50 Fittest Colleges in America 2015 from 50 Fittest Colleges in America 2015
50 Fittest Colleges in America 2015
This is our third annual attempt to define the best of the best, which we openly admit is not an easy task. There are countless esteemed schools to take into consideration, each with their own unique qualities and accolades, but at the end of the day, only 50 fit schools can earn a spot in our rankings. This year, we began with a preliminary list of 142 colleges compiled from a wide variety of sources. First we consulted our own lists of the top 50 fittest colleges from 2013 and2014. Then we considered schools that currently hold a top 50 spot in U.S. News and World Report’s “Best Colleges Rankings.” Additionally, since 2014, we’ve made a point to include the nation’s top military colleges as well.
Next, we considered schools that have been noted for having the happiest students and for providing them with a great quality of life, excellent campus dining options and top-notch athletic facilities by The Princeton Review. And finally, through reviews and rating on Niche Colleges(formerly College Prowler) we weigh the opinions that matter most — the opinions of the students who currently call these campuses home. From the quality of and enthusiasm for a school’s sports programs and its campus dining ratings, to the quality of health and safety on campus, we make sure to take their thoughts on all aspects of fitness, health and wellness into consideration.
Once the above data is complied, we begin our scoring process, awarding factors that indicate a wholesome sense of health and wellbeing —such as quality of life, student happiness and participation in recreational activities (both varsity and club or intramural) — with the most weight. This year each college had the potential to earn a total of 175 points. Our number one school racked-up 130 points and our number two school wasn’t too far behind with a total of 126 points.
What matters more than the points they earned, though, are the healthy and fit qualities that helped each college that made our list earn a top-50 spot out of nearly 150 schools that were originally considered. We know you can’t wait to find out if your school made the list, what newcomers clawed their way up into our ranks this year, and of course, which esteemed institution snagged the honor of being named the fittest college in America — so let’s get right down to business. These are the 50 fittest colleges of 2015. — Katie Rosenbrock
#50 Skidmore College — Saratoga Springs, N.Y.
This school, set on more than 1,000 acres of land is home to one of the smaller student populations, but the college still makes fitness a top priority. Roughly 2,400 students have access to excellent athletic facilities like a six-lane pool with a separate diving well, a human performance laboratory, nine tennis courts and an Olympic-size ice sheet. Pair those facilities with some of the best food options around, 19 varsity sports teams and roughly 20 club and intramural sports teams and you have a small school that’s one of the fittest in the nation.
#49 University of Virginia — Charlottesville, Va.
Courtesy of University of Virginia
Making an appearance on our list for the second year in a row, this school is number 23 on U.S. News and World Report’s list of top colleges and according to our assessment, scored points for its exceptional athletic program. UVA ranks at number 45 on Niche Colleges’ list of schools with the best athletics and scores an A+ from its students when it comes to the college’s sports programs and performance. Students at this school are passionate about participating in their favorite sports. Not only does the University of Virginia boast a long and varied list of decorated teams, but for non-varsity athletes the school offers a large selection of both intramural and club sports with everything from basketball and golf to inner tube water polo and Wallyball.
#48 Georgia Institute of Technology — Atlanta, Ga.
Courtesy of Georgia Institute of Technology
Set in the city of Atlanta, this school boasts a 400-acre campus with some of the best athletic facilities in the country, a top college basketball program and an incredible outdoor recreation program. The facilities on campus — which include an Olympic-size pool that was actually built for the 1996 Summer Olympics — earned Georgia Tech some big points, and their A+ grade for “general athletics” from Niche Colleges boosted them further. Additionally the impressive level of student involvement in sports and recreation secured Georgia Tech a spot in the top 50 once again this year.
#47 University of Maryland — College Park, Md.
Courtesy of University of Maryland
This sporty school is no stranger to our list of fittest colleges. Making the cut for a third year in a row, the University of Maryland continues to exude all of the qualities we look for in a healthy and fit campus lifestyle. From its state of the art Eppley Recreation Center (equipped with racquetball courts, an indoor track, a swimming pool and a full-fledged gym, just to name a few highlights) to the campus bike shop and an adventure program that offers students regular opportunities to partake in hiking, rock climbing and kayaking trips, it’s clear that this school is adamant about encouraging an active life on campus. This year, its rank at number 21 on Niche Colleges’ list of schools with the best athletics helped to boost its score and earn one of our top 50 spots once again.
