These 30 Colleges Are Helping Students Be More Relaxed And Productive

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These 30 Colleges Are Helping Students Be More Relaxed And Productive

The stereotype of student life is that it is filled with partying, mornings in bed and hanging out with friends. This may happen some of the time, but the truth is that you also have to study hard! Most people want to have fun, but they also want to get a good degree. If that sounds like you, then you’re going to have to put together a routine that accommodates both fun and study.

“So what?” you may say. You’ve spent your entire life mixing school with your social activities, and it’s been fine. But college will bring this to the next level and make it harder. Up until now, your parents have helped you with keeping assignments on track, and your school’s hours have been set in stone. But in college, your parents are no longer living with you and your classes will be less frequent. Therefore, putting enough study hours in is a challenge. The flip side is that if you get too dedicated to coursework, you’ll end up alienating yourself from friends.

In some ways, making sure that you achieve this balance is up to you. You’re only the person who truly knows how you work best and in what manner. But it’s also true that colleges can do something to assist. And many colleges have been adopting new and innovative ways to make students cope with work without totally destroying their social and personal lives. Additionally, there are a range of relaxing yet constructive activities on offer in many colleges for when the stress of work becomes just a little too much.

But what are these innovative and helpful study/life practices? This article will go through techniques that colleges have in place and show you how they’re making a difference for students. It may help you pick the best college. Or it might give you a strong insight and show you how you can incorporate a practice into your own study techniques.

To find the top college study/life practices, just read the list below!


In compiling this list, we’ve consulted a range of diverse sources and ensured that a number of techniques have been analyzed. Implementing a study/life balance resource is not easy, and there is no “one size fits all” solution. But still, some colleges shine through and are clearly providing their students with both fun and productive services.

The articles we’ve consulted come in three forms. Those which show effective and informed studying practices, those which show great social life activities and those which show both. Of course, the colleges that evidence both make our list. And to ensure that the list we’re presenting to you is definitive, we’ve followed up the list’s claims with our own research and with statistics that bear the techniques out.

The articles we’re drawing from are as follows:

Business Insider, WORK HARD, PLAY HARD: The 20 Most Intense Colleges In America:, 2018 Colleges with the Best Student Life in America:

Rave, 50 Most Fun Colleges In America:

Her Campus, The Work Hard, Play Hard Schools:

Time Money, 100 Best Colleges For Sports Lovers:

US News, First Year Experiences:

Princeton Review, Best Quality of Life:

MSN, The Colleges With The Best Student Life In Every State:

After sorting through these rankings and the secondary evidence, we’ve put together what must be the most definitive list of study/life balance colleges on the internet. Our list has prioritized rankings on our methodology sources, evidence of student success, evidence of a productive work environment and evidence of innovative approaches. So if you need to find out how to get that study/life balance just right, then look below:

The results, from 30 to one, are here:

Rank School Location
1 Stanford University Stanford, CA
2 University of Michigan, Ann Arbor Ann Arbor, MI
3 University of Virginia Charlottesville, VA
4 Vanderbilt University Nashville, TN
5 Rice University Houston, TX
6 University of Pennsylvania Philadelphia, PA
7 Yale University New Haven, CT
8 Massachusetts Institute of Technology Cambridge, MA
9 Dartmouth College Hanover, NH
10 Washington University in St Louis Saint Louis, MO
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  1. Stanford University

    Stanford, CA

    California is an incredibly competitive state, college wise, but most lists agree that Stanford is the best study/life balance college in the state and one of the best in the country. Business Insider ranks it at fifth. ranks it at second. Time Money ranks it at first. US News ranks it at joint fifth. And MSN names it as California's best student life college. Clearly, this means that it isn't just California's warm climate that makes Stanford stand out. In fact, it's almost impossible to highlight one particular thing that Stanford is doing to make students both happy and successful. Its student services are exhaustive. Its events are fun and educational. And its admission process looks for diversity and creativity as well as academic performance. These factors combine to mean that Stanford University may well be the happiest and most productive place on the planet!

