accomplished faculty, with a Jesuit tradition of academic excellence that goes back 500 years. The University’s campus sits in a beautiful residential neighborhood on the border of the city, offering the best of both worlds for shops, restaurants, biking trails, and more—the perfect blend of urban energy and suburban tranquility. 

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These aren’t the only major cities in the US with amazing colleges and universities. Check out some of the other most popular places in the nation in our College City lists and rankings.

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