#46 Florida State University —Tallahassee, Fla.
Courtesy of Florida State University
Making an appearance in our top 50 for the third year in a row, FSU scored points for athletics — both intramural and varsity — and the students’ top-notch support of sports teams. The university has previously been recognized as the single best school for athletics in the country by Niche Colleges and was also mentioned by Men’s Fitness as being among the fittest in the nation. For students looking to stay active apart from organized sports, FSU has an outdoor adventure program called Outdoor Pursuits, where students can rent gear for free or sign up for organized outdoor trips.
#45 Syracuse University — Syracuse, N.Y.
Courtesy of Syracuse University
Syracuse continues to rank within our op 50 thanks to the fact that many of its students consider sports — whether varsity, intramural or club — a big part of campus life. For many, the university is probably best known for its persistently successful Division 1 men’s basketball team. However, their many championship titles shouldn’t overshadow the fact that as a whole, the school’s varsity teams have brought home a total of 28 national championships, including 15 for men’s lacrosse, six for men’s crew and two for cross country.
#44 University of Scranton — Scranton, Pa.
Courtesy of University of Scranton
Just a short ride from the Pocono Mountains, the University of Scranton offers the convenience of a city with outdoor adventure just minutes away. On top of the ideal location, the school also has 18 NCAA Division III athletic programs and 13 club sports. In all, the university estimates that more than 3,000 of the 5,589 students enrolled “are involved in recreational sports and intramurals, including leagues, tournaments and weekend special events.”
#43 Oklahoma State University-Stillwater — Stillwater, Okla.
Home to what’s considered the nation’s first wellness center (established in 1990) this health-focused school is making a comeback this year, regaining a place on our list and moving up seven spots from its rank at 50 in 2013. This year, Oklahoma State scored big points for its top-notch athletic program and a particularly active student body. When they’re not enthusiastically cheering on their classmates at Boone Pickens Stadium, many OSU students can be found in the Colvin Recreation Center, which features everything from nutrition counseling programs and group fitness classes to private personal training sessions and personalized fitness assessments.
#42 University of Nebraska — Lincoln, Neb.
Courtesy of University of Nebraska
Best known for their successful varsity programs — especially their football team — the Huskers have a long line of national championships and award-winning athletes. But even if a student isn’t on the team roster, they still have access to some of the best athletic facilities in the nation and experts in personal training, sports medicine and nutrition. Between the varsity programs, intramural sports and the top-tier facilities available on campus, it’s no surprise this university has repeatedly been dubbed a top “jock school.”
#41 University of Miami — Coral Gables, Fla.
Jon Fravel, University of Miami
Another school that made our cut this year thanks to its top-notch and highly rated athletic program (number 24 on Niche Colleges’ list of schools with the best athletics), “U Miami” students adore the school’s sports scene. No doubt, football is one of the most beloved sports here, but even still, the school boasts a long list of exceptional athletes who have made it to the NFL, NBA, MLB and even the Olympic Games. The athletic appreciation isn’t only limited to the elites, though. Intramural sports include everything from golf to ultimate Frisbee and the club sports program offers more than 34 ways for students to play.
#40 University of San Diego — San Diego, Calif.
Set along the coast of Southern California, the university is a short drive from beaches, mountains and public parks, making it a perfect gateway to outdoor recreation. On top of the ideal location and incredible weather, the university’s 17 NCAA Division I teams, 21 sports clubs and on-campus activities get thousands of students involved. Pair the on-campus offerings with great healthy food options and the University of San Diego easily secured a spot on our top 50 list.
#39 USMA at West Point — West Point, N.Y.
Courtesy of USMA at West Point
Two facts ensure that West Point is and always will be one of our nation’s fittest colleges. First, you have to be fit just to get in. To be considered an eligible candidate, applicants first must pass a medical exam and the Candidate Fitness Assessment comprised of six tasks including, a basketball throw, cadence pull-ups, a 40-yard shuttle run for time, abdominal crunches and push-ups (scored based on how many you can complete in two minutes), and a one-mile run for time. Of course, prospects that successfully prove their physical fitness and eventually gain admissions are then required to maintain and improve upon their strength and agility as they work towards earning their degree and preparing for commission as a Second Lieutenant in the United States Army. And second, whether varsity, club or intramural, all USMA cadets are required to participate in a sport and a few of their mandatory classes include Military Movement, Boxing, Combatives, Fitness Leadership, Survival Swimming and Lifetime Sport, just to name a few.
