The United States has many globally acclaimed colleges and universities that attract numerous students, researchers, and faculties from all over the world. The days spent at these higher learning institutes are meant to be some of the best years in one’s life. Therefore, to make the college experience worthwhile, the location of a prospective place of study is of utmost importance. A good city or town having a tight-knit community of like-minded people can provide students with comfortable study environments, reasonably-priced living spaces, recreational activities, and long-term career opportunities. Oklahoma, a landlocked state in the nation’s south-central region, is home to some of the most charming college towns in the country.
The county seat of Cleveland County and Oklahoma’s third-most populous city, Norman, is situated along the South Canadian River, approximately 20 miles southeast of the state capital Oklahoma City. Norman is home to the University of Oklahoma, the state’s largest university, with a total enrollment of 28,840 students (as of Fall 2022), of which 22,249 are undergraduates and 6,591 are postgraduates. Established on December 19, 1890, this public research university has about 3,000 faculty members and offers 152 baccalaureate programs, 75 doctorate programs, 160 master’s programs, and 20 majors at the first professional level.
The Norman campus of the university houses several well-known attractions, like the Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art, Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History, Lloyd Noble Center, Bizzell Memorial Library, Catlett Music Center, Gaylord Family Oklahoma Memorial Stadium, etc. The stadiums on the university campus serve as popular venues for its various sporting events by athletic teams nicknamed “Sooners.” The campus is also home to the National Weather Center, which comprises many weather and climate-related organizations that work together to improve the understanding of atmospheric events. Moreover, with 55 scenic parks located around the city, Norman offers extensive outdoor recreational opportunities, in addition to hosting several festivals and community events, such as the Norman Medieval Fair, Norman Music Festival, Groovefest, Chocolate Festival, National Weather Festival, and Norman Mardi Gras parade, all of which attract numerous tourists to the city every year.
Placed at the meeting point of State Highway 51 and U.S. Route 177 in the north-central portion of the state, Stillwater, the county seat of Payne County, is Oklahoma’s tenth-largest city. Stillwater is home to a well-known higher educational institute and the city’s biggest employer - Oklahoma State University. Founded on December 25, 1890, as Oklahoma Territorial Agricultural and Mechanical (A&M) College, the Oklahoma State University is the Oklahoma State University System’s flagship institution. The university offers about 200 undergraduate degree majors to more than 20,000 students through its six colleges. With a particular focus on research and technology, Oklahoma State University plays a significant role in the overall economy of Stillwater.
Downtown Stillwater is filled with many shopping and entertainment areas, while many restaurants, small shops, and live music venues are found on “The Strip” on Washington Street. Some other popular attractions include the Sheerar Museum of Stillwater History, the National Wrestling Hall of Fame and Museum, the Washington Irving Trail and Museum, the OSU Museum of Art, the Botanic Garden at Oklahoma State University, and many more. The city also hosts many annual festivals and community events like “A Taste of Stillwater,” OSU Jazz Festival, Red Dirt Film Festival, Oklahoma Special Olympics’ Annual Summer Games, and OSU’s Homecoming Celebration.
Comanche County’s County seat, Lawton, located in the state's southwestern portion, is Oklahoma’s sixth-largest and Western Oklahoma’s biggest city. This medium-sized metropolis is home to a renowned higher educational institution named Cameron University. Founded in 1908 as one of the state’s six agricultural high schools, Cameron University offers various degree programs emphasizing science and technology, graduate and professional studies, and liberal arts. It is also Southwest Oklahoma’s biggest four-year state-funded university, with an average fall enrolment of 5,589 students.
Lawton is well-known for its closeness to the Fort Sill Military Reservation and Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge. Some other notable places of interest include the Museum of the Great Plains, Fort Sill Museum, and Comanche National Museum and Cultural Center. The city has around 80 parks and recreation areas of various sizes. In addition to the parks, Lawton is home to three expansive lakes: Elmer Thomas Lake, Lake Lawtonka, and Lake Ellsworth, where different recreational activities like swimming, fishing, boating, and camping are offered for visitors.
The state capital and the largest city, Oklahoma City is Southern United States’ 8th largest city, located in the state’s Frontier Country region, just a three-hour drive from the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex. Oklahoma City is home to many colleges and universities, including Oklahoma City University, Oklahoma City Community College, and Oklahoma State University – Oklahoma City. The Health Sciences of the University of Oklahoma is also located in Oklahoma City and is one of its biggest employers. Established as Epworth College in 1904 by local developer Anton Classen, Oklahoma City University is a private university under the United Methodist Church with an enrollment of 2,748 students, of which 1,619 are undergraduates and 1,129 are postgraduates. Through its eight colleges and 1 Methodist seminary, Oklahoma City University offers undergraduate bachelor’s degrees, graduate master’s degrees, and doctoral degrees.
