The 10 Wildest Party Schools In North America

Summer’s about to come to a close, and that means it’s time for the younger readers among us to go back to school. But as you decide where to pursue your higher education, there are a number of factors to consider. Job opportunities, program quality, affordability and whether you’ll be able to get totally plastered […]

K Thor Jensenby K Thor Jensen
Summer’s about to come to a close, and that means it’s time for the younger readers among us to go back to school. But as you decide where to pursue your higher education, there are a number of factors to consider. Job opportunities, program quality, affordability and whether you’ll be able to get totally plastered every weekend. Like it or not, some colleges have earned their reputation as places where partying trumps academics, and because we love you we’re giving you the 10 wildest party schools you could attend right now.

University of Iowa
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For quite some time, the bars in Iowa City would let you in at the age of 18, which made U of Iowa a party school where undergrads could get started early. A city ordinance ended that in 2010, but it hasn’t stopped the ragers. Hawkeyes are notorious for their wild tailgates, and football season sees all-day parties every single weekend. The administration has been trying to crack down on binge drinking, but it hasn’t dampened the festivities appreciably. One downside to going here is that the dorms are in legendarily bad condition, looking like something out of the 1970s.

Syracuse University
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One of the most consistent performers in the yearly rankings, Syracuse has earned its rep from a number of sources. Greek life is a big deal at this upstate New York school, with over 50 frats and sororities to join. After students survive the brutal winter, everything explodes with Mayfest, a massive weekend-long celebration that leads into Block Party, one of the biggest collegiate concerts in the nation. Mayfest is such a jam that the college gives out free beer and burgers during it. Because student housing at Syracuse is packed so closely, there’s always a party to be found without a ton of walking. And the tailgating scene at Syracuse is second to none.

St. Francis Xavier University
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Heading north of the border, our neighbors in Canada party almost as hard as Americans do (depending on the exchange rate). St. Francis Xavier is located in the sleepy little town of Antigonish, Nova Scotia, where there’s not much else to do but get rowdy. The weekend starts on Wednesday here, and students on average spend seven hours a week partying. Things kick off at the Inn, the bar run by the student union, on Friday nights, and then sprawl through a seemingly never-ending string of house parties. It’s not much of a clubbing town, but students don’t seem to care that much.

University of Colorado Boulder
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The legalization of marijuana in a few states has deeply transformed the party scene, and no school reflects this like the University of Colorado. Even before recreational weed was legalized, Boulder students would gather in massive throngs on April 20th for a tremendous smoke-in. Campus nightlife isn’t as wild as some of the other schools on this list, but the nearby Hill neighborhood’s off-campus housing is host to multiple parties on a near-nightly basis. The Hill is also home to numerous popular bars, as is the Pearl Street area. The administration has been trying to shed the party rep, but students are having none of it.

West Virginia University
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Located in the hinterlands of the Mountain State is the tiny college town of Morgantown, hours away from any major airport and home to one of the most baller party schools in America — WVU. The Mountaineers inspire fanatical devotion from students and alumni, with day-long tailgates that start before breakfast and insane ragers when they win just about any game. The bar scene in Morgantown is completely centered around college kids, and on Thursday nights some places are very liberal with free drinks. St. Patty’s Day is a big deal here, with one of the nation’s most debauched celebrations. Funny, because we don’t think “Irish” when we think about West Virginia.

University of Wisconsin-Madison
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One thing that a lot of the schools on this list have is a long, cold winter. When Mother Nature forbids you from getting outside and participating in healthy activities, it’s only logical that you’d resort to throwing ragers on the regular. University of Wisconsin at Madison has a number of things going for it when it comes to parties. Beer flows freely at just about every venue, but the thick cluster of bars on State Street draw throngs of students pretty much every night. House parties are also prevalent, and because Madison is so walkable it makes it easy to not rack up DUIs.

Tulane University
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While many of these schools aren’t in locations well-known for parties, Tulane is the notable exception. New Orleans is the debauched armpit of America, not just at Mardi Gras but year-round. Two bars right outside the Tulane campus, the Boot and the Palms, are the most common hot spots for wild times, but wander a little farther and you’ll never lack something to do at night. New Orleans nightlife is wild and free, with alcohol flowing like water, and there’s even a phrase at Tulane — “the Undertow” — that undergrads use to describe the difficulty of balancing academics and partying.

University of Illinois
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Champaign-Urbana is the dictionary definition of a college town, existing almost entirely to serve the students and faculty of the University of Illinois. That’s why it shouldn’t surprise you that it’s an insane party city. Greek life is a big deal here — almost 25 percent of students find themselves joining a fraternity or sorority during their time at the school. Everything comes to a head on Unofficial St. Patrick’s Day, a springtime celebration that sees insanely wild parties in the streets with dozens of arrests. Students here know that they have to make their own activities (there’s not much around but cornfields), and they do so with gusto.

Arizona State University

Referred to by some as “Spring Break University,” this notorious party school has built a solid rep as one of the wildest colleges in the Southwest. ASU isn’t too hot in the academic department, which is probably OK if you’re looking to party really hard. There’s no bummer bigger than blowing a test because a brutal hangover has rendered your brain incapable of basic functions. The Greek system is huge here, and joining a frat is key to maximizing your party experience. Mill Avenue is the prime bar strip for college kids, but if you’re looking for something a little more upscale, nearby Scottsdale is where the high rollers go to spend.

Ohio University
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Can you really blame Ohio for having an inflated sense of self? Every four years they basically get to decide the presidential election by being the biggest swing state. But the party dogs at Ohio University in the sometimes sleepy town of Athens push that to the limit. Year after year, Playboy decrees OU to be one of the top party schools in the world, for a number of reasons. The plethora of bars along Court Street offer discount drink specials to get co-eds nice and lubricated, and the academic year is one party after another, starting with Welcome Weekend to show freshmen how it’s done. Throw in the Fest, described by some as the “Coachella of Ohio,” and you’ve got a party school for the ages.