#38 Texas A&M University — College Station, Texas
One of six senior military colleges in the U.S., Texas A&M is home to a top-notch voluntary Corps of Cadets program, a strong varsity athletics program and incredible on-campus fitness facilities. Students looking to get in some solo exercise can head to the 400,000-square-foot recreational sports center, which includes a swimming pool (housed in its own building), a rock wall and an archery room, in addition to some of the more standard gym features. Those facilities are only one of the reasons Texas A&M made it onto Niche Colleges’ list of schools with the best athletics; another factor is the intramural sports program. Each year more than 12,000 students get involved in more than 34 sports clubs and intramurals—How’s that for campus involvement?
#37 University of Missouri — Columbia, Mo.
Previously featured in both our 2013 and 2014 rankings, thanks to its impressive athletics program, the University of Missouri made our top 50 cut for the third year in a row. The school is currently placed at number 36 on the Niche Colleges list of schools with the best athletics and its students give the sports program an A+ overall. That’s not all, though. “Mizzou’s” rec facilities and fitness programs are among some of the best in the nation. In fact, Sports Illustrated named this school’s rec-center the best in the country in 2005. The state of the art facility is home to a full schedule of group fitness classes and students even have the opportunity to enroll in courses that will certify them as personal trainers, yoga teachers and spin instructors.
#36 Tufts University — Medford, Mass.
Courtesy of Tufts University
A top choice for health conscious students, Tufts University provides some of the healthiest (and most delicious) student dining in the nation. Complete with excellent vegetarian and vegan options, the school incorporates local and organic produce into meals. Additionally, Tufts unveiled a new sports and fitness center in 2012, which has been a big hit among its active students.
#35 University of Wisconsin-Madison — Madison, Wis.
Courtesy of University of Wisconsin-Madison
This sporty school earned much of its points for its aptitude towards athletics. Number 13 on both Niche Colleges’ list of schools with the best athletics and Men’s Fitness list of the fittest colleges in America, University of Wisconsin easily worked its way onto our list for a third year in a row. Plus, while varsity sports tend to garner most of the attention, even students who don’t play at the highest level have plenty of options when it comes to staying fit and active. The school’s intramural program hosts more than 40 sports, there’s an entire office dedicated solely to outdoor recreation and the fitness facilities are considered among some of the best in the nation.
#34 University of Southern California — Los Angeles, Calif.
Courtesy of University of Southern California
School spirit is top priority at USC where all athletes — varsity, intramural and club — take pride in bringing their best at each and every game. The school mascot, the Trojan, was given to USC by a Los Angeles Times sportswriter. He wrote that the fighting spirit of USC teams was similar in ferocity to that of ancient Trojans. Fitness facilities open to all students include a climbing wall, sand volleyball courts and a jacuzzi, and the university offers almost 59 club sports. “Overall, sports are an integral part of a student’s life at USC,” said one student author on Niche Colleges.
#33 Bryn Mawr College — Bryn Mawr, Pa.
Courtesy of Bryn Mawr College
This small liberal arts school for women earned the majority of its points for its highly rated campus food. Campus dining focuses on healthy, organic fare with plenty of options for both vegetarians and vegans. Recognized as one of the best college dining programs by Princeton Review, Niche Colleges and The Daily Meal, the school is continually lauded for its top-notch eateries. Not only that, but the administration at Bryn Mawr places a focus on health that goes beyond nutrition, too. Undergrad students must complete mandatory wellness courses, take swimming classes and accrue a certain amount of PE credits as a part of maintaining a healthy balance between their studies and overall wellbeing.
#32 University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill — Chapel Hill, N.C.
Courtesy of University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Perhaps best known for stellar varsity teams, the Tar Heels have brought home many championships across a multitude of sports, but when it comes to campus-wide fitness, their intramural and club programs are the real stars. The university offers an unbelievable assortment of options including wakeboarding, waterskiing and underwater hockey. The workout facilities are equally impressive—students have access to outdoor courts, pools, gyms and even a climbing wall, in addition to eight designated paths around campus for runners and cyclists.
#31 University of Florida — Gainesville, Fla.
Courtesy of University of Florida
So far, every year this school has easily scored enough points to make our final 50 cut, most of which are thanks to its incredibly decorated athletic program. For example, more than 150 Gator athletes have competed in the Olympic Games, 12 of which earned gold medals, and the school’s elite athlete alumni include the likes of Tim Tebow, Ryan Lochte and Dara Torres. Of course, athletics aren’t reserved for the top players only. Students here have more than 50 club and intramural sports to choose from, so staying fit and having fun is basically a no brainer.
