While the south is home to many well-known colleges and universities, Charleston, South Carolina houses a particularly unique mix of higher education options. Between military presence and training, business opportunities, a rich historical background and an ever-growing hospitality and tourism industry, many consider Charleston to offer both an amazing college experience and an area of post-graduate opportunity.

When thinking about both in-person or online college options, Charleston has quite the diverse roster to offer. The College of Charleston, Charleston Southern University, the Medical University of South Carolina, Trident Technical College and The Citadel Military College of South Carolina make up the impressive list of colleges within the city’s limits. It’s safe to say Charleston can serve as a college town for just about anyone, regardless of intended major, career or extracurricular involvement.

If you or someone you know is thinking about attending school in the Holy City, you may even think about looking at Dunes Properties’ Charleston, SC vacation rentals to book for a few days in order to see what the city has to offer, both academically and culturally. Before your visit, read over these mini-guides to each college in Charleston, South Carolina:

College of Charleston

What is it? The heart of Downtown Charleston is home to the College of Charleston, a nationally ranked liberal arts and sciences university. The College, which was founded in 1770, offers a unique balance of quality education and extracurricular student involvement programs, including greek life, recreational sports clubs, leadership organizations and a bustling fine arts community.

Devoted and qualified faculty members teach the college’s impressive offering of 63 majors, 81 minors and 22 master’s degree programs with a student-to-faculty ratio of 14.5 to 1. The College of Charleston’s mixture of historic charm and state of the art facilities make this institution a top choice for students near and far.

What is it known for? The College of Charleston is known for superb academic offerings in the heart of Charleston, South Carolina. Students enjoy a college-town feel with the lifestyle perks of living in a city like Charleston. The College itself is situated in the middle of Historic Charleston, SC, one of the nation’s most coveted areas in terms of real estate. While the College does not have a football team, students flock to the nearby TD Arena for men’s and women’s basketball games during the season. Other notable elements of the College of Charleston include the picturesque Cistern Yard and Addlestone Library.

Pros and Highlights: Due to the location of the College of Charleston and ample student housing nearby, many of the college’s students walk or bike from class to class, making the campus extremely accessible for most. In addition to traditional meal plans within the college’s dining halls, they offer an Off Campus Meal Plan with popular options like Chipotle, Five Guys, local delis and more.

Awards and Accolades: The college has been ranked as a 2020 No. 5 top public college in the south by U.S. News & World Report magazine. More recently, the College of Charleston was ranked as one of the best colleges in 2021 for first-year experiences by the same publication. It has also been ranked by The Princeton Review in multiple categories, including real-world experience and career preparation, location and overall excellence.

The Citadel

What is it? Noted for educational reputation and rich historical background, The Citadel is a public military college located within the upper peninsula area of Charleston, South Carolina. The Citadel waa founded in 1842 and currently offers undergraduate programs to over 2,000 students who make up the South Carolina Corps of Cadets. Additionally, The Citadel Graduate College is made up of about 1,000 civilian students. The student body from both the undergraduate and graduate programs is made up of men and women from all over the U.S. and about a dozen foreign countries.

What is it known for? At The Citadel, the undergraduate students live and study under a traditional military system that aids in the enrichment of both education and personal character. This leads to one in three cadets earning a commission into the United States Armed Forces upon graduation. The Citadel Bulldogs are also known for their performance in athletics, including football, cross country, basketball, track and even riflery.

Pros and Highlights: The cadet experience at The Citadel is unlike any other. Cadets are immersed in a stimulating and enriching environment that provides both challenges and opportunities that aid individuals in personal growth. One particularly unique element of Citadel life is the diverse offering of recreational activities and intramural sports teams. The impressive lineup includes sailing, judo, ice hockey, rugby, triathlons and backpacking.

Awards and Accolades: The Citadel is ranked the No.1 public college in the south offering up to a master’s degree by U.S. News & World Report. Additionally, The Citadel offers its own award, The Reves Award, to multiple cadets each year, for outstanding performance in mathematics and computer science.

Trident Technical College

What is it? Offering more than 150 programs of study, Trident Technical College is Charleston’s only public community college. Students who attend Trident can study and obtain a certificate or associate’s degree in health care, business, tourism, hospitality, mathematics and much more. In addition to many online course options, Trident has multiple physical locations for in-person learning throughout the Charleston, Mount Pleasant and greater Lowcountry region.

What is it known for? Trident is known and appreciated for being an affordable alternative to higher education in the Charleston area. For those making a transition from high school to college, Trident might be the perfect option, as the college offers tuition assistance programs that make financing a higher education plan possible for almost anyone. Furthermore, students at neighboring schools, like the College of Charleston, can complete additional transferable courses either in person or online to lower their overall tuition prices and graduate faster. 

