Smiles all around: 10 US colleges with the happiest students

colleges with the happiest students
Studying at one of the colleges with the happiest students can significantly impact your study abroad journey. Source: AFP

Choosing one of the colleges with the happiest students is more important than choosing one with high rankings.

Hear us out — the happier you are, the better your mental health and overall well-being, the more likely you are to be engaged in your studies and perform better academically.

And if you’re part of the colleges with the happiest students, you’ll find yourself surrounded by people who feel the same.

University can be a tough time for young people — who wouldn’t want good vibes to make it easier?

Being part of a community and belonging can go a long way in helping us connect and make friends.

Going at it alone will always be tougher than having a bestie (or several) to fall back on when you get a lower grade than expected or facing burnout at the emotional stress of it all.

But are good people and good vibes all it takes to us happy?

colleges with the happiest students

Many factors affect a student’s happiness, though most of them boil down to a few key points. Source: AFP

What makes us happy?

There’s no end to the number of people who’ve tried to define “happiness.” The Cambridge Dictionary describes “happy” as “feeling, showing, or causing pleasure or satisfaction.”

Merriam-Webster, the self-professed “America’s most-trusted dictionary,” defines “happiness” as “a state of well-being and contentment.”

While what makes students happy can vary from person to person but there are several factors that play a role in making a university student pleased, satisfied, well and content:

  • There’s a social life and community, thanks ot many clubs, organisations, and events that help students build connections and feel a sense of belonging.
  • There are support services, such as mental health services, academic advising, career counselling, and health services.
  • Graduates are willing to guide current students and give them advice where needed.
  • There’s a strong sense of school spirit that creates a sense of identity and community. This includes spirit weeks, mascots and campus-wide events.
  • You’re in a great  location — the climate is pleasant, it’s close to city centres, and has most of what you need in easy reach.

Before we look at the colleges with the happiest students, here are some of the ones on the opposite side of the spectrum.

colleges with the happiest students

Colleges that place a strong emphasis on academics only can increase stress levels in students, causing them to be unhappy. Source: AFP

Colleges with the least happiest students

Many assume that the colleges with the least happiest students would be Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Columbia University, or Harvard University due to the high pressure on students to achieve. 

However, there are lists that name institutions with the least happiest students, such as The Princeton Review. 

This list of colleges with the happiest students is based on 140,000 surveys that asked participants to rate everything from dorm life to classroom experience. The student survey had 80 questions in four sections and asked students about their school’s academics and administration, life at their college, their peers, and themselves.

1. Xavier University of Louisiana 

Xavier University of Louisiana has made The Princeton Review’s list of colleges with the least happiest students more than once. 

The liberal arts college located in New Orleans is known as the only historically black and Catholic college in the US. 

Many have said that the school ranks high on the list due to it not being a party school and its heavy focus on academics.

2. Simmons University

Also, making The Princeton Review’s list of colleges with the least happiest students is Simmons University. 

However, a number of students have gone on Reddit to share their disagreement with this ranking. 

“I’m a senior at Simmons right now, and honestly, I love my professors and my programme. The friends I have made here are really great too,” shares a Reddit user

According to the list, Simmons University ranks high mainly due to its administration, food, and culture.

Here are the top 10 colleges with the happiest students in the US, according to The Princeton Review. 

10 colleges with the happiest students in the US

1. Texas Christian University 

With its vibrant campus culture and strong sense of community, Texas Christian University tops the list of colleges with the happiest students in the US. 

Aside from academics, students can choose from over 200 clubs and organisations. Whether you are interested in joining the African or Muslim student organisations or supporting the school’s LGBTQ+ club, Spectrum, there is something for everyone at TCU.

Big on school spirit, you will find the school’s frog mascot all around the school. “Walking across campus, you will see many, many students in TCU gear, and I think that is representative of the love the student body has at this university,” shares a senior.

“The student experience is at the core of what makes TCU special. The connections built here last a lifetime, and our hope is that students will become part of a community where they feel like they matter and belong,” said Kathy Cavins-Tull, vice chancellor for student affairs

2. Kansas State University 

Kansas State University is not only a top-ranked public institution but also one of the top colleges with the happiest students in the US. 

One of the main reasons for this is the university’s affordability. In 2023, K-State awarded more than US$238 million in financial assistance to its students. The state itself ranks #11 for its affordability on the US News and World Report’s Best States list, so students can get the most out of their education and student experience without breaking the bank. 

“K-State is intentional about putting students first and offering a positive student experience both in and out of the classroom,” said Thomas Lane, vice president for student life and dean of students. “Student success and well-being continue to be a top priority of the university, and our students recognise these efforts in The Princeton Review rankings.”

colleges with the happiest students

Colleges that encourage students to have fun while learning result in happy students. Source: AFP

3. Thomas Aquinas College (CA)

Thomas Aquinas College is a private Catholic liberal arts college ranked among the top colleges with the happiest students in the US. One of the college’s best features is its extensive network of student organisations. Students can get involved in many different clubs and groups, where they can discover their potential while forming bonds. This includes sports like tennis, flag football, trail running, and surfing, or they can join the music and theatre group

The Princeton Review notes that Thomas Aquinas College students are among the “happiest,” “friendliest,” and “most religious” in the US.

