Best Party Schools

Updated on January 3, 2024

College is supposed to be one of the most fun times in a person’s life. While academics are important, the social scene plays a major role in the overall college experience. Some schools have gained reputations as top “party schools” where students tend to socialize frequently and the campus culture encourages a lively social scene. Here are 10 of the top party schools based on student surveys and rankings.

University of Wisconsin-Madison

Location: Madison, WI

Rating: 9/10

Acceptance Rate: 46%

Avg SAT Score: 1355

Tuition: $10,725 (in-state)

Website: wisc.edu

The University of Wisconsin at Madison has a reputation as one of the biggest party schools in the Midwest. With over 30,000 undergraduates, there is a vibrant social scene at UW-Madison. From massive sports tailgates to house parties off campus, Badgers know how to have fun. The school’s location near downtown Madison and its stunning lakeside setting also enhance the lively atmosphere.

West Virginia University

Location: Morgantown, WV

Rating: 8.5/10

Acceptance Rate: 66%

Avg SAT Score: 1110

Tuition: $8,976 (in-state)

Website: wvu.edu

West Virginia University has solidified itself as one of the top party schools in the country. Mountaineer football games are epic events, win or lose. The sprawling campus in Morgantown allows for many late-night house parties for which WVU has become legendary. The phrase “Win or lose, we still booze” sums up the 24/7 party vibe at this university.

Tulane University

Location: New Orleans, LA

Rating: 8/10

Acceptance Rate: 13%

Avg SAT Score: 1420

Tuition: $57,208

Website: tulane.edu

As one of the top schools located in New Orleans, Tulane University offers students the perfect mix of Southern charm and Mardi Gras mayhem. Bourbon Street is only a short ride from campus which allows students to experience one of the country’s most legendary party cities. The warm climate means the parties spill out onto Tulane’s beautiful quads and courtyards for most of the school year.

Florida State University

Location: Tallahassee, FL

Rating: 8.5/10

Acceptance Rate: 36%

Avg SAT Score: 1250

Tuition: $5,656 (in-state)

Website: fsu.edu

It should be no surprise that a major university located in the Florida party city of Tallahassee makes the list of top party schools. Florida State University offers a vibrant social scene under sunny skies for most of the year. With on-campus stadiums and arenas, there are always major sporting events that fuel big tailgates and post-game celebrations.

University of California, Santa Barbara

Location: Santa Barbara, CA

Rating: 8/10

Acceptance Rate: 32%

Avg SAT Score: 1325

Tuition: $14,391 (in-state)

Website: ucsb.edu

The laid-back beach town vibe and beautiful Pacific coast setting make UC Santa Barbara a natural party school. Add in an student body of over 20,000 and you’ve got the ingredients for an lively social scene in this classic California college town. With awesome weather most of the year, UCSB keeps the party going day and night.

Penn State

Location: State College, PA

Rating: 9/10

Acceptance Rate: 50%

Avg SAT Score: 1280

Tuition: $18,450 (in-state)

Website: psu.edu

Few schools are more synonymous with raging parties than Penn State. Home football weekends at the massive 107,000 seat Beaver Stadium are legendary events with epic tailgates. The vibrant bar scene downtown fuels late, late nights out for Nittany Lions. If you’re looking non-stop socializing, this Big 10 school certainly delivers.

University of Iowa

Location: Iowa City, IA

Rating: 7.5/10

Acceptance Rate: 83%

Avg SAT Score: 1185

Tuition: $9,605 (in-state)

Website: uiowa.edu

The University of Iowa in classic Big 10 college town Iowa City has a well-earned reputation as a top party school. Hawkeye football Saturdays are major events with huge tailgates raging hours before kickoff. The downtown bar scene then keeps the party rolling deep into the night for Iowa students to blow off steam from academics.