#30 University of South Carolina — Columbia, S.C.
Recognized for excellent athletic programs and facilities by Niche Colleges and The Princeton Review, respectively, the University of South Carolina has an excellent record of fitness. Students can stay in shape at one of two huge recreation centers, they can head outdoors on a weekend rafting trip or join one of 35 sports clubs.
#29 Boston College — Chestnut Hill, Mass.
Appearing in our ranks for the third year in a row, BC once again earned a top score for its highly rated athletic program as well as its A+ Health and Safety rating on Niche Colleges. When we reached out to 2008 alumnae Angela Barraco she praised the school for its many healthy food choices as well as excellent access to all types of sports. “I was never really an active person until attending BC,” she said. “I rarely ate a salad until I was greeted by a humongous salad bar every day and found that salads can actually taste good. Instead of watching television, hanging out became playing Frisbee on the lawn, walking around the reservoir or taking a group fitness class at the plex. As someone who was always mediocre, at best, at most sports, I didn't have a shot at a varsity or club sport, but there was never a lack of options to stay active and healthy on campus.”
#28 James Madison University — Harrisonburg, Va.
When it comes to healthy, high-quality food options, it’s tough to beat the offerings at JMU. The on-campus food options consistently rank among the best in the country, according to The Princeton Review and Niche Colleges, but the healthy lifestyle doesn’t stop at the dining hall doors. The university also offers students personal training, nutrition resources and meditation practice, which help to round out a healthy lifestyle.
#27 St. Olaf College — Northfield, Minn.
Courtesy of St. Olaf College
An A+ campus food rating from both Niche Colleges and The Princeton Review (it landed at number four on PR’s list of schools with the best campus food) helped push St. Olaf towards the top of our list this year. It’s “fit cred” goes way beyond providing healthy and delicious food for students, though. The quaint college is situated next to 325 acres of preserved land, which it most notably uses to house wind turbines that supply one-third of the school’s daily electricity needs. Plus, the school works with Cafe Bon Appétit to purchase and serve fresh food from 15 different local producers and students here even run their own organic farm called STOGROW.
#26 Cornell University — Ithaca, N.Y.
Courtesy of Cornell University
It’s not often that a school can make healthy eating simple and appealing, but then Cornell isn’t just any school. The large agricultural program at the university helps ensure the chefs in the dining hall have fresh produce to work with and “eating well icons” help point students in the direction of healthier options. Pair the fresh, healthy meal options with a seemingly endless amount of opportunities to fit in physical activity and an engaged student population and Cornell is easily ranks among the fittest in the country.
#25 Kansas State University — Manhattan, Kan.
Courtesy of Kansas State University
A few extremely “fit” accolades allowed Kansas State to easily steal the number 25 spot on our list this year. First, it’s the number six school on The Princeton Review’s list of schools with the best quality of life. Next, it’s number seven on PR’s list of schools where “everyone plays intramural sports” and number four on their list of schools with the happiest students. Finally, the school has a highly-rated athletic program and one of the most active varsity sports line ups in the country. A few other factors that helped seal the deal: Kansas State is home to one of the most massive college rec centers in the U.S. and it recently launched the “Wildcat Wellness Coalition,”which strives to shine a light on health and wellness issues related to the campus community, including physical, emotional, environmental and even spiritual health.
#24 University of Oregon — Eugene, Ore.
Courtesy of University of Oregon
From top-tier varsity teams that bring home national championships to students who play intramural sports like inner tube water polo for fun, the University of Oregon is undoubtedly one of the fittest colleges in the country. Organized sports are clearly a major part of campus life, but students who prefer cycling, paddling or solo treks in the outdoors will easily find their place with some help from the UO Outdoor Program.
#23 Whitman College — Walla Walla, Wash.
Courtesy of Whitman College
The Whitman administration proclaims a dedication to providing a “balanced” life for its students, and it certainly seems like they’ve created a harmoniously healthy campus. Another school that’s rated highly by The Princeton Review for providing students with a high quality of life, Whitman undergrads are noted as some of the happiest and most active in the U.S. According to PR, a large population of the student body is involved with intramural sports. Plus, the campus health services are rated as top-notch too.
