Learning about the town where you’ll be living for the next four years is an important part of deciding on a college or university. Since every Louisiana college town offers something a little bit different, we’ll help you get to know some of these unique cities around the state.
Home to: Louisiana State University Shreveport, Southern University Shreveport, Centenary College of Louisiana, Louisiana Baptist University and Seminary, Bossier Parish Community College and multiple
In the northwest corner of Louisiana near the Arkansas and Texas state lines, Shreveport sits along the west side of the Red River. The city is home to nearly 195,000 people that blend a bit of Cajun and Creole culture with that of their Texas neighbors. The result is a community filled with a unique array of cultural museums, restaurants and annual festivals.
As the only public 4-year institution in town, Louisiana State University Shreveport has around 2,600 undergrads on its 200-acre campus. Because the apartment options available in Shreveport are so numerous, LSUS does not require freshmen to stay in on-campus housing. In fact, LSUS only offers a small number of university-sponsored apartments, while most students find accommodations through the many off-campus apartment complexes. You’ll never feel too disconnected though, because the University Center (the UC) is a hub for all things happening on campus, including over 70 student organizations and on-campus events like Fall Fest, Spring Fling and cultural festivals like the Red River Balloon Rally.
Around Shreveport, you’ll find loads of things to do. Often known as “A Sportsman’s Paradise,” Shreveport boasts a mild Louisiana climate and scenic parks for your inner adventurer. Ziplining right above alligators and other exotic animals at Gators and Friends Adventure Park is just one thrilling option. The Shreveport Aquarium and the R.W. Norton Art Gallery make for great rainy day, indoor activities. Eateries like Herby-K’s and Johnny’s Pizza House are also just a short drive away. Shreveport’s biggest attractions, however, include the State Fair of Louisiana and the Louisiana Film Prize Competition in the fall, and the Krewe of Centaur Mardi Gras Parade each spring.
Home to: University of Louisiana at Lafayette, South Louisiana Community College, National EMS Academy, Southwest Dental Academy and other vo-tech schools
Nestled in the heart of Acadiana, Lafayette is a city of about 128,000 people on the western edge of the Atchafalaya Basin. With deep roots in Cajun, French, Spanish, Caribbean and Native American cultures, the city offers a little bit of everything when it comes to food, art, music and history. So it’s no wonder that the University of Louisiana at Lafayette’s mascot is the Ragin’ Cajuns—it simply couldn’t be anything else.
Sometimes dubbed “l’Université des Acadiens,” UL Lafayette has a 1,400-acre campus and an enrollment of about 19,200 undergraduate students. UL Lafayette requires freshmen to live on campus, but that convenience only helps incoming students get comfortable with the school’s size. Throughout the year, UL Lafayette hosts special events for its students like Lagniappe Day (10,000 pounds of boiled crawfish—need we say more?) and the Krewe of Roux Mardi Gras Parade and Ball in the spring. Of course a huge draw is UL Lafayette’s athletics, especially home games for Ragin’ Cajun football. At the first game of the year, all freshmen are invited to run onto Cajun Field as part of UL Lafayette’s Freshmen First Down tradition. In addition to its campuswide activities, the school offers over 190 student organizations—there’s even a cricket club—so it’s easy to find your perfect fit.
Off campus there’s a wide variety of food options, including the one and only Popeye’s buffet and the beloved brunch spot Blue Dog Cafe. For recreation, the Vermilion River, the Lake Martin wildlife preserve and the area’s many state parks offer stunning scenery for any kayaking or hiking adventure. Of course, there’s nothing Louisiana does better than festivals, and Lafayette has some of the state’s best with the Festivals Acadiens et Creoles every October at Girard Park (just outside UL Lafayette’s campus) and the Festival International de Louisiane (a huge free music festival), which brings music from around the world to downtown Lafayette every spring.