  2. University of Michigan, Ann Arbor

    Ann Arbor, MI

    University of Michigan, Ann Arbor is prominently placed in seven out of the eight methodology lists. Princeton Review is the only publication that declines to feature it. Elsewhere, the college is placed at 10th on Business Insider, third on Niche, 11th on Rave, first on Her Campus, third on Time Money and28th on US News. MSN names it as having the best student life in Michigan. Such consistent rankings are already enough to secure its place on the list, but further research points to why University of Michigan, Ann Arbor is so good for students. For instance, the college hosts over 1,200 exhibitions and performances every year, which are fun and intellectually stimulating. It also has a 15 to one student to faculty ratio, meaning that professors are on hand to keep students motivated and productive. Most interestingly, it runs an undergrad research opportunity program, which encourages students to collaborate with college researchers on a range of interesting subjects related to students' degrees. Currently, over 1,300 students participate in this program.

  3. University of Virginia

    Charlottesville, VA

    Placing at fourth on Business Insider, eighth on, 38th on Rave, fifth on Time Money andfifth on Princeton Review, University of Virginia has one of the most consistent rankings on the methodology lists. It's also MSN's top student life college in Virginia, and Buzzfeed named it the smartest party school in America. It's gained these accolades through instituting a range of practices designed to keep students happy. For instance, the average class size is 15, meaning professors can spend lots of time with their class members. Additionally, students at the University of Virginia don't worry about money. The college's alumni have the lowest debt of any college in America, making them both content and productive! If all this weren't enough, it has the state of the art, $8.3 million Winston Ely Health & Wellness Center. It's free for students to attend and offers all sorts of fun activities!

    2. University of Michigan, Ann Arbor

  4. Vanderbilt University

    Nashville, TN

    This Nashville based college has a strong reputation on almost every methodology source. Business Insider places it at second. places it at 16th. Time Money places it at 37th. US News places it at joint 14th. Princeton Review places it at second. And MSN names it as the best student life college in Tennessee. Vanderbilt's fun credentials should need no further explanation. After all, how can a college based in the home of country music be anything other than a hoot? But what about its studying? All the data indicates that Vanderbilt trains its students in exactly the right manner. For example, it counts a number of Nobel Prize winners among its alumni and faculty. This includes former US Vice President Al Gore, Social Entrepreneur Muhammad Yunus, Biochemistry Professor Stanley Cohen and Chemist Stanford Moore. Additionally, Reuters recently named it the world's 10th most innovative university.

  5. Rice University

    Houston, TX

    This college polarizes the methodology lists and opinions like no other. and Princeton Review both place it at first. MSN similarly names it as the college with the best student life in Texas. But it is 13th on Time Money. Even worse, Business Insider, Rave, US News and Her Campus don't feature it at all. Such divisive rankings are probably caused by its unique student housing structure. Students live in a manner similar to a British private school. This means that they live, work and relax in buildings that are for their own residential college, which Rice randomly assigns to students. There are 11 residential colleges in total, and each one has its own unique character and traditions. As the different placements on the methodology lists show, this approach isn't for everyone, but those that do like it really benefit!

  6. University of Pennsylvania

    Philadelphia, PA

    This Philadelphia based college is ranked at third place on Business Insider, 12th place on, 33rd place on Rave, seventh on Her Campus, 55th on Time Money, and is MSN's top college for student life in Pennsylvania. To get these strong rankings, the University of Pennsylvania is doing a number of incredible things for students. In particular, community involvement is a strong factor. As the college itself states, "Penn weaves civic awareness and action into campus life." By doing this, the college has created a system where students can undertake an activity separate from their degrees but which also is mentally productive and good for the resume! It's a win-win scenario for everyone.

  7. Yale University

    New Haven, CT

    Yale ranks at seventh on Business Insider, 15th on, ninth on Time Money andjoint third on US News. MSN states that it has the best student life of any college in Connecticut. Yale has achieved these strong rankings due to its proactive approach to inclusiveness. In recent years, the college's inclusivity activities have been focused on strengthening its academics; expanding its programs, services, and support; improving structures and practices; and representing the college's diversity. It's been achieving these goals by making the college more digital-friendly, organizing discussions and getting alumni involved in clubs and programs.

