Where the sun always shines and you just happen to be located in the same state as the happiest place in the world, it’s no wonder that Florida calls itself home to some of the best colleges in the United States. The Sunshine State’s top schools provide unbeatable on-campus amenities, a vibrant off-campus nightlife, outstanding academics, a competitive acceptance rate and last but not least, a fantastic standing among national and state rankings. Floridians should look no further than their bright home town for pursuing a degree in higher education.
Read on to learn who makes the cut as one of the top 10 universities in Florida.
10. Florida International University
Get ready to practice your Spanglish and show off that Panther pride at FIU! Located in vibrant Miami, FIU provides its students with everything the city has to offer, which includes exploring Ocean Drive, visiting South Beach and spending nights around Little Havana.
Beyond its metropolitan landscape, FIU gives students access to lake amenities at the Biscayne Bay Campus and opportunities to participate in Roar-a-thon and Summerfest, which are both school centered cultural celebrations.
Of course, being located in a bustling city, FIU offers excellent business and communications programs. With a 58 percent acceptance rate, FIU usually accepts applicants with a 1100-1280 SAT score as well as letters of recommendation.
9. Florida Institute of Technology
Welcome to FIT, where a top engineering school meets a top vacation spot. Students seeking a competitive school with an emphasis on mechanical engineering and/or aerospace research should check this university out.
“The professors are amazing, top tier! They genuinely care about their students,” Florida Institute of Technology freshman Jaida Hall said.
FIT sits quite literally on the East Coast — students can take a few steps to reach Sunset Park, Paradise Beach and the Center for Textile Arts. With one of the smallest student-to-faculty ratios in Florida, 14 to 1, students get the opportunity to have one of the most specialized and guided engineering educations in the entire state. To expand on this education, FIT offers over 120 clubs, such as the Climate Reality Campus Corps. While all that work can feel overwhelming for students, FIT makes up for it by hosting weekly meditation sessions in the campus’s gardens, where students can lounge out on blankets and reconnect with themselves.
In addition to bettering student’s lives, FIT does its best to improve the community by encouraging students to attend local and national rallies for change. Students interested in applying should also be aware of the 66 percent acceptance rate. To remain in the safe zone, applicants should strive to achieve an SAT score of around 1140 to 1360, maintain a high GPA and collect a few letters of recommendation. Before you know it, you’ll be packing your suitcase and heading out to FIT in no time!
8. Nova Southeastern University
Free money, free sunshine, free the Sharks: let’s give it up for NSU! With some very convincing scholarship offers, unlimited South Florida sunshine (ignoring the occasional, inevitable rain) and adorable shark mascot, NSU remains the perfect chill environment for the driven yet mellow student. This university checks every mark surrounding student involvement and achievement. In fact, some of the college’s main events include an annual community fest and student life achievement awards, where Sharks get nominated by peers, staff or faculty members in recognition of their impact on campus.
“I feel like NSU is a school that has a ton of different programs that you can cater to basically any type of student,” NSU freshman Fatima Saam said. “One awesome perk is the scholarships; they give out so many scholarships to help students attend their school. Most of my friends all received great scholarships from NSU based on their GPA.”
Beyond NSU’s incredible school pride, students gain access to some of the best amenities in Florida: River Walk, the intercostal highway, Fort Lauderdale Beach and much more. Really, students could spend an entire event-filled weekend exploring Fort Lauderdale Beach — you can tan under the sun, swim in turquoise waters, explore the board walk and experience the local beach culture.
While you may think it’s just full of frolics, NSU encourages students to get highly involved in the community. In fact, the university’s notable nursing and fitness studies programs push students into the community almost immediately. These students not only receive lessons in local physical therapy offices, but even get the chance to explain their experiences to student-ran news organizations, like NSU’s Radio X. Fostering a hands-on approach for student learning, NSU employs professors who are up to the Shark Standards.
With a Ph.D. in STUDY, Professor Shanti Bruce wrote several books on college writing that she incorporates into her curriculum. With an 80 percent acceptance rate, most students are a shoe in to take advantage of these opportunities. To gain a high chance of acceptance, students should achieve an SAT score in the 1020 to 1250 range, and acquire a few letters of recommendation. NSU remains one of the best institutions for obtaining a college degree in Florida. Trust me, you’re going to want to swim with these Sharks.
7. University of South Florida
Calling all Tiger King fans! You can find Carole Baskin’s Big Cat Rescue in the same city as USF — thank you, Tampa! Even if a blonde lady sporting leopard print riding a bike isn’t your thing, USF fosters over 600 organizations and events. Some of these include the Oracle, the student-run newspaper, and Bulls Nite Out, an event where students come together to engage in school-sponsored fun on campus.