#22 Southern Methodist University — Dallas, Texas
Southern Methodist University scored big points for fantastic athletic facilities, great club and intramural sports and some very happy students (according to The Princeton Review). Students at this university keep fit on the climbing and bouldering wall or on one of the four indoor courts and then cool off at The Falls, a shallow pool lined with, you guessed it, waterfalls.
#21 Scripps College — Claremont, Calif.
Courtesy of Scripps College
Scripps may not have one of the nation’s top athletic programs or some of the sportiest students in the country, but what it lacks in athleticism it certainly makes up for in other areas of wellness. Number five on The Princeton Review’s list of schools with the best quality of life, students here have claimed to “eat healthier and better [while] at school than when at home” and have compared the campus dorms to palaces. Plus, just because sports aren’t a main focus at Scripps, doesn’t mean the students don’t like to stay active. The school houses a 24,000-square-foot fitness center at the Sallie Tiernan Field House where classes like yoga and martial arts are available, and its progressive “Healthy Lifestyles” program provides workshops devoted to topics like weight management, body image, nutrition and exercise.
#20 Wheaton College — Wheaton, Ill.
Courtesy of heaton College
All work and no play leaves students drained and unhealthy, that’s when Wheaton’s $15 million Sports and Recreation Complex really comes in handy. The building features an 8,000-square-foot weight room, a rock climbing wall, a pool, an elevated jogging track, a dance studio, a wrestling room, and three separate recreational gyms — now that’s the way to unwind. Add to that healthy food options in the dining hall and good grades on Niche College for health and safety on campus and you’ve got one fit college.
#19 Middlebury College — Middlebury, Vt.
Courtesy of Middlebury College
A newcomer to our list of the fittest colleges, Middlebury caught our attention thanks to a few different healthy accolades its recently earned. It ranks at number 18 on The Princeton Review’s list of schools with the best quality of life and number 11 on Niche Colleges’ list of schools with the best campus food. Plus, according to PR, Middlebury also has some of the happiest students in the country, and on top of everything, the D III school has a well-regarded athletic program, too. “The athletic facilities on campus are amazing,” one student wrote on Niche Colleges. “They just opened a new field house this past fall (2014). If you're not a varsity athlete you are doing something athletic — club, intramural, hiking, skiing, staying fit.”
#18 University of Massachusetts Amherst — Amherst, Mass.
Courtesy of University of Massachusetts Amherst
From the food in the dining halls to the incredible fitness facilities on campus, UMass has a track record for helping students foster healthy lifestyles. The school that’s earned a spot on our list all three years was also mentioned by Greatist and Men’s Fitness for being one of the healthiest and fittest in the country. Highly rated healthy food choices, a stand-out campus recreation program and exceptional student involvement helped boost UMass to the number 18 spot on our list this year.
#17 University of Texas at Austin — Austin, Texas
Courtesy of University of Texas at Austin
Dubbed “America’s Best Sports College” by Sports Illustrated in 2002, this well-rounded school worked its way up our ranks again mostly thanks to its stellar sports program, but also in part as a result of it “A” Health and Safety rating from students on Niche Colleges. Plus, you don’t necessarily have to be a star athlete to fit in at this sport-centric school. The school caters to all levels of athleticism with its “Get Active, Get Involved” directory where students can find detailed information about all of the school’s club and intramural sports.
#16 Vanderbilt University — Nashville, Tenn.
Courtesy of Vanderbilt University
Although Vanderbilt is one of the top academic universities in the country, the students have proven they’re more than just book worms. Taking the top spot on The Princeton Review’s Happiest Students list, it’s clear this school values more than just academics. Recent improvements to the recreation center, more than 60 group fitness classes available to all students and fitness assessments done by professional staff help ensure students have access to all the resources they need to stay fit, healthy and happy.
#15 Gettysburg College — Gettysburg, Pa.
Courtesy of Gettysburg College
A newcomer to our list this year, Gettysburg scored points in our book for a few different factors. First, it landed at number 15 on The Princeton Review’s list of schools with the best campus food. Second, PR also rates the college among the top 10 of schools with the best athletic facilities. Third, it has high marks for exceptional campus eats on Niche Colleges, and finally, according to PR Gettysburg is home to some of the happiest students in the nation, too. Sounds like they’ve got that whole “healthy balance” thing down pat.
#14 Michigan State University — East Lansing, Mich.
