Why You Should Consider Applying To Schools In The South

When talking with students in the Northeast about applying to colleges, most don’t even think about adding southern schools to their list. And when I suggest it, they seem hesitant and reluctant. In this article, I hope to impart some reasons why you should consider applying to schools in the south.


As someone who grew up in the south (Houston, TX), who went to college in the south (Austin, TX), and received their graduate degrees in the south (Oxford, MS); I wholeheartedly believe that universities in the south have so much to offer that folks from the north may not understand. As someone who lives and works in the Northeast right now, in my opinion, there are challenges that I have encountered in both regions, and in this article, I hope to explain the positives of going to a school in the south.

Cheaper to Live, Same Quality Education

In general, cities in the south are less expensive to live in, and you still will receive the same, or better, quality education! This is helpful to note if you are stressed about paying for tuition, living expenses, and groceries. In contrast, if you are going to NYU, or some one university in the Northeast, you might be so consumed with living expenses, that you may see your focus move from your studies to just making ends meet. 

This, in my experience, brings professors and educators to southern universities, who want to afford to settle down and teach for a long time. Which hopefully means they are happier, and have more energy to devote to giving you a quality education. In fact, on the list for the top 50 most affordable college towns to live in, most reside in the South.

Community Through Sports

There’s a huge sports presence in colleges in the south. The sporting event gives people a chance to build community because of the collective experience of attending a game. Picture this: after a long week of classes, study groups, practice, and hard work, it’s game weekend and that means, it’s time to gather with your friends, dress in the sport’s team colors, and head to a game. For instance, the University of Mississippi has one of the most well-known tailgates in their lucious, green space called “The Grove.” The tradition of gathering at the Grove has been around since 1983, and the University of Mississippi fans spare no expense. People form friendships here, they celebrate, they experience heartbreak, but you’ll feel like you’re a part of a long tradition while making new memories. 

In addition to “Groving,” how amazing would it be to attend the University of Mississippi’s parade for their baseball team when they won the championship? If you’re not a fan of football or baseball, there’s of course basketball, volleyball, and other sports that you can get a sense of pride for.

Southern Hospitality is Real

Moving to the northeast, people are always on the go. People are not trying to greet you on the sidewalk or have conversations with you in the supermarket. In the south, you have to build small-talk into your total commute time. I miss the random clerks at supermarkets that I would have 5 minute conversations with. I miss that people were less likely to honk while driving. And I miss the general built-in kindness found in the south, where folks, even if you don’t know them, or even disagree with them, will offer you water, or at least a friendly hello.

Walking the streets of any city can feel a bit lonely when there’s not a familiar face. While the anonymity sometimes is welcomed because you feel less judged or whatever, the longing for connection will always be there. While living in the south, without fail, I would run into two or three people I knew whenever I went to the grocery store or write papers in the downtown coffee shop. This may emphasize the smallness of some of these southern towns and that may seem unappealing, but the truth is that you’ll rarely ever feel alone and it’s easy to find connection and maintain it. I love that the barista knows my order, asks about my upcoming poetry reading, and we swap movie recs. This may sound too idyllic or like Gilmore Girls, but trust me, the south understands the importance of taking care of their neighbor, so to speak.

Stronger, Nuance Rallying

It is my opinion that folks from the north may view the south as one big monolith. But this is not the case, within each state, each big city has their own unique culture. Look at Texas: Houston, Dallas, San Antonio, and Austin are four vastly different cities. In Tennessee, there is Memphis, Nashville, and Knoxville. I also believe because of the reality of some governments in the south, folks come together strongly on political issues, showing the strength of community against systems of power. Beyond Texas, any state or city you attend will hold its unique strengths. Mississippi has an incredibly rich history of art and music, the birth of blues music and also has many famous writers like Faulkner, Welty, and Jesmyn Ward. Even if that doesn’t matter to you or your interests, it’s important to keep an open mind and understand that each of these places hold a deep history that’s worth experiencing. Like I said before, the south is viewed as “backward,” or “stuck in past,” and while this is true in many areas, you will find many people who are passionate about changing some of the power structures at play, and many of these people are found at colleges and universities because there, they have the knowledge and resources to fight for change.

Better Food

I will die on this hill. The south contains more diverse cuisine, more flavor, more seasoning, and more spices. And because we get around in cars more, there are way more fast-food drive through options, and you don’t just have to get pizza (don’t get me wrong, I do love me some pizza). 

If you expect to just get grits, fried fish, biscuits, greens cooked in bacon, you’re not wrong – but man, does the south understand the meaning of “comfort food.” 

In the South, the local cuisine is part of the identity of the city, something that folks take pride in. Viet-Cajun crawfish in Houston, poboys and gumbo in Louisiana, Texas BBQ, Memphis BBQ, and Alabama BBW. There’s the big Texas Fairs and Watermelon Festivals in Mississippi!

The south may surprise you in terms of its cuisine – in Oxford, MS, I found the best Thai food of my life and because southern hospitality is real, became friends with the owner who came from Thailand and was passionate about bringing Thai cuisine to Mississippi. I have been desperately trying to find a Thai place in Boston with the same quality and high-spice! 


There is nothing wrong about applying to only schools in the northeast, midwest, or in California; but maybe think to yourself why you won’t consider any universities in the south. Is it only because of what you have heard from other people, is it what your perception of the south is, or is it just a fear of being too hot? Have you given a chance to research some incredible schools in the south? And don’t forget the southern schools that rank within the top 50 best universities in the country: Duke, Rice, Vanderbilt, UNC, Emory, University of Virginia, Washington University in St. Louis, University of Florida, and UT Austin to name a few. All with incredible campus culture, southern charm, and amazing food.

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