  8. Massachusetts Institute of Technology

    Cambridge, MA

    MIT has really put a lot of work into ensuring that its students get the right balance of work and play in recent years. This is sadly the result of tragic circumstances; in 2015, two students committed suicide within the same week, which highlighted the college's stressful nature. However, MIT has done a lot of work since, reducing course loads and implementing many relaxing practices. The college is ranked at sixth place on's list, eighth on Her Campus's listand is MSN's featured college for best student life in Massachusetts. It also tops Business Insider's list.

  9. Dartmouth College

    Hanover, NH

    MSN considers Dartmouth to have the best student life experience of New Hampshire. Additionally, US News ranks it at joint 11th on its list of best first-year experiences. Time Money places it at 11th. Lastly, Business Insider ranks it at ninth. Dartmouth's study time allocation is more flexible than most colleges. It allows students to choose which seasons they would like to study in certain years, giving students freedom. Additionally, Dartmouth employs an incredible team of advisors that can help students with all areas of professional and personal life.

  10. Washington University in St Louis

    Saint Louis, MO

    With a ranking of 12th place on Princeton Review, fifth place on and 20th place on Business Insider, Washington University has a lot of happy and productive students. Additionally, MSN names the college as having the best student experience in Missouri. One of the reasons why Washington University in St Louis has achieved these strong rankings is its focus ondiversity. It is doing this through its Bias Response Support System, accessibility services and organizations. In fact, Washington University currently has over 77 diversity-related groups.

  11. University of Notre Dame

    Notre Dame, IN

    Time Money places the University of Notre Dame at second for sports lovers. But the college also places at 17th on Niche for best student life experience in general. US News ranks it at joint 18th for best first-year experience, and MSN claims that it is the best college for student life in Indiana. This college is certain to appeal to a very specific student. Religion and athleticism are two of the college's most notable traits. This feeds through into the college's residential system. 75% of its students live in the college's residence halls, which all have strong religious and sporting communities present.

  12. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

    Chapel Hill, NC places this college at 14th for the best student life. Even better, Her Campus places it at second. Rave places it at 28th. Time Money places it at sixth. US News places it at 30th. MSN names it the best student life college in North Carolina. And a closer look at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill's campus life shows that the college is implementing a range of interesting and unique study/life solutions. For instance, the college is involving dogs ever more frequently in both academic and relaxation activities. The college believes that the dogs have brought an incredible new energy to their campus.

  13. University of California, Los Angeles

    Los Angeles, CA

    UCLA places at seventh on, 17th on Business Insider, 22nd on Rave and12th on Time Money. And the college's success can be defined by one word: Optimism. An optimistic approach is at the heart of the college. "We define ourselves in our own words and our own ways. That's optimism," explains Tyrone Howard, the college's dean for equity and inclusion, the graduate school of education & information studies. UCLA's optimism website goes on to state that this approach allows people to hope, become their best selves and learn from their failures. It's easy to see how this optimism leads to success in students!

  14. University of Southern California

    Los Angeles, CA

    This college places at 19th on Business Insider, 10th on, sixth on Her Campus and 16th on Time Money. However, the University of Southern California could well place significantly higher in future years, as it has recently opened the USC Village. The college's president proudly claims that the village, "offers students the very best in residential life - a home away from home that nourishes their intellectual, creative and personal growth." This state of the art resource has combined world-leading professors, resident assistants, a fitness center, lounges, shopping and dining areas and more into one place.

  15. University of Wisconsin

    Madison, WI

    Placing at ninth on, fifth on Rave, 25th on Time Money, joint 46th on US News and15th on Princeton Review is the University of Wisconsin. MSN also names it the top Wisconsin based college for student life. And if you look at the college's focus on fun, you can't deny that it's a great place to live. There are nearly 900 student organizations and many enjoyable events. But what about the focus on studying? The college currently has a range of programs focused on addressing potential issues to study, such as an initiative focused on social justice, an initiative focused on high-risk drinking and an initiative based on sexual violence.