Courtesy of Michigan State University
The varsity teams at Michigan State University are comfortable duking it out on a national stage — in fact, they’ve got the national championship trophies to prove it, but the star athletes aren’t the only fit ones on campus. With one of the most impressive intramural programs in the U.S., it’s clear even the students that haven’t been recruited to play on teams can find their active niche. Those who would rather get their sweat on solo have a long list of options as well — the school has more than 15 athletic facilities on campus (including a self-defense center and boat house) and it’s just a quick drive to Lake Lansing for all the paddling and hiking students could dream of.
#13 University of Notre Dame — Notre Dame, Ind.
Courtesy of Notre Dame Intramural Sports
Sure, Notre Dame is renowned for many of its largely decorated varsity sports teams, but that’s not the only reason this Division I school continues to garner recognition as one of the fittest in the country. Notre Dame students who aren’t varsity athletes are likely part of an intramural or club team and the campus houses the Rolf Sports Recreation Center, which hosts everything from personal training sessions and outdoor adventures to club sports and group exercise classes.
#12 University of California, Los Angeles — Los Angeles, Calif.
With more national titles than any other school, the Bruins of UCLA have a long legacy of athleticism and a hunger for competition—and that tradition doesn’t stop at the stadium gates. Students across the UCLA campus make fitness a priority and the school itself is a big help. The top-of-the-line fitness facility is open day and night throughout the week so even the busiest students can fit in some exercise, and there is a long list of club and intramural sport options, too. Students can stay active off campus through the Outdoor Adventures program, complete with an in-house bike shop, rock wall and wilderness outings.
#11 University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign — Champaign, Ill.
Courtesy of UI Public Affairs
“Athletics are easy to get into with many clubs and places to exercise,” one student recently wrote of this school on Niche Colleges. “The Activities Recreation Center (ARC) is a great facility with anything you could want.” These simple sentiments help sum up why this university deserves to be considered among the fittest of the fit. Not only does the University of Illinois have a competitive varsity sports program, it has some of the best athletic facilities in the country to go with it. There’s the 60,600-seat Memorial Football Stadium, the massive, dome-shaped State Farm Center, two full-fledged rec centers, an ice rink, and multiple outdoor field complexes, just to name a few examples.
#10 Stanford University — Stanford, Calif.
This school, well known for both its academic and athletic chops, has a lot to offer students beyond the classroom. The stunning 8,000-acre campus near San Francisco Bay gives students ample room to exercise and houses more than 30 dining options that serve some of the best (and healthiest) campus food in the country. When it’s time to get fit Stanford students have several on-campus facilities to choose from, including an equestrian barn, a golf course and a rowing and sailing center, to name a few.
#9 Pennsylvania State University — University Park, State College, Pa.
Courtesy of Penn State News
As one student on Niche Colleges put it quite frankly, “Penn State lives and breathes football.” But of course, the school’s A+ athletic program goes way beyond tackles and touchdowns. Having claimed 74 national team championships and with a roster of 78 club team sports populated by more than 5,000 students, Penn State is home to one of the most successful college sports programs of all time. The school also offers a diverse recreational program, which, among many other activities, includes everything from powerlifting and triathlon training to floor hockey and hiking.
#8 University of Georgia — Athens, Ga.
One of the oldest universities in the nation, the University of Georgia has a storied history, full of academic and athletic traditions that have led the school to be one of the fittest in the country. Staying fit on campus is made easier, with access to the 440,000-square-foot Ramsey Student Center, one of the largest college recreational facilities in the entire U.S. The center stretches over 8 acres of land and has two gyms, three pools, a suspended track, a rock climbing wall, a bouldering wall, 10 racquetball courts, eight basketball courts, and a 19,000-square-foot weight-lifting room. Students looking for adventure off campus can rent a wide variety of gear and take off on school sponsored outdoor trips that include paddleboarding, rafting, yoga, backpacking, hiking and much more.
#7 Rice University — Houston, Texas
Courtesy of Rice University
Sneaking its way back towards the top end of our list once again, Rice University continues to hold the number one spot on The Princeton Review’s list of schools with the best quality of life. That’s not the only “fit” accolade this university has going for it, though. Students at Rice rate both the athletics and campus health and safety with an A- and thanks to its highly esteemed campus cuisine, the school also earned the number 25 spot on Niche Colleges’ list of schools with the best food. Oh yeah, and there’s also the fact that, according to PR, Rice is also known for having some of the happiest students in the country. With what one student described as “world class dining,” more than 35 club and intramural sports teams to choose from and a robust leafy-green backdrop to bask in, it’s hard to imagine life at Rice being anything but healthy and fit.