4. Washington State University 

Washington State University is known as one of the colleges with the happiest students. The university aims to create a culture of creativity and innovation. 

With a small student-to-faculty ratio of 16:1, you’ll experience more personalised attention and engaging discussions in your classes, which allows for a supportive learning environment. 

It was found that 88% of students report high levels of satisfaction with their college experience at WSU. From academic advising and career coaching to mental health services, the school has many programmes to ensure students are supported throughout. The university also has wellness programmes in place to help with this. From Zumba and yoga classes to tips to reduce ergonomic injury, the school aims to build a happy and healthy community.

colleges with the happiest students

Attending a college with the happiest students can increase your success rates. Source: AFP

5. Emory University 

At Emory University, you’ll find yourself among some of the happiest students in the US. The university ranked fifth on The Princeton Review’s list of colleges with the happiest students and seventh for student mental health services.

Overall, the university is ranked #24 in the 2024 edition of Best Colleges is National Universities by US News and World Report.

Between its weekly events, religious communities, and 480 student clubs, sports teams, and performing arts groups, everyone can find their place at Emory and give themselves the best shot at a happy, fulfilling time at the university. 

6. Auburn University 

Auburn University has earned its spot among the colleges with the happiest students in the US. From cheering on the Tigers to engaging in meaningful service projects, the university is known for its spirited traditions and passionate alumni network.

In fact, over 92% of Auburn University students report feeling satisfied with their overall college experience. Niche, a US college ranking site, lists the university in the top 25 colleges with the Best Student Life in America.

The university has a strong support system dedicated to enhancing student happiness and well-being. There are more than 500 student organisations to find your crowd, a 240,000-square-foot Recreation and Wellness Centre for all the activities you could think of, and Student Counselling & Psychological Services that is fully accredited by the International Accreditation of Counselling Services.

colleges with the happiest students

Finding a college that not only nurtures academic excellence but also prioritises student happiness is essential. Source: AFP

7. Angelo State University 

Renowned for its strong sense of belonging and supportive faculty, Angelo State University encourages students to pursue their academic interests and participate in extracurricular activities while providing ample support, such as academic tutoring and advising, a foster care system, a VETS Centre for veterans, and disability services.

There’s also academic support, financial aid and scholarships, counselling services, and so much more. You’ll also get your pick of over 100 student organisations and access to the Center for Career and Professional Success for any job hunting purposes too.

8. Wheaton College (IL)

At Wheaton College, you’ll discover a community where happiness and purpose converge, making it one of the top colleges with the happiest students. This liberal arts college fosters a Christ-centred community, providing a nurturing environment where you can grow spiritually and intellectually. 

Here, you will have the opportunity to participate in discussions and projects while forming lifelong friendships. The Princeton Review 2023 ranks the college at#12 for having one of the best alumni networks, emphasising how the school’s thriving international alumni network is active, engaged, and always willing to help other Wheaties succeed.

In fact, the college launched the Centre for Vocation and Career as a direct response to students calling for career training resources. Since then, Wheaton’s worldwide alumni network has poured in time and financial resources, such as hosting career mentorship groups to help students connect with future employers.

colleges with the happiest students

Happiness can be a great way to see the overall student satisfaction of a university. Source: AFP

9. University of Dallas

At the University of Dallas, also known as the Catholic University for independent thinkers, you’ll find yourself among some of the happiest students in the US. The university places a strong emphasis on liberal arts education and global perspectives; it consistently places in the top 15 Catholic colleges nationwide by Forbes and the top 10 Catholic colleges in the West by US News and World Report.

With a commitment to nurturing the whole person — mind, body, and spirit — the university ensures that students not only excel academically but also find joy and fulfilment while in college. Here, students can participate in more than 50 student-run clubs and organisations to meet various personal, social, political, recreational, and religious interests. These include the Barbara Brunch clubs that pairs students with children from the local Barbara Cardwell High School for one-on-one mentoring once a week, The Dallas Refugee Project that serves Dallas refugees with empathy, understanding, and respect, the MindMatters club that aims to raise awareness about mental health and many more. 

10. University of Richmond

Ranked among the top 10 colleges with the happiest students globally, the University of Richmond offers a supportive and inclusive environment where you can thrive. Ranked #3 for Best Classroom Experience by The Princeton Review 2024, the university has 62 countries represented under its roof, boasting a truly multicultural community where everyone has a place to be.

Having been ranked #11 for Best Campus Food (by The Princeton Review 2024), the school is dedicated to creating a sense of community and connection. This is done through its 175 registered student organisations, which include 15 fraternities and sororities and 30 sports clubs. Students can meet new people and develop leadership and teamwork skills, all while having fun and creating lifelong memories.