Charleston, S.C. is one of the hottest travel destinations in the entire country right now, and after people visit once, they want to stay forever. If you’re looking for a truly unique place to go to college, Charleston is the city for you. With three beaches within a few miles of the campus and a bustling downtown scene with more bars and restaurants than you can count, you’ll love the atmosphere almost as much as the campus itself.
You’ll find gorgeous Spanish moss draped from ancient live oak trees almost anywhere you go on the College of Charleston campus along with historic buildings used as offices and classrooms. If you’ve never visited Charleston, find out all the reasons you should add this to your list of places to apply for school.
Reasons Charleston, S.C. Is a Great College Town
Southern Hospitality Is Real
For those who didn’t grow up in Charleston, S.C., it may come as a surprise that Southern hospitality is more than just a stereotype. As you walk around the downtown area, you’ll find yourself smiling and greeting strangers who are genuinely interested in how your day is going. For many northerners, this is an unfamiliar custom, but it makes it really easy to get comfortable in a new place when everyone you encounter is smiling and friendly.
Voted Most Beautiful Campus in the U.S.
We’re not the only ones who think that the College of Charleston has a stunning campus. Travel + Leisure voted this campus as the most beautiful in the entire country in 2017. The unique Roman architecture gives the impression that you’re stepping back in time as you walk through the sprawling campus. The cistern is the most photographed area of the college, which is where graduation is held each year. A large outdoor area, the cistern is filled with huge live oaks that are covered in enchanting Spanish moss. Perhaps the most unique aspect of the campus is the history and mystery that surrounds it. Professors’ offices can be found at the top of spiraling staircases connected to traditional Charleston single-style homes or even tucked away inside the arches that lead to the cistern.
Experience an All-American City
While many large universities have many forms of entertainment offered by the college itself, the College of Charleston is located right in the middle of the bustling city, providing students with access to the best activities in the area. From campus, students can walk through the streets admiring the brightly painted, Antebellum-style houses on their way to the tip of the peninsula known as the battery. Here, you can watch boats sail through the ocean or have a picnic at the White Point Gardens. You’ll find plenty of beautiful outdoor places to sit and enjoy the weather—from Marion Square, where the weekly farmers market is held, to Hampton Park.
For college students, there’s also no shortage of great bars and restaurants to check out. King Street is the hub for great dining, and you’ll find every type of food you could want—Italian, Vietnamese, classic Southern and so much more. On the weekends, King Street is flooded with young people bar hopping, exploring the best rooftop bars, hanging out in some of our favorite dive joints and listening to live music. It’s nearly impossible to be bored when you’re living right in the heart of historic Charleston, S.C.
Minutes Away from the Beach
Students living in Charleston are amongst the luckiest college kids in the country because not only do you have access to the city, but you can easily head to the beach on any day of the week. And, because of the area’s pleasant year-round weather, you can explore all of the Charleston beaches during any season. It’s not uncommon to see people heading to the beach in the middle of winter for a walk along the shore. Our climate may be mild, but you will still need to bring a jacket along for the stroll.
From downtown Charleston, S.C., students have three options when it comes to going to the beach—Folly Beach, Sullivan’s Island or Isle of Palms. The Isle of Palms is the furthest from the campus but has one of the most popular beach bars in the area, The Windjammer, which hosts live music and beach volleyball competitions each summer. Sullivan’s Island is much closer to downtown but also located in Mount Pleasant. This charming little beach area is the Charleston beach with the best selection for food. Order mimosas and oysters for a fancy brunch at Obstinate Daughter, or head to HomeTeam for some Southern-style barbecue and their famously potent alcoholic drink, the Game Changer. The last of the three Charleston beaches, Folly Beach is located on James Island and gives off more of a bohemian beach vibe. Many students opt to go here because of the laid-back atmosphere and bars along Center Street.
The Football Team Is “Undefeated”
A running joke amongst current CofC students and alumni, the College of Charleston football team is notoriously undefeated—because they do not exist. For some, the lack of a football team might be problematic, but Charleston is just two hours from Columbia, S.C., home of the Gamecocks, meaning you can easily drive up for the weekend to catch a game. Although Charleston does not have a football team, there are frequent basketball games at the TD Arena with BYOB tailgates beforehand, baseball games at Patriot’s Point and our olympic-level sailing team. In fact, sports are a major part of the College of Charleston community. Students can even opt to take sailing or yoga as a class during the year.
Achieve a Liberal Arts Education
In today’s world, your major doesn’t necessarily make or break your future career path, and getting a liberal arts education can provide you with a well-rounded knowledge of many subjects so you can use your skills in multiple fields. Liberal arts schools try to cover humanities and social and natural sciences, as well as mathematics to give students some insight into many different areas before they select a major. People with degrees from a liberal arts school are attractive to employers after graduation because they have been taught how to implement their skills across multiple areas of study, making these employees self-sufficient and adaptable.
Colleges in Charleston, S.C.
