“Location, location, location” may be a well-known cliche, but has significant impact. Like influencing where you’ll vacation next, where you’ll call home or even which college you’ll attend. Working towards being the best place to learn and work, UCF couldn’t be in a better location. This year, Orlando is ranked the No. 2 Best College City in America among large size cities, according to WalletHub’s 2024 list. The City Beautiful maintained the No. 3 spot among cities overall — making this the third year Orlando has placed in the top five nationally.
The rankings serve as a go-to guide for prospective college students deciding where to pursue their college journey. WalletHub dives deep, considering 31 key factors, from the quality of higher education to academic, social and economic opportunities, to pinpoint the best of the best college towns and cities among more than 400 U.S. cities.
As WalletHub puts it, a college’s geographical location matters just as much as its curriculum and social environment. And Orlando has all the perks you’d imagine — from a reasonable cost of living to academic and work prospects to a wide variety of activities that make for a fun social environment for students. To top it all off, WalletHub recently named Orlando the No. 1 Best Foodie City in America for 2023 — solidifying the city as the ultimate food lover’s paradise.
“All of the restaurants and diversity [in Orlando] is incredible, and it’s so fun finding ‘hole-in-the-wall’ restaurants and sharing them (with) your friends,” says Jean-Thomas Mateesco, a junior advertising and public relations major at UCF.
Opportunity abounds in Orlando — one of the fastest-growing cities in Central Florida and home to UCF.
Many factors led Shannon Nauta, a UCF art major minoring in event management and art history, from her home state of New Jersey to UCF — including its internationally recognized Rosen College of Hospitality Management.
“I decided on UCF because I am interested in pursuing a career within the themed entertainment industry,” Nauta says. “UCF has amazing programs that provide opportunities for experience and immersion in the creative and hospitality fields, with Orlando as the perfect location [home to world-famous attraction, resorts, restaurants and more].”
UCF is uniquely positioned amongst a variety of industries, including hospitality, healthcare, tech and aerospace. And some of the nation’s top companies such as Electronic Arts, Lockheed Martin, NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, Nemours Children’s Hospital and Walt Disney World Resort have all planted roots in Orlando and have partnerships with UCF. Students can chart their path to success with access to industries and experiences that are connected to their coursework. The knowledge they’ll gain, discoveries they’ll make and personal growth they’ll achieve while studying at UCF will come to benefit them for a lifetime.
Among factors like abundant activities, safety and plenty of jobs, “some of the best college towns blend great academics with low costs,” says WalletHub Analyst Cassandra Happe.
Orlando is among the top 40 cities with the best cost of higher education, per WalletHub’s 2024 rankings release. Here, the cost of “in-state tuition, room and board and other college expenses are among the lowest in the country,” Happe says. UCF’s tuition hasn’t changed in more than a decade, which is why Forbes, Kiplinger and the Princeton Review also rank a UCF education among the nation’s best values.
A thriving hub of innovation and economic growth, Orlando secured the ranking for No. 1 Best City to Start a Career among Florida cities — awarded by WalletHub in 2023. The city took the No. 2 spot among cities overall. WalletHub compared the relative market strength and overall livability of more than 180 U.S. cities to achieve these rankings. Each city was examined by 26 key factors ranging from the availability of entry-level jobs to monthly average starting salary to housing affordability.
The city’s thriving job market is one of the main reasons Nauta, a fourth-year out-of-state student, moved to Orlando. While studying at UCF, she says she’s been able to work within the entertainment industry.
Mateesco shares a similar sentiment, adding that “other cities are becoming [overly saturated while] Orlando is an ever-growing city with loads of jobs and cool opportunities.”
Fortunately, new graduates are entering the workforce at a good time with the current employment shortage and companies eager to hire.
“Orlando has the highest job growth rate of any city, at 8.69%, so it’s a good place for students to stay even after they’ve graduated,” Happe says.