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Philadelphia has so many colleges, from big (Temple) to small (Swarthmore) to Ivy (Penn) to all-female (Bryn Mawr). When it comes academic and social life on campus, you can read about nearly everything you need from publications like Forbes and U.S News and World Report. But what about the other stuff? The important stuff? The stuff that happens a few blocks off campus, in the neighborhoods?

Billy Penn examined 11 Philadelphia-area schools and quantified each’s entertainment options, housing prices and affordability, as well as its proximity to transit and how that contributes to the opportunity to best explore the city. The schools we looked at are Bryn Mawr, Cabrini, Drexel, Haverford, La Salle, Penn, Philadelphia University, St. Joseph’s, Swarthmore, Temple and Villanova.

This index is highly (un)scientific. Data for restaurants, bars, coffee shops etc. comes from Yelp and the 1-mile perimeter in which they were included starts at the center of each school’s campus. Other data comes from the U.S. Census, the respective schools, and the old standbys above: Forbes and U.S. News and World Report. We’ve already analyzed campus crime and party rankings, so neither of those categories are discussed here (though types of bars are broken down into categories for each school).

The entertainment

When class ends, is there anything to do at your college besides video games and dorm/house parties? Uh, maybe not if you attend Haverford, Bryn Mawr, Villanova or Cabrini. These suburban schools are severely lacking in entertainment options within walking distance (one mile), compared to the city schools.

Restaurants by price within one mile: Drexel dominates here, as it does in most of these entertainment categories because of its proximity to Center City, as well as all the cool stuff in University City.  Of the suburban schools, Haverford leads, with 64 total restaurants.

As a note, Penn and Drexel’s totals are estimates because figuring out the precise amount of restaurants within one mile of these schools would take days, even on Yelp.

Bars by type within one mile: Hope you’re not a huge fan of clubbing if you’re a college student. None of these schools boasts much of a club scene.

The real winner here, in terms of college atmosphere, might be Villanova. It has three “college-y” bars within a mile, a number higher than everyone else in the ‘burbs.  The totals for St. Joseph’s and Philadelphia University are low, but Manayunk and its many bars beckon about two to three miles away from each. Temple students also have Fishtown bars about 1.5 to two miles away. 

Also, though Swarthmore doesn’t have any “college-y” bars nearby, there is a place called Durty Nelly’s a few miles away that sounds very intriguing.  

Pizza places within one mile: To be included in this category, a restaurant had to specialize in pizza. And no matter which school you’re at, except Swarthmore, you’re not going to be suffering from a lack of pizza options.

Coffee shops within one mile: Hey Villanova students, do you even drink coffee?

Living options

Do students at each school live on campus or away from campus? And how much does it cost?  Most of the schools have similarly-priced dorm options. When it comes to housing off campus, it’s generally less expensive to live at one of the city schools like Temple, La Salle, Penn or Drexel.  These median rental prices have been calculated by using the gross median rent measurement from the Census tract near each school where students are likely to live. Keep in mind these are median rental prices. Even in seemingly expensive areas like Villanova, it’s likely the students can find something below the median. But Temple, Drexel, Penn and La Salle students likely have a better variety of cheap options.

Getting around Philadelphia

If you actually want to get away from campus and check out Center City, certain schools are better than the others. Drexel and Penn obviously get you the closest, with Temple just behind. But some of the suburban schools are just quick walk to the train station and then a train ride away.  This graph shows the proximity of each campus to a transit station and then shortest time it could take to use public transit or bicycle to get to City Hall from the campus. 

Mark Dent is a reporter/curator at BillyPenn. He previously worked for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, where he covered the Jerry Sandusky scandal, Penn State football and the Penn State administration. His...