Placed at the geographic center of the Oklahoma City Metropolitan Area, downtown Oklahoma City serves as the region’s financial, judicial, nightlife, and entertainment center. Some of the city’s famous tourist attractions include Oklahoma State Capitol, National Cowboy And Western Heritage Museum, Donald W. Reynolds Visual Arts Center, Myriad Botanical Gardens, American Banjo Museum, Oklahoma Contemporary Arts Center, Oklahoma City National Memorial, Oklahoma City Zoo and Botanical Garden, and many more.
Oklahoma’s second-most populous city, Tulsa, is located in the state’s Green Country region along the Arkansas River between the Osage Hills and the base of the Ozarks. Tulsa is home to many reputed higher education institutions, including the University of Tulsa, Oral Roberts University, Tulsa Community Collee, Spartan School of Aeronautics and Technology, and Community Care College. Tulsa also houses secondary campuses of the two flagship research universities of the state: Oklahoma State University and the University of Oklahoma. Founded in 1894 as Henry Kendall College, the University of Tulsa offers sciences, liberal arts, law, and other professional programs via its six colleges. Through the university’s undergraduate research program, the Tulsa Undergraduate Research Challenge provides opportunities for undergraduate students to conduct advanced research under the guidance of the top professors of the university.
The students and residents must visit the city’s globally renowned museums, including the Philbrook Museum of Art, Gilcrease Museum, Woody Guthrie Center, Sherwin Miller Museum of Jewish Art, the Tulsa Air and Space Museum, and many more. Downtown Tulsa, which serves as the city’s financial and business district, is filled with many buildings in the Art Deco style, along with the Tulsa Performing Arts Center, Bank of Oklahoma Center, Tulsa Convention Center, etc. In addition to these, Tulsa hosts several annual festivals and community events, while the city’s restaurants and food trucks offer numerous lip-smacking cuisines that appeal to everyone.
Home to the main campus of the Southwestern Oklahoma State University, Weatherford is located in Oklahoma’s Custer County in the state’s west-central portion. Established as Southwestern Normal School in 1901 by an Act of the Oklahoma Territorial Legislature, the main campus of the Southwestern Oklahoma State University in Weatherford is spread over 100 acres and comprises numerous diverse buildings. The university offers 38 bachelor’s degrees, 6 master’s degrees, 7 associate degrees, and 1 doctorate program for its approx. 5,200 students. A branch campus of this university is located in the city of Sayre.
Students and tourists are also drawn to Weatherford's notable attractions, such as the Stafford Air & Space Museum and the Oklahoma Heartland of America Museum. Outdoor enthusiasts can enjoy various recreational activities in the numerous parks and sports fields located throughout the city.
The county seat of Pottawatomie County, Shawnee, is located at the heart of the state along the North Canadian River, approximately 45 minutes east of downtown Oklahoma City. In 1910, the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma established the Oklahoma Baptist University in northwestern Shawnee. As a significant portion of the university’s main campus is situated on a small hill, the campus has been named “Bison Hill” and comprises more than 30 buildings spread over 200 acres.
Shawnee offers all the benefits of a small town while residing quite close to the amenities of a bigger metropolis. The city has many chain restaurants, shopping boutiques, entertainment facilities, golf courses, and other sporting venues. Some of the city’s principal attractions include the Heart of Oklahoma Exposition Center, a museum of railroad history maintained by the Pottawatomie County Historical Society, a Cultural Heritage Center managed by the Citizen Potawatomi Nation, and the Mabee-Gerrer Museum of Art located on the Green Campus of the Oklahoma Baptist University. In addition, Shawnee is home to numerous small parks and wellness facilities, such as the Woodland Veteran’s Memorial Park, Larch-Miller Park, Red Bud Park, Briscoe Boy Scout Park, Firelake Fitness Center, and the university’s Recreation and Wellness Center.
A college/university’s academic proficiency is determined not only by the quality of learning and the career opportunities they provide but also by its location. Each of these college towns has its unique charm, and residing in any of them offers several advantages to students and residents alike. Surveys have revealed that the college towns in Oklahoma possess a perfect blend of high-quality academics, tight-knit friendly communities, ample recreational opportunities, and vibrant cultural festivals and community events. So, if you are a prospective student searching for top-notch colleges or universities to study, do not miss out on these beautiful college towns in the Sooner State.