Involving oneself in a leadership position on campus can lead to getting awarded at the Celebration of Leadership Awards, which encourages any person on campus to nominate a student, organization or faculty member to receive this accolade. You can even connect with other students to watch movies on the lawn or participate in game nights hosted by the university.
Of course, prospective applicants can’t discount USF’s proximity to the Tampa Bay Buccaneer’s stadium or Busch Gardens Theme Park. However, if crowds aren’t your thing, Tampa and its remaining areas look extremely scenic and peaceful. Plus, turning 21 means accessing some of Tampa’s breweries, like Coppertail Brewing Co. and Tamps Bay Brewing Company — psst, you’ll definitely experience a great time at these places. With a 48 percent acceptance rate, USF typically accepts a generous number of applicants. Go ahead and apply!
6. Florida Gulf Coast University
Hang loose! Oh wait… I mean go Eagles! FGCU earns a spot on the list because it is one of the United States’ safest campuses. This makes sense though because the FGCU campus sort of works as its own town, even banding together their own full functioning police force. Additionally, the school provides its students with three pools, lake gear to rent and fishing charters to book.
Clubs such as Global Business Brigades, which empowers small businesses in rural areas to become financially stable, and Wandering Eagles, which connects students with others who enjoy traveling as a hobby. Furthermore, Fort Myers offers its residents outlet shopping at University Village Shops, dolphin experiences at local beaches and several state parks.
With a 67 percent acceptance rate, FGCU students hold average SAT scores of 1060 to 1210. Students who want to study speech communication or business administration should also consider adding FGCU to their applicant list! It’s their business to communicate the best route for success… get it?
5. Florida Atlantic University
WHO has the right program for you? It may just be the owls at FAU (see what I did there?). FAU is not only located in the beautiful city of Boca Raton, but remains a great school for students seeking a college with a small-scale campus and narrow student population. That said, the FAU college experience will fit students focused on community involvement and outdoor activities.
Here, students get access to an annual Summer Splash event, where they can engage in water activities and race each other up the school’s rock wall. If sports aren’t your thing, have no fear: FAU hosts around 400 clubs for students to explore, such as A Moment of Magic (where students get involved with medically challenged kids in the community) and Enlightening Generations (where nontraditional students receive the opportunity to promote advocacy on campus and in the community). With a number of great academic programs, FAU surely gives its students a wide range of studies to choose from.
“One of the main reasons I chose FAU was for the nursing program; it really caught my eye. I immediately fell in love with the school as soon as I stepped on campus,” FAU freshman Skyler Anderson said. “I love the beach and warm weather South Florida offers. Also, I loved that it was close to home, yet I’m still getting the full college experience.”
With a 63 percent acceptance rate, students should shoot for a 1120 SAT score and a class rank to report to make it into this school. Furthermore, those seeking management or interdisciplinary focused studies (which the schools prides itself on) and looking for an average student-to-faculty ratio of 21 should definitely apply. With its 80 percent freshman retention rate, FAU impresses current students with what the school offers. Should you need anymore convincing, definitely visit this college’s website and social media for more information.
4. University of Central Florida
Ever wanted to live near Disney or Universal? Or even SeaWorld (I won’t judge… okay maybe a little #freeblackfish)? Well at UCF, you basically can. With over 800 acres of campus to explore, UCF rarely keeps its students feeling bored. In fact, to help mitigate the stress students experience, UCF hosts midweek mindfulness sessions, where students go on campus to forage plants.
“We do have one of the biggest campuses, so we have more options eating-wise, (such as) Burger U, Gringos, etc,” UCF freshman Gillian Stewart said. “I also think it’s a pretty diverse school as well; I’ve met a lot of people from all different races and backgrounds.”
UCF does get more competitive, though. With a 44 percept acceptance rate, the university typically accepts applicants with an SAT average range of 1170 to 1340. Applicant should also keep in mind that they must submit their GPA and class rank when applying; usually, students in the top 10 rank of their class receive a full tuition scholarship.
Given Orlando remains one of the tourism capitals of the country, the most popular majors at this university include hospitality and marketing. With numerous internship opportunities in the city, about 90 percent of freshman students opt to continue at the university. Conveniently, the campus sits around 40 minutes from the core of Orlando, where students can visit and intern at the major theme parks.
If magic and superheroes aren’t your thing, UCF students can visit the nearby Winter Park and Lake Eola Park, where activities like hikes and kayak tours can be enjoyed. Meanwhile, the nightlife scene at UCF is pretty lively, so there’s really something for everybody here. Beyond these options, the university fosters over 650 amazing organizations for students. From 4EVER KNIGHTS, the stellar alumni association, to Hack UCF, one of the several coding clubs, the university’s resources provide endless opportunities to learn and grow. Enough said…ready to become a Knight, now?
