For many students, the winter season means cold weather, a bevy of snow, and the opportunity to participate in activities such as skiing or snowboarding. Other students, though, may desire a different type of experience during winter: warm weather, sandy beaches, and lightweight clothes.
"Snow and shoveling and ice—it's overrated, really," says Naomi Prioleau, a 2011 graduate of the University of South Florida, who grew up in Kansas. "Winter's a pain in the neck, [so] I didn't apply to any schools where I knew would have snow."
[See photos of 10 great colleges to avoid winter.]
For students who place high importance on a warmer winter season, here are five great college towns, in alphabetical order, for you to consider.
1. Coral Gables, Fla.: With winter weather rarely falling below 70 degrees, students at the University of Miami are afforded the luxury of a summer lifestyle year-round. Located roughly 30 minutes from the beaches and nightlife of South Beach, students can spend time in the crystal-clear waters or enjoy the outdoor boutiques at Miracle Mile or the Village of Merrick Park.
Students don't even need to venture off campus for an exotic experience, notes Deanna Voss, the director of admission at the university.
"We have such a gorgeous campus—it's like a tropical garden setting," Voss says. "Students can be sitting outside conversing with each other … having these intense academic conversations that don't have to be carried on in the classroom because it's 20 degrees outside."
[See why Miami is also a great place for food lovers to retire.]
2. Corpus Christi, Texas: Proximity to a beach may be high on the priority list for many students who desire year-round balmy weather at their college of choice. While Texas may not be the first state that comes to mind, Texas A&M University—Corpus Christi offers a campus unique from every other nationwide.
"We are the only university that is on its own island [and] we have our own private beach," says Gloria Gallardo, director of communications and public affairs at the institution. "If you are the type of person who likes surfing or kayaking, you can do them right here on our campus."
For students who are interested in a beach atmosphere away from campus, Padre Island, Texas, is roughly 15 minutes from the school and offers students more than 70 miles of white sand beach and warm gulf waters.
3. Honolulu: There are many reasons why the islands of Hawaii are go-to destinations for vacation seekers: consistently warm weather that stays around 70 to 80 degrees all year, white sand beaches, and an exotic environment.
For students at the University of Hawaii—Manoa, a tropical lifestyle can be paired with a university education. And although winter in Hawaii is traditionally the "rainy" season, it means more opportunities to discover why it is called the Rainbow State.
[Check out U.S. News Travel's guide to Honolulu.]
4. Malibu, Calif.: Known around the country as the home to some of Hollywood's most famous entertainers, Malibu is also home to Pepperdine University. The campus, which overlooks the Pacific Ocean and the Pacific Coast Highway, is adjacent to beaches, including Zuma Beach, to which students can venture in a matter of minutes.
With average winter temperatures hovering around 60 degrees, the winter weather here may be cooler than other schools on the list, but students are still able to take advantage of their proximity to the ocean, says Doug Hurley, the director of student activities and campus recreation at Pepperdine.
"Right at the end of November, we went [ocean] kayaking," he notes. "It was cool and breezy being on the ocean, but it's something we can do [during winter]."
For students who want to experience winter in small helpings, Hurley says Pepperdine is a prime location.
"One thing that is kind of neat about our location is that there is skiing in California," he says. "You can just take your road trip [to the slopes], three or four hours away, and then you can come back and you're done with it. You can go get a taste of [winter] and come back."
[Check out five great colleges for winter enthusiasts.]
5. Melbourne, Fla.: It is no surprise that one of the country's top surf colleges is also situated in a desirable location for students who want to avoid winter. The campus of the Florida Institute of Technology is located roughly five minutes from Melbourne Beach and is about a 30-minute drive from Cocoa Beach.
With temperatures rarely falling below 70 degrees year-round and a student body with a passion for surfing and skateboarding, the school has adopted "a bit of a board culture," notes Andy McIlwraith, marketing director for the school.
"We like to tell our students that chances are that if they don't surf, they'll meet someone who does, and that person may even be one of their professors," he says.
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