What do economists look for in ranking college destinations? For the American Institute for Economic Research, the factors are quality of life (arts and entertainment venues, bars and restaurants, and transit options), economic climate (employment rates, STEM employment and rent) and demographic measures such as racial and ethnic diversity and the share of the adult population with at least a bachelor of arts degree. Washington ranks third because of its strong economy and demographics. It attracts students with interests in policy, politics and law, and provides opportunities for those with interests in science and biomedical research. It also offers plenty of options for students interested in museums, history and culture. Below are Top 10 destinations broken down by population. Students working on their college applications might want to visit aier.org/cdi, where they can rank destinations based on their own factors.

MAJOR METROS

More than 2.5 million residents

6. New York

1. San Francisco

7. Los Angeles

2. Boston

8. Chicago

3. Washington, D.C.

9. Dallas-Fort Worth

4. Minneapolis

10. Houston

5. Seattle

MIDSIZE METROS

1 million to 2.5 million residents

6. New Orleans

1. Denver

7. Nashville

2. Austin

8. Columbus, Ohio

3. Portland, Ore.

9. Milwaukee

4. San Jose

10. Virginia Beach

5. Raleigh, N.C.

SMALL METROS

250,000 to 999,999 residents

6. Fort Collins, Colo.

1. Ann Arbor, Mich.

7. Honolulu

2. Tallahassee

8. Santa Barbara, Calif.

3. Durham, N.C.

9. Bremerton, Wash.

4. Madison, Wis.

10. Santa Cruz, Calif.

5. Gainesville, Fla.

COLLEGE TOWNS

Fewer than 250,000 residents

6. Bloomington, Ind.

1. Boulder, Colo.

7. College Station, Tex.

2. Champaign-Urbana, Ill.

3. Flagstaff, Ariz.

8. Manhattan, Kan.

9. Columbia, Mo.

4. Ithaca, N.Y.

10. Bloomington, Ill.

5. Iowa City

11. Charlottesville

17. Blacksburg, Va.

What do economists look for in ranking college destinations? For the American Institute for Economic Research, the factors are quality of life (arts and entertainment venues, bars and restaurants, and transit options), economic climate (employment rates, STEM employment and rent) and demographic measures such as racial and ethnic diversity and the share of the adult population with at least a bachelor of arts degree. Washington ranks third because of its strong economy and demographics. It attracts students with interests in policy, politics and law, and provides opportunities for those with interests in science and biomedical research. It also offers plenty of options for students interested in museums, history and culture. Below are Top 10 destinations broken down by population. Students working on their college applications might want to visit aier.org/cdi, where they can rank destinations based on their own factors.

MAJOR METROS

MIDSIZE METROS

More than 2.5 million residents

1 million to 2.5 million residents

6. New Orleans

1. Denver

6. New York

1. San Francisco

7. Nashville

2. Austin

7. Los Angeles

2. Boston

8. Columbus, Ohio

3. Portland, Ore.

8. Chicago

3. Washington, D.C.

9. Milwaukee

4. San Jose

9. Dallas-Fort Worth

4. Minneapolis

10. Virginia Beach

5. Raleigh, N.C.

10. Houston

5. Seattle

SMALL METROS

COLLEGE TOWNS

250,000 to 999,999 residents

Fewer than 250,000 residents

6. Bloomington, Ind.

1. Boulder, Colo.

6. Fort Collins, Colo.

1. Ann Arbor, Mich.

7. College Station, Tex.

2. Champaign-Urbana, Ill.

7. Honolulu

2. Tallahassee

3. Flagstaff, Ariz.

8. Manhattan, Kan.

8. Santa Barbara, Calif.

3. Durham, N.C.

9. Columbia, Mo.

4. Ithaca, N.Y.

9. Bremerton, Wash.

4. Madison, Wis.

10. Bloomington, Ill.

5. Iowa City

10. Santa Cruz, Calif.

5. Gainesville, Fla.

11. Charlottesville

17. Blacksburg, Va.