#6 Bowdoin College — Brunswick, Maine
Mentioned on several lists for excellent healthy food options and generally happy students, Bowdoin College puts special emphasis on creating a healthy balance for its students. The school, set near Maine’s coast, isn’t far from outdoor adventure, but the on-campus facilities are worth mentioning too. Students at Bowdoin have access to a Nordic skiing center, a golf course, a sailing center and a rowing center, to name a few fitness options.
#5 University of Dayton — Dayton, Ohio
Praised for offering students a top-notch quality of life, an exceptional athletics program and a wide variety of nutritious food on campus, the University of Dayton easily earned enough points to make its way to the top of our fit list for the first time this year. “Dining services does a really good job. Everything is accessible, there are plenty of options, and it's delicious,” one student recently wrote of the Dayton campus dining scene on Niche Colleges. The Princeton Review named Dayton among its list of schools with the happiest students and where “everyone plays intramural sports,” and the campus’ massive “RecPlex” — with its indoor pool, elevated track, juice bar and climbing wall — is essentially an oasis for recreational activities. “The RecPlex is really nice and it offers a variety of options so that everyone can stay healthy in the way that works best for them,” one sophomore student wrote on Niche. “Plus, the free yoga classes during finals week are great for relieving stress.”
#4 Washington University in St. Louis — St. Louis Mo.
Danny Reise, Facebook/WASHUBears
With 19 varsity teams, 37 sports clubs and more than 25 intramural sports teams (and tons of student involvement), you might think that Washington University shines on the field — and you wouldn’t be wrong, but their main point of pride lies elsewhere. On a trip to the school’s Studio40 kitchen, you’ll find fresh produce and nutritious options alongside healthy cooking classes and live demonstrations from chefs. What’s better than eating healthy through your college years? Learning to cook healthy meals so you can sustain the habit long after college is over.
#3 Ohio State University — Columbus, Ohio
Courtesy of Ohio State University
How did Ohio State earn enough points to steal the number three spot on our list this year? Well, in addition to its top-notch athletic program, the school is also home to some of the very best sports and recreation facilities in the country. Among other amenities, its 569,000-square-foot Recreation and Physical Activity Center boasts two pools, a 25,000-square-foot fitness center, a golf station, a healthy café and an indoor track. Oh, and did we mention the campus has four more rec centers for student activities? Then, there’s also the fact that Ohio State boasts one of the most competitive and consistently successful Division I varsity sports programs in the country. And, to top it all off, the students here are more than happy with the variety and quality of food offered on campus. “Ohio State has good food [options] for everyone,” one freshman student recently wrote on Niche Colleges. “From vegetarian to gluten free to Kennedy Commons Steak night, Ohio State offers it all and [I’m] also very impressed with the quality of the food and all of the healthy options.”
#2 Claremont McKenna College — Claremont, Calif.
Courtesy of Claremont McKenna College
Fitness and overall health is about more than how much you can lift or how far you can run and the students at Claremont McKenna College know that first-hand. The school landed the number two spot for high rankings in student happiness (according to The Princeton Review), great healthy food options (landing on several “best food” lists) and its investment in the Roberts Pavilion, a brand new fitness and events center that is currently under construction. Scheduled for completion in 2016, the 130,000-plus square-foot center will feature an impressive sports arena with 1,850 seats, a two-level fitness gym and a pool.
#1 Virginia Tech — Blacksburg, Va.
Courtesy of Virginia Tech
Earning the top spot on our fit list for the second time, this well-rounded school slipped down a few spots in our 2014 rankings, but this year re-earned its status as America’s fittest college thanks to attributes like dining halls dedicated to organically grown, sustainable foods, a student body that’s exceptionally active on both the varsity and recreational level, and a school that, according to The Princeton Review, offers a first-class quality of life on campus. The result? Virginia Tech is number two on The Princeton Review’s list of schools with the happiest students. What’s more, students have the option to enroll as part of Virginia Tech’s Army and Naval ROTC programs and everything from the school’s academics and administration to its dining and campus health and safety continually receive A ratings from students across the board. “Everything about Virginia Tech is absolutely amazing,” one sophomore recently wrote on Niche Colleges. “From the academics to the Hokie spirit, nothing is missing from this university. Go Hokies!”