University of Mississippi (Ole Miss)

Location: Oxford, MS

Rating: 8/10

Acceptance Rate: 95%

Avg SAT Score: 1130

Tuition: $9,260 (in-state)

Website: olemiss.edu

Ole Miss brings visions of smooth Southern belles and boys partying the night away with tailgating parties before football games under the sprawling oaks of campus. The historic small town Oxford location and a thriving Greek scene propel this university’s reputation as party central for the Southeastern Conference (SEC).

Bucknell University

Location: Lewisburg, PA

Rating: 7/10

Acceptance Rate: 32%

Avg SAT Score: 1350

Tuition: $55,916

Website: bucknell.edu

This small private university packs a big punch when it comes to partying. What Bucknell University lacks in size, it more than makes up for with an intense social scene. House parties are the main event at this little university that students say never sleeps. The rural location also helps fuel raucous frat parties that go late into the night.

Colgate University

Location: Hamilton, NY

Rating: 6.5/10

Acceptance Rate: 22%

Avg SAT Score: 1365

Tuition: $58,775

Website: colgate.edu

While best known academically, Colgate University also boasts a thriving social scene fueled by lots of late night frat parties, bar outings, and campus events. Getting through the week of academics is all about letting loose on weekends for students at this upstate New York institution. Students praise the close-knit community and say partying brings everyone together.

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Frequently Asked Questions

What makes a top party school?

There are a few key factors that contribute to a university gaining a reputation as a top party school. These include a vibrant Greek/frat scene that drives social events, big sports culture and major tailgates, flexible alcohol policies, active off-campus bar scene nearby, and warm weather allowing for more outdoor partying.

Do students still focus on academics?

While known for being socially-oriented, top party schools still produce highly successful graduates. The majority of students are still focused on academics even if they spend more time socializing than other universities. Strong alumni networks also help students land good careers after college.

How do schools earn party reputations?

Party school reputations are driven most by current students and alumni themselves. When students rate their schools very socially-oriented on sites like Niche.com and the Princeton Review, it solidifies reputations. News media attention for high-profile incidents can also propel notoriety.

Do employers judge party school grads unfairly?

There is little evidence that employers discriminate against graduates of party schools. With so many colleges known for robust social scenes, employers evaluate candidates more on academic merit, skills, and interview performance rather than college reputations.

What are other costs of being labeled a top party school?

Besides potential stigma, party schools deal with issues like vandalism, neighborhood nuisance complaints, and the need for extra campus security to maintain safety. Many party schools have also enacted tighter alcohol policies over the years to moderate excessive behavior.

Is there a difference between party schools and drinking schools?

Party schools focus more on the overall social atmosphere including Greek life events, sports tailgates, and residential activities. Drinking schools specifically highlight excessive alcohol consumption traditions that encourage binge drinking. There is often overlap between the two.

Despite social reputations, top party schools offer rigorous academic programs like any other university. Popular majors include business, communications, marketing, political science, economics, biology and other STEM majors. Several are major research institutions.

Do students regret choosing party schools?

While some students may go overboard at first with newfound freedom in college, very few regret attending party schools overall. Many students report strong lifelong bonds formed through shared social experiences and say it was the perfect social environment for their personalities.

How can students balance partying and studying?

Balancing intense social lives with academics requires discipline and time management skills. Scheduling study hours as a priority before going out is key. Being strategic about what nights to go out allows students to still progress evenly on academics throughout a semester.

What are fun alternatives to house parties?

Top party schools offer much more than just house and frat parties. Attending other social events like campus concerts, comedy shows, cultural activities, bars/clubs with friends allows students to expand socially beyond basic partying all the time.

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Rohit Mittal

Rohit Mittal is the co-founder and CEO of Stilt. Rohit has extensive experience in credit risk analytics and data science. He spent years building credit risk and fraud models for top U.S. banks. In his current role, he defines the overall business strategy, leads debt and capital fundraising efforts, leads product development, and leads other customer-related aspects for the company. Stilt is backed by Y Combinator and has raised a total of $275M in debt and equity funding to date.