  16. University of Texas, Austin

    Austin, TX

    Texas's creative oasis, Austin, has a great college. University of Texas, Austin ranks at joint 56th on US News, 20th on Time Money, second on Rave and fourth on These rankings are all the more impressive once you consider that the college has an incredibly large student body compared to many other entries on this list. With over 51,000 students, it has approximately 300% more students than our number one entry. Keeping so many students happy and productive is a challenge, but University of Texas, Austin is more than managing it. It's doing this through Student Success, one of the world's most comprehensive programs for ensuring that students are set up for an incredible career. This program has led to a 15% increase in four-year graduation rates at the college in recent years.

  17. Princeton University

    Princeton, NJ

    Princeton tops US News's listof college professional sourced recommendations for best first-year college experiences. MSN also states that it is the best college for student life in New Jersey. Elsewhere, ranks it 36th, and Time Money ranks it at 19th. Princeton's website shows that its students are both dedicated and enjoy many activities on offer. For instance, Akil Word Daniels studies electrical engineering but also plays softball, and Naoum Fares studies psychology but also sings in an a cappella group and advises other students. Additionally, Princeton's freshmen seminars will get all newly admitted students up to speed and enjoying their time at the college in the best possible way.

  18. Bowdoin College

    Brunswick, ME

    Bowdoin College ranks at 25th on, seventh on Princeton Review, 10th on Time Money and is MSN's top student life college in Maine. As the college dean Tim Foster, states, Bowdoin is about educating people in more than just the subjects that they are studying. It has strong links to its local community and organizes many outdoor activities. The overall purpose of this is so that people who graduate from the college are, "at home in all lands and all ages." One of the ways that Bowdoin achieves this is through the Joseph Mckeen Center for the Common Good. This center lets students enhance their learning through engagement with the public.

  19. University of Georgia

    Athens, GA

    MSN states that this college is the best place to study in the state of Georgia. Three other methodology lists are incredibly consistent with University of Georgia's national rankings, with, Time Money and Rave ranking it 13th, 15th, and 14th respectively. The University of Georgia has managed to gain such strong rankings through its experiential learning approach. Every student must undertake experiential learning activities such as studying abroad, faculty-mentored research or service learning while at the college. This approach has led to countless students graduating into incredible careers. The college has even compiled several stories of its amazing students, which show how the students have fun and achieve lots!

  20. Kansas State University

    Manhattan, KS

    Ranking at third on Princeton Review, 37th on and 35th on Rave is Kansas State University. Additionally, MSN ranks it as the best college for student life in the state of Kansas. However, Kansas State University isn't content with these rankings. It has outlined a plan to become recognized as one of the top 50 research colleges in the US by 2025. Luckily for students, creative activities, the experience of students and athletic opportunities are at this plan's heart. This means that studying and living at the college can only get better!

  21. University of Florida

    Gainesville, FL

    MSN considers the University of Florida to have the top student life experience in the Sunshine State. Also, places it at 18th nationally. Time Money places it at seventh for sports lovers, and Rave places it at 40th in the country for fun. Another thing going for the University of Florida is that it has one of the highest acceptance rates on this list, at 46%. And the college uses this high acceptance rate to its advantage. As the site states, "it's not about the accomplishments of an individual; it's what we can accomplish together." This collaborative spirit continues into student careers; 70% of its undergraduate students find or plan employment in Florida.

  22. Ohio State University

    Wooster, OH

    OSU is the best college for having a great student life in Ohio, according to MSN. Nationally, it ranks at 22nd on, 18th on Time Money, 10th on Rave andjoint 54th on US News. And Ohio State University has invested heavily in ensuring that students have a great and fulfilling experience. Its Office of Student Life has more than 40 departments dedicated to ensuring that every student's unique needs are met. It has employed over 6,500 people to ensure that this demand is met. This means that while OSU has the highest student enrollment on this list, standing at over 66,000, the needs of students do not get lost.

  23. Tulane University

    New Orleans, LA

    Princeton Review states that Tulane University has the ninth best quality of life for students. Elsewhere, the college ranks at 50th on, 42nd on Rave, and MSN names it the best student life college in Louisiana. It's easy to see how a college based in the party city of New Orleans must be fun for students, but what about study? Well, Tulane has some innovative programs that ensure its students get the best education. For instance, it requires all students to participate in community engagement and offers interesting classes about the local area, such as one that focuses on New Orleans's music and culture. Also, the college prides itself on having the most flexible degree programs, letting students take whatever classes they want once they're admitted.