Pros and Highlights: Aside from convenience and affordability, Trident Technical College offers a unique array of student assistance programs. Financial aid professionals are available to students to help with loans, grants, scholarships, work study programs and more. In addition to financial help, Trident offers counseling services, free Wi-Fi, student employment opportunities, college transition services, course selection assistance and testing services to help students succeed both in and out of the classroom.

Charleston Southern University

What is it? Charleston Southern University is a private Christian university that is also located in the Holy City. The close-knit campus has around 3,400 students enrolled at any given time and offers 50 undergraduate programs and 15 graduate programs. In addition to classroom buildings, Charleston Southern’s beautiful 300-acre campus is home to many student amenities and resource buildings, including residence halls, various dining options, athletic center, library and more.

What is it known for? CSU is home to a unique gathering of students from different locations, backgrounds and faiths. These factors, alongside an unbeatable location, make Charleston Southern University memorable. The curriculum integrates Christian values, making Charleston Southern a notable institution for a unique learning, leading and serving experience alongside other like-minded individuals. The careful and thoughtful faith integration at CSU is set in place with intentions to maximize student potential, deepen faith and religious values, create an uplifting student environment and recognize the unique gifts and abilities of each individual student.

Pros and Highlights: Students at Charleston Southern University enjoy a low student-to-faculty ratio, which makes for smaller classes, a personalized learning experience and greater attention given to each student. The faculty members at Charleston Southern are deeply invested in the success of each student, making themselves available to their pupils both during and after class time.

Charleston is also Buc Nation! Charleston Southern’s competitive sports roster boasts 16 NCAA Division 1 teams, which compete in the Big South Conference. From football and basketball to cross country and beyond, there’s always something worth playing or cheering for. CSU also offers an extensive intramural sports and fitness program for those seeking more fun and less of a time commitment.

Awards and Accolades: While it is a widely applauded institution for private Christian learning overall, Charleston Southern University is specifically recognized by U.S. News & World Report for best veterans bachelor’s and bachelor’s online programs and best regional colleges in the south. Charleston Southern has also been nationally ranked as a top Christian college, military-friendly college and top college buy.

In addition to receiving numerous awards and rankings for academic excellence, Charleston Southern University also gives back through various campus ministry outreach programs. Students are encouraged to immerse themselves in these programs for self-exploration, finding their own passions and learning to share their time and talents. A few of these ministry programs include Campus Outreach, the Charleston Wesley Foundation, CSU Veterans’ Ministry and Campus Crusade for Christ.

Medical University of South Carolina

What is it? Founded in 1824, the Medical University of South Carolina is the south’s longest-standing medical school. MUSC strives to serve the state of South Carolina through education of students, medical research and patient care. The colleges within the Medical University of South Carolina include Dental Medicine, Graduate Studies, Health Professions, Medicine, Nursing and Pharmacy. The core values of MUSC are unity, diversity and inclusion. These values show the university’s commitment to individual education goals of each student and the personalized care of each MUSC student.

What is it known for? MUSC is known for having a strong presence in medical education, care and research in South Carolina. It is also noted for state-of-the-art teaching methods and facilities, which enable students to learn and grow in real-life situations and environments. MUSC also offers continuing education programs in pharmacy, dental, psychiatry, general medical and research fields. Above all, the Medical University of South Carolina is known for offering a competitive and innovative medical school experience in one of the most coveted locations in the nation.

Pros and Highlights: The location and diversity of MUSC is virtually unmatched. With over eight hospital locations located in Charleston, Chester, Florence, Lancaster and Marion counties, MUSC offers an array of options for prospective healthcare professionals. Another perk of attending MUSC is the opportunity to participate in one of the university’s many medical research studies, with funds topping off around $284 million.

Awards and Accolades: Most notably, the Medical University of South Carolina has been named the No. 1 hospital in South Carolina by U.S. News & World Report for six years in a row. MUSC has also been nationally ranked and recognized for innovations in pediatric health efforts and achievements in surgery and medical research. The Medical University of South Carolina is widely respected as an ideal institution for higher education en route to most any healthcare career.

Charleston Holds Many Higher-Ed Opportunities

Charleston is truly one of the most diverse locations when it comes to pursuing higher education. No matter what your intended career or future, these colleges can help you achieve just about anything to which you set your mind. The city of Charleston holds endless opportunity for a range of intended careers.

For assistance before you start your college career, the Charleston County School District can help you prepare with college and career transition services. After college, you might even consider attending the local Charleston School of Law en route to a future in practicing law. The possibilities are endless, here in Charleston.

Though many enjoy visiting Charleston, its residents will tell you it’s a fantastic place to stay long term. The city is booming with eclectic restaurants, shopping and a growing arts community. Many local college graduates also plan to stay in the city after graduation, with companies like Boeing, Bosch, Volvo, Blackbaud, Greystar, MUSC and Roper hospital all within the area. That being said, home buying is becoming increasingly popular both within and beyond downtown. Daniel Island, Isle of Palms and Mount Pleasant real estate are all hot commodities. It’s no secret that Charleston is a great place to live, learn and thrive.