The College of Charleston
The most popular school in Charleston, S.C., the College of Charleston is a liberal arts school located in the heart of historic downtown with a variety of excellent programs and a knowledgeable staff of professors. For those who aren’t quite sure what career they would like to break into after graduation, the College of Charleston is a great choice because the liberal arts program will set you up to explore a variety of classes and industries. Most students at CofC live in one of the many dorms during their freshman year before moving off campus into a downtown apartment. Because the downtown area only covers a few miles, it’s easy to find an apartment near the campus. For those looking to get a top-notch education and stay close to the beaches and city, College of Charleston is an excellent choice.
Trident Technical College
Trident has both a downtown and North Charleston campus. The main location in North Charleston is much larger and offers a greater variety of classes, but some students elect to take as many classes as they can at the downtown location to stay close to all that the city has to offer. Trident is a two-year school, which makes it an excellent choice for anyone trying to save money on out-of-state tuition. Many students come to Charleston, S.C., attend Trident for two years and then transfer to the College of Charleston. This is such a common process that the two schools have a seamless system for transferring students over.
Charleston Southern University
This small Baptist college is located in North Charleston, not far from the downtown area. Overall, the college welcomes about 3,600 students each year. For those who thrive in an environment with more direct instruction and smaller classes, Charleston Southern is a great option. This school also implements a liberal arts program, but because it is a private university connected with the South Carolina Baptist Convention, the curriculum tries to tie in religion and spirituality.
Medical University of South Carolina
One of the top medical schools in the South, the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) is also located right in downtown Charleston and is known for its outstanding programs. Many people seeking a career in the medical field will choose to attend the College of Charleston for a bachelor’s degree and then stay in Charleston and continue their education at MUSC. This school is located on the west side of the peninsula in a quieter, more residential area then the College of Charleston.
Charleston’s military college was established in 1842 as part of a state-organized military to educate young people and train them for service simultaneously. Over the last century, the college continues to incorporate its military origins with many of the students intending to serve in some branch of the military after graduation, though some students simply attend the college for a more rigid type of higher education.
American College of the Building Arts
Located in downtown Charleston, the American College of the Building Arts is a unique college in the city that focuses on more hands-on artistic avenues of education, such as different types of architecture, masonry and plasterwork. This is a great option for students who have an interest in this specific career path and are ready to jump into a curriculum designed to train them to move directly into their line of work after graduation.
Best Downtown Neighborhoods for College Students
Downtown Charleston is broken into 11 different neighborhoods that stretch across the peninsula from the affluent South of Broad, which houses many of the mansions located on The Battery, to Wagener Terrace and Hampton Terrace on the northern end of the city, featuring more family residential areas. For students attending a school downtown, staying near the campus is important because you’ll have quick and easy access to classes and all that Charleston’s nightlife has to offer. Here are some of our top neighborhoods for students and young working professionals.
Much of the College of Charleston campus is located within Harleston Village, making this the most desired area of town for younger residents. You’ll be able to walk to almost every building on campus within 10 minutes, and you’ll find tons of great restaurants nearby. This area of town is also just a few blocks from King Street, where nearly all of the most popular establishments are in the city. From coffee shops to dive bars, college students will find everything they need in Harleston Village.
This area is probably the second most desired neighborhood in downtown Charleston for those attending school. Cannonborough/Elliotborough is a few blocks further from campus than Harleston Village, which means many students living in this area will ride bikes or skateboards to get to class more quickly, though it’s still within 25 minutes to walk to the college. Here, you’ll find easier access to those same upper King Street bars and restaurants, but you’ll also discover a wave of new and eclectic spots that have been popping up in the neighborhood. In the evenings, you can grab tacos from the well-loved Charleston restaurant Fuel or check out the intriguing menu of Asian Fusion options at Xiao Bao Biscuit.
Wagener Terrace and Hampton Terrace
Though both Wagener Terrace and Hampton Terrace are not highly populated by college students, this neighborhood is great for young professionals looking to settle down after graduation without having to leave the peninsula. Further north than many of the other neighborhoods, both areas are more laid-back with many families choosing to settle in this part of town. Here, you’ll find far fewer traditional Charleston single homes that have been split into apartments and more quaint, cottage-style houses. The best part of this neighborhood? The beautiful nearby Hampton Park, where events like outdoor yoga are frequently held. You’ll also be closer to places like Moe’s Crosstown Tavern, a dive bar with killer burgers, and The Park Cafe, a charming little place for brunch or lunch.
So many people are attracted to Charleston, S.C., because of the city’s many options for college students, but once young people have experienced the beauty and excitement of our unique city, they never want to leave. Whether you’re interested in getting a liberal arts education from the College of Charleston, a more religiously oriented study program at Charleston Southern or a hands-on experience at the American College of the Building Arts, Charleston has many diverse options for every type of student. Pick the college that speaks to you most and come experience all that Charleston, S.C. has to offer.