11 Reasons Orlando is the Best College City in America

A recent report from WalletHub ranked Orlando as the No. 2 city for college students in the country and the No. 1 midsize college city in the U.S. The report, which was created by a quartet of college professors, compared more than 400 U.S. cities based on 28 key indicators measuring everything from job growth and earning potential to cost of living and attractions per capita.

Surprised? We’re not. After all, Tars have taken advantage of The City Beautiful’s unique combination of epic opportunity and amazing adventure for years. To celebrate our hometown’s most recent accolade, my admission counselors and I assembled a list of 11 reasons Orlando is the perfect place for college students like you to call home.

Photo of Faye Tydlaska

By Faye TydlaskaVice President for Admission and Financial Aid, Rollins College

Computer science major surrounded by rockets at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center

1. Incredible internships

Orlando ranks in the top 10 in the country for internships per capita, and Rollins has an entire office dedicated to helping our students secure the best career-builders. As a result, Tars have a serious leg up when it comes to landing their ideal internship. This semester, your future classmates are gaining real-world experience everywhere from Florida Hospital and Orlando City Soccer Club to the office of U.S. Rep. Stephanie Murphy—all without setting foot outside Orlando.

Software engineer sits on the edge of a ball pit at EA Sports in Orlando.

2. Career capital

Just a few weeks after she walked across the commencement stage at Rollins, Hannah Holman ’18 began her dream job as a software engineer at EA Sports, the Orlando-based interactive software company responsible for iconic game franchises like FIFA, Madden, and NBA Live. That's just one example of the opportunity awaiting Rollins grads right in our backyard. After all, Forbes ranked Orlando among the top 10 best cities for jobs in 2020 and Inc. ranked Rollins’ hometown in the top 20 best cities to start a business in 2020. Opportunities? They abound.

Rollins professor and students develop promotional strategies for an Orlando social enterprise.

3. Community connections

Orlando is home to some of the world’s most innovative organizations. Clean the World collects and recycles soap left behind in hotel rooms and redistributes it to impoverished people around the globe, helping prevent millions of hygiene-related deaths each year. Fleet Farming transforms residential lawns into urban micro-farms and then delivers the resulting produce to local farmers’ markets and restaurants by bicycle, helping to power sustainability and social change in one fell swoop. Those are just two of many amazing organizations that Rollins students have partnered with over the past year. From community engagement courses to immersive alternative breaks, Tars have myriad opportunities to apply what they’re learning in the classroom to create real change in the real world.

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A group of Florida college students explore Winter Park's Park Avenue.

4. It’s always sunny in Orlando

Florida is called the Sunshine State for a reason. Heck, even our “winter,” which lasts precisely two weeks, is packed with vitamin D. So grab your sunnies, friend. You’ll need them with a whopping 236 days of sunshine every year.

Aerial photo of white-sand beach in Clearwater Beach, Florida.

5. Proximity to the beach

No Floridian accepts being more than a hop, skip, and a jump from the beach. Nor should you. At Rollins, you’re an hour’s drive from Cocoa Beach and New Smyrna Beach on the east coast and a two-hour jaunt from Clearwater Beach and St. Pete Beach on the west coast.

College students work on a project at Disney World's Magic Kingdom.

6. Cool classrooms

Rollins is known for the intimacy and engagement of its discussion-based classes, but don’t expect to be tethered to a round table all the time. Marine biology students study at SeaWorld, English majors explore Zora Neale Hurston’s hometown of Eatonville, and art majors curate exhibitions at the College’s very own Cornell Fine Arts Museum. Political science students study urban development at the Magic Kingdom, music students gain professional performance experience at the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts, and film studies minors critique cult classics and original flicks at the Enzian Theater. At Rollins, all of Orlando is your classroom.

Students work on a project at a table outside a coffee shop in Winter Park, Florida.

7. Park Avenue

Most nights and every weekend, folks from all over Central Florida flock to Park Avenue, Winter Park’s charming promenade of world-class shopping and deluxe dining. For Rollins students, the commute is far shorter. After all, Park Avenue intersects with campus, so everything from hip boutiques and chic cafes to a bustling farmers market and award-winning restaurants is always just a few steps away.

Florida college students eat pizza outdoors at Prato restaurant in Winter Park.

8. We’re a foodie destination

From celebrity-chef restaurants near the attractions to James Beard Award nominees like James and Julie Petrakis of The Ravenous Pig and Kathleen Blake of The Rusty Spoon, Orlando offers dozens of ways to indulge your inner gourmand. In fact, foodie features in national publications like The New York Times and Forbes exemplify how the nation is taking notice of Orlando’s dynamic and delectable food scene.

Soccer players celebrate with fans at Orlando City Soccer Stadium in Orlando.

9. Downtown is close and kinetic

Located a 15-minute SunRail ride from campus, downtown Orlando is abuzz with entertainment options. Catch a Broadway show at the new Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts, which was named one of the World’s Coolest Tourist Attractions of 2015 by Travel + Leisure. Watch Orlando City take on Major League Soccer’s top teams in our brand-new soccer stadium. Or board a swan boat on Lake Eola to take in the downtown skyline from the water.

College students brainstorm at Florida Hospital's Innovation Lab.

10. Entrepreneurial spirit

The Orlando Tech Meetup, the South’s largest gathering of tech entrepreneurs, is just one example of Orlando’s flourishing innovation culture. Tars are in the thick of it. International business professor Allen Kupetz is the founder of Kpartnerz Foundation, a Florida nonprofit focused on supporting students’ startup ventures, and the co-founder of venVelo, a Winter Park-based venture capital fund dedicated to innovative companies in Florida. Dayle Moore ’10 is operations manager of co-working space Canvs, tech accelerator Starter Studio, and tech-focused venture capitalists FireSpring Fund. Meanwhile, Adam Schwartz, the founder and CEO of multimillion-dollar startup FRESHeTECH, was recently named to Entrepreneur magazine’s Entrepreneur360 list and Forbes’ 30 Under 30 list.

College students yell in excitement while riding a roller coaster at Universal Studios.

11. Entertainment capital of the world

Orlando is known the world over for its one-of-a-kind collection of first-class theme parks and attractions. Indulge your imagination at Disney World’s four parks, immerse yourself in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at two Universal parks, cool off at water parks all around town, and get a bird’s-eye view of it all from the world’s sixth tallest Ferris wheel. With dozens and dozens of attractions to choose from, life in Orlando is never boring. Just ask WalletHub, which ranked Orlando No. 2 on its list of the Most Fun Cities in America in 2018.

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