Home to: Louisiana State University, Southern University, Franciscan Missionaries of Our Lady University, Baton Rouge Community College, ITT Technical College, Camelot College and other vo-tech schools
The Red Stick could unofficially be called the jungle, as it’s home to both the Louisiana State University Tigers and the Southern University Jaguars. Beyond being a college town, Baton Rouge is the second-largest city in the state with roughly 227,000 residents. But don’t let that big, capital city reputation (or the traffic) fool you. From the monthly Mid City Makers Market, where local artists display and sell their latest works, to the annual Baton Rouge Blues Festival, Baton Rouge is a tight-knit community of folks that love to get together and have a good time.
At Louisiana State University, go is always spelled G-E-A-U-X. LSU’s 2,000-acre campus sits just south of the Mississippi River Bridge and downtown Baton Rouge, and there’s plenty to do on and around campus. The flagship university has about 30,000 undergraduate students and requires freshmen to live on campus (which is a huge plus on home football game days). Just a few steps outside the campus’ North Gate, you’ll find classic eateries like Louie’s Cafe (open 24-hours), The Chimes and the original Raising Cane’s location.
On the northern side of Baton Rouge, Southern University hosts about 6,500 students on its 964 acres. Students are not required to live on campus, but housing is available. The historically black university celebrates its traditions to the tune of the Southern University Marching Band (affectionately known as the Human Jukebox). Southern has over 150 student-led organizations that host conferences, lectures, debates and social events each year, so make sure you’ve got room in your social calendar.
Home to: Louisiana Tech University, Grambling State University, Louisiana Delta Community College
In the middle of north Louisiana, the small city of Ruston has a population of about 22,000 people. Part of Lincoln Parish, Ruston is about 30 miles west of Monroe and 60 miles east of Shreveport. Being more of a true college town, Louisiana Tech University is the focal point of the city, accounting for much of the area’s cultural activity.
Interested in becoming a bulldog? With an undergraduate enrollment of about 13,000 students, Louisiana Tech requires students to live on its 280-acre campus. Unique to Louisiana Tech is a quarter-based academic calendar, where students attend school for three different quarters of the year (fall, winter and spring) rather than two semesters. With over 163 student organizations, including a Super Smash Bros. Club, Louisiana Tech encourages its students to find their passions.
Around Ruston, there are plenty of places to unwind. In the 18-block Historic Downtown District, you’ll find great retail shops like Patton’s Downtown and restaurants like Ponchatoulas. For more serious shopping, the Pecanland Mall is just 30 minutes away. When it comes to recreation, there’s no place better than Lincoln Parish Park, which offers a lakeside beach for swimming and relaxing, as well as running and mountain bike trails for all skill levels. For entertainment the Celebrity Theater is an eight-screen multiplex with excellent student discounts, and the historic Dixie Center for the Arts is a great place to catch performances from local musicians.
Home to: Southeastern Louisiana University, Northshore Technical Community College, and multiple vo-tech schools
Forty-five miles east of Baton Rouge and 45 miles northwest of New Orleans rests a town of nearly 21,000 people. Part of Tangipahoa Parish, Hammond is home to the Southeastern Louisiana University Lions.
Tucked away in rural Louisiana, SLU enrolls about 14,500 undergraduate students. Despite SLU’s plethora of newly constructed dorms and apartments across the 365-acre campus, students are not required to live in university-sponsored housing. For those that do, this walking campus is considered one of the safest in the state. When it comes to campus life, there are plenty of ways to #LionUp, from joining one of SLU’s 100-plus student organizations to supporting the school’s 11 athletic teams. At university-sponsored events like the fall semester Gumbo Ya-Ya and the Strawberry Jubilee in the spring, students are treated to as much jambalaya, gumbo, red beans and rice, fresh berries and strawberry cake as they can handle. (Free food is the best food, right?)
Despite Hammond’s small town status, the city has got its fair share of goings-on off campus. Every Saturday, local foodies gather at the Hammond farmers' market to find the freshest, locally grown produce, as well as an impressive array of other hand-crafted products. Every August, the Hammond Downtown Development District presents Hot August Night, where 50 local retail shops, restaurants, galleries and musicians welcome guests of all ages to eat and play around town. The Louisiana Renaissance Festival and the Ponchatoula Strawberry Festival (just 10 minutes away) are among the best festivals in Louisiana.