3. Florida State University
From sporting gold and garnet on game days to getting thrown in the Westcott Fountain on your 21st birthday, FSU is the place to enroll for that full college experience. The university balances academics, student involvement and student life quite perfectly. With a 20-to-1 student-to-faculty ratio, students get a pretty intimate learning experience, especially in the most popular degrees— psychology and criminal justice— which both facilitate a pre-law track. Additionally, students can engage in endless activities by getting involved in one of over 700 clubs. Once even includes the Idea Alliance, which certifies students in various graphic and design programs.
“For me, going to FSU was an easy choice. They had the best programs for business and allowed me the best track and timeline to go to law school. I genuinely feel set for life because of where I am right now,” FSU junior Joshua Matzner said. “Tallahassee is also a beautiful city full of history and full of job and internship opportunities.”
A newly installed Innovation Hub provides students with an on-campus and online community dedicated to forward thinking. Additionally, FSU encourages students to receive transdisciplinary education because it prepares them for a future like little else. Freshmen are even motivated—by FSU and sometimes their specific colleges—to take a gap year to really hone in on what they want to study, which perhaps contributes to the university’s 93 percent freshman retention rate.
Beyond FSU itself, Tallahassee remains a hub for students to explore restaurants, hobbies and entertainment. Of course, applicants should take into account this university’s incredible location within the state capital. Basically, students get the opportunity to work with and around state and national officials — one of the best perks of this Florida university! With an acceptance rate of 36 percent, FSU gives its students that quintessential college experience that we all truly desire. So, get on board with FSU and get ready to Rally to Tally!
2. University of Miami
Back to Miami—*cue that one Will Smith song*—we come! Like mentioned before, the city of Miami offers students a variety of activities to experience. However, UM goes above and beyond in what it offers its students. In fact, you don’t even need to venture off campus to get a true South Florida experience.
On campus, there’s several local restaurants to enjoy delicious meals and a fitness laboratory helping students reach their individual fitness goals. Additionally, find the campus theatre where students can watch prescreened movies before they’re released to the general public (because who wants to watch a regularly released film?), as well as several lakes where students can sit around on blankets to study, enjoy a snack or just clear their minds. UM even holds an exclusive pub for students and faculty, The Rathskeller, with a signature menu that includes Rat Combos and No-Yes Fries.
Of course, we can’t forget to mention the incredible academic programs that this university provides. UM utilizes the Cognates Program, a nontraditional general education curriculum. With this ideology, the average class size is about 16 to 27 students. Because of all these academic perks, UM’s applicant pool looks extremely competitive. The private institution boasts a 27 percent acceptance rate, and most applicant achieve an average SAT score of 1350. Enrollment at UM might be one of the most coveted seats in Florida, but we can’t argue. Who wouldn’t want to chant, “it’s all about the U!” and party with Sebastian the Ibis?
1. University of Florida
Congrats, Gators: you made it to number one once again. University of Florida takes constantly takes the top spot of colleges thanks to its incredible academic programs and affordable tuition. Events like Gator Nights (where students gather together to watch movies, play games and eat free food every Friday) and Gator Growl (the biggest student-facilitated pep rally in the country) push UF over the top. With over 200 clubs and a wide presence of Greek life, you can bet you’ll find your friends away from home at this university. Couple that with UF’s top ranked SEC sports teams and endless amenities—such as the award-winning Advising and Speech in Public Anxiety Lab—for students to explore different paths.
The main feature of UF, though, consists of the high-quality classes and professors, like the passionate Professor James Goodwin and exciting Professor Teresa Benitez. Not to mention, the school offers about 65 different majors, and the most popular ones involve research. The student-to-faculty ratio is 17 to 1, and the school boasts a 97 percent freshmen retention rate. That said, UF definitely offers students enough benefits to convince them to stay. Let’s get you there, though. Considering the 37 percent acceptance rate, UF is extremely competitive. The recently admitted student class held average SAT scores in the 1310-1470 range.
“I think UF’s best selling factor is the innumerable areas of studies. I couldn’t even tell you how many sub-colleges we have and even ball park the number of majors, minors and certification programs,” UF freshman Amanda Langston said. “Additionally, UF has one of the best career centers and is improving its standardized test scores and grades.”
While the school is certainly climbing the academic ranks, UF students are also very involved in the community in endeavors such as Free Grocery, a program that allows people in need access to free, nutritious food, and Food Not Bombs, an organization to provides weekly meals to homeless individuals.
Known as one of the best college towns in the United States, Gainesville constantly honors their orange-and-blue pride — every corner you turn reveals tons of bars, cheap restaurants and stores selling all sorts of Gator merch. Moreover, most of housing options around campus accommodate student needs. Ultimately, you’re bound to experience the best four years of college at UF. Perhaps, you’ll find yourself here someday; for now, see ya later alliGator!