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2023 Ultimate Alternative College Guide

by Bold Org Editorial Team
September 22, 2022
8 min read
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Choosing the right college is a hugely important choice, not just for the next few years of your life as you enter young adulthood, but potentially for the rest of your life.

While academic factors are undoubtedly a massive factor when it comes to choosing which college to enroll with, it's not the only thing to take into account.

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Whether it’s the social and sporting side of things, safety on campus, or knowing that your new home for the next few years is run in an ethical and sustainable way, there are lots of other factors that prospective students may consider when choosing where to study, so we’ve created the 2023 Ultimate Alternative College Guide, analyzing 50 of the country’s biggest universities on six alternative factors.

Top Three Colleges

1. University of Michigan

Ann Arbor, MI

Taking the top spot was the University of Michigan, which scored highest for two out of six factors, both the number of students who were part of a sports team (3.26%) and the number of student organizations per 10,000 students (516). Michigan has also been home to 26 Nobel Prize winners, over 250 Olympic athletes and coaches, and eight heads of state or government, including former President Gerald Ford.

2. Virginia Tech

Blacksburg, VA

The Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, better known as Virginia Tech, was third in our ranking. The university had an impressive ‘green score’ of 97 out of 99 and has been recognized nationally for their work on campus sustainability, while also scoring highly for quality of life on their Blacksburg campus, with a score of 91out of 99.

3. New York University

New York City, NY

New York University is the countries largest private university and took second place in our ranking, in no small part due to its location right in the heart of New York, in Greenwich Village. For those looking to enjoy an active social life alongside their studies, NYU was home to more bars and places to grab a drink with a mile of campus than any of the other colleges on our list. It also scored highly when it came to sustainability and safety too, which is impressive considering its location in the center of one of the world’s busiest cities.

2023 Ultimate Alternative College Guide

The Number One University for...


New York University

(240 within one mile)

Given its location in one of Manhattan’s main cultural hubs, it’s no surprise to see that New York University has the highest number of bars within a mile of campus. Greenwich Village is a thriving haven for artists, known as the Bohemian capital of the world and one of the birthplaces of the modern LGBT movement, and the 1960s counterculture movement, with some of the city’s major nightlife destinations just a stone’s throw away from campus.

Quality of Life

Washington State University

(95 out of 99)

Washington State had the highest ‘quality of life’ score of all the colleges that we looked at and is known for its gorgeous campus perched on a hill, surrounded by open spaces and views over the Palouse region. It’s a true red brick college town with lots for students to do in the area, including skiing, hiking, camping, and an impressive student recreation center.


Brigham Young University

(146 crimes per 10,000 students since 2001)

Safety is an important consideration when choosing where to live and study, so we also looked at which university has had the least crimes recorded on campus over the last 20 years, with Brigham Young in Provo, Utah, proving to be the safety. The university is owned by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, with students agreeing to follow the church’s teachings through an ‘honor code’, which amongst other things, forbids the consumption of alcohol, tobacco, and drugs, which no doubt contributes to the low crime rate.

Sports Participation

University of Michigan

(3.26% of students part of a sports team)

Sport is another huge part of the college experience, whether as an athlete or a fan, and of the colleges which we analyzed, it was Michigan which had the largest proportion of students part of one of the university’s Division I NCAA teams, collectively known as the Wolverines. Michigan is also part of the ‘Big Ten Conference’, the oldest Division I collegiate conference in the country, and have produced alumni who have won 144 Olympic medals between them.

Student Organizations

University of Michigan

(516 per 10,000 students)

The University of Michigan is a big place and there are around 1,500 different student organizations in total, which works out at 516 per 10,000 students, meaning that whatever you’re into, you’re likely to find one to suit you. Of course, there are plenty of fraternities and sororities, but also plenty on offer if you’re not into the party scene, including from engineering project teams and activism groups to marching bands and a capella groups.


Iowa State, Colorado State,
and UC Berkeley

(99 out of 99)

Three colleges were tied with full marks when it came to sustainability, Iowa State, Colorado State, and the University of California, Berkeley. All three were commended for their own sustainability plans, offering green-focused degrees, and policies such as car sharing, free shuttles and transit passes, and encouraging cycling amongst students and staff.


We looked at the 50 biggest universities for which data was available, giving each one a normalized score out of 100 on the following six factors, before taking an average score across all six for our overall score.


The number of bars within a one-mile radius of the campus, according to Yelp.

Quality of Life

A rating out of 99 according to the Princeton Review which measures how happy students are with their lives outside of the classroom, including things such as the location and beauty of the campus, comfort of dorms, quality of food, etc.


The number of criminal offenses on campus between 2001 and 2018 (per 10,000 undergraduate students) according to the U.S. Department of Education’s Campus Safety and Security data.

Sports Participation

The number of students who participated in a sports team (per 10,000 undergraduates) in 2018, according to the U.S. Department of Education’s Equity in Athletics data.

Student Organizations

The number of registered student organizations (per 10,000 undergraduates) according to the Princeton Review.


A ‘green rating’ out of 99 according to the Princeton Review, based on the university’s performance as an environmentally aware and prepared institution, including whether students have a campus quality of life that is both healthy and sustainable, how well a school is preparing students for employment in the clean-energy economy of the 21st century as well as for citizenship in a world now defined by environmental concerns and opportunities, and how environmentally responsible a school's policies are.

Note that colleges that didn’t supply enough data for this rating were given a score of 60 by the Princeton Review.

Bold Org Editorial Team
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