  24. University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

    Champaign, IL

    This college has the best student life experience in the state of Illinois according to MSN. Business Insider also ranks it 18th in the country. places it at 26th. Rave places it at 15th, and Time Money has it at 44th. Although the towns of Urbana and Champaign are small, the university has plenty of interesting resources to keep students entertained and educationally engaged, including four theaters, over 10,000 works of art, a museum of global culture, 470,000 square feet of recreational space, a 1,500-acre park and much more.

  25. Colgate University

    Hamilton, NY

    Colgate University manages to feature in the top 10 of two methodology lists. Her Campus places it as the ninth best work hard, play hard college in America. Business Insider is even more generous, placing it at sixth. Time Money lists it at 22nd. However, places it at 103rd. The other lists do not include it. Colgate University has a very dedicated approach for ensuring that its students are both relaxed and productive. It has a liberal arts core curriculum that allows, "students to develop as citizens and leaders who can engage thoughtfully and flourish in the careers they want." Additionally, the college is proud of its division 1 athletics and beautiful campus.

  26. Virginia Tech

    Roanoke, VA

    This college places at 27th on Rave, 11th on and fifth on Princeton Review. Some of Princeton Review's other rankings show why Virginia Tech's students have such a good quality of life and are so productive. The other rankings state that Virginia Tech has the sixth best food of any college in the nation and the 11th best alumni network. Eating well and seeing successful alumni on a regular basis are sure to be encouraging! If this weren't enough, it regularly hosts events as part of an initiative named InclusiveVT that are designed to be inspiring to all people. The events are based on the themes of community, diversity, and excellence.

  27. College of William & Mary

    Williamsburg, VA

    This college ranks at 15th on Business Insider, 13th on Princeton Review, 68th on Time Money and joint 32nd on US News. College of William & Mary is the perfect mix of the old and the new. It's the second oldest institution of higher learning in America, but it has also implemented many innovative programs for students. And it celebrates cultures from across the globe. For example, students participate in a Hindu festival of colors every spring by throwing colorful powder at one another. As for its studying credentials, on top of its hundreds of years of experience, College of William & Mary has an 11 to one student/faculty ratio, which allows students to gain extensive help and assistance from professors.

  28. Indiana University

    Indiana, PA

    Indiana University is joint 90th on US News's national universities list, however the academics the publication interviewed put it in the top 30 for first-year experience. Also, Rave lists it as the 12th most fun college in America. Time Money places it at 69th, and's student-led reviews place it at 28th. Indiana University's approach to creating a fun and educational work environment has led to, "revolutionary ideas and unexpected collaborations," for 200 years. And you may not think it, but Indiana University's hometown, Bloomington, is an incredible place. In fact, Forbes ranked it the number one city for work/life balance!

    27. College of William & Mary

  29. University of Iowa

    Iowa City, IA

    The methodology lists' rankings of the University of Iowa vary wildly. It is as high as third place on Rave. Also, MSN names it the best place to study in the state of Iowa. However, it ranks at 51st place on the student review led It is also 53rd on Time Money. It does not appear on the other methodology lists. And while Iowa City isn't the most famous place in the world, it's surprisingly great! In fact, it's often voted as one of the best places for people to live in America. As University of Iowa's website states, "It's where small-town hospitality meets big-city amenities." Also, the college is committed to diversity and the exchange of different ideas, meaning that most people would benefit from the college's educational approach.

  30. Georgia Institute of Technology

    Atlanta, GA

    For students studying complex technology-related subjects, it's important to be in a great environment. Luckily, the Atlanta based Georgia Institute of Technology offers just that. Atlanta is an expanding and vibrant cultural center of the south. Business Insider places this college at 16th for work hard/play hard colleges. places it at 29th. Time Money places it at 50th. And Georgia Institute of Technology puts its students' strong work ethic down to the college's balanced atmosphere, which offers sports, traditions and over 400 organizations.

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