College isn’t for everyone. It’s ridiculously expensive and doesn’t necessarily set you up for success. And while a college degree has become required for so many jobs, we all know people who get rich or do cool shit without it. But for those who aren’t egomaniacal entrepreneurs or aren’t interested in jobs like these, college can be great.
Despite all the famous skate spots at California college campuses, it’s hard to find useful college advice from the skateboarder’s perspective. So we came up with a list of places that offer both a good education and decent skate scenes.
There’s obviously more affordable and just as credible colleges out there (even these international ones that cost less than U.S. schools), but we can’t guarantee they have as many waxy ledges as the ones below.
So when you’re done taking time off to “find yourself” and “film that part” you always talk about, this list will still be here as a basic skate college guide (although the tuition costs will have gone up another 50%).
Notable skater alums: Mark Suciu, Jimmy McDonald, Willy Akers, Jack Sabback, Max Hull, Nik Stain, Chris Mulhern.
Annual tuition + room & board: In-state: $32,300 / Out-of-state: $44,060
Know the area: After NYC, the next biggest east coast city for skateboarders (sorry Boston and DC) is Philly.
With Nocturnal and Exit Skateshop serving the city, and Kinetic out in nearby Delaware, there is a thriving skate scene to immerse yourself in. You might run into Brian Panebianco or the Sabotage guys, or get a glimpse of the human meme and all-around great guy, Jamal Smith.
The Temple campus is just north of the 9th & Poplar DIY and is a short skate or train ride from the Fishtown and Northern Liberties neighborhoods, where all the dive bars (like El Bar), cheap street food, and cute girls/guys can be found.
Notable skater alums: Max Palmer, Cyrus Bennett Public Housing Skate Team
Annual tuition + room & board: $63,430
Know the area: If life in Lower Manhattan seems too hectic for your liberal arts education, you might want to try Pratt.
Located in the Clinton Hill neighborhood of Brooklyn, it sits right outside DUMBO and Downtown Brooklyn, meaning you’re close enough to a densely populated urban environment if you choose to rub up against your fellow humans, but also secluded enough so you can keep your social anxiety in check.
Pratt is a short skate from Fat Kid Skatepark, which used to be a filthy manual pad spot that Jason Dill skated in the DVS video. Fort Greene Park, home to every NYC skater’s second favorite monument to deface—after the Williamsburg Monument—is also close enough to hobble back to campus from with a rolled ankle. Plus, Skate Brooklyn is nearby for any gear needs or a miniramp jam in the winter.
Unfortunately, Pratt’s biggest downfall is in the nightlife department. You’ll either be stuck making the trek to Manhattan for any real debauchery on the weekends, or you’ll be stuck trying to put drinks on some yuppie’s tab in the neighborhood bars. The best bet at first is to get weird at on-campus dorm parties until you go insane and finally cop that unlimited Metrocard.
School of Visual Arts
Notable skater alums: Dick Rizzo, Josh Wilson, JP Blair (filmer)
Annual tuition + room & board: $61,513
Know the area: Gramercy is usually reserved for bougie older folk (you have to pay an annual fee just to enter Gramercy Park), but if you’re fortunate enough to afford the tuition or willing dig yourself into that sweet, sweet debt, SVA is a good choice for misguided students.
It’s located in Lower Manhattan—albeit above 14th Street—so you’re a 15-minute train ride from Greenwich Village, SoHo, Chinatown, LES, and any other area worth going to in Manhattan. If you want to skate a quintessentially weird but neat New York spot, 20th and C is right down the street, or you can head north to Midtown where all the good ledges are.
Finding places to eat at any time day or night will never be an issue here, although the bars can fill up with finance bros so you’ll probably end up heading south to get drunk, but there’s an NYU dorm in the area where you can buy weed and “productivity powders” as needed. You’ll also have plenty of *artsy* classmates to help start your shitty T-shirt brand.
UC San Diego
Notable skater alums: Walker Ryan, Gideon Choi, Brian Lotti
Annual tuition + room & board: In-state: $31,567 / Out-of-state: $59,581
Know the area: Although UC San Diego is technically located outside San Diego in La Jolla, it still has all the great things that you’d expect from a Californian college, namely sunlight, beaches, and a shit ton of skaters.
You’ve probably seen many of the skate spots on campus, like the Revelle Plaza, Solis Hall 10 stair, and the slab gap. You could also hit up Rancho Penasquitos Skatepark or Washington Street when you’re too hungover to street skate.
San Diego is also the home of Tum Yeto and Sk8Mafia, meaning there is no shortage of pros in SD proper for you to either AirDrop your “sponsor me” tape to or bug about getting a job in the warehouse. You’ll have to travel into SD to get any sort of nightlife that’s not at least slightly centered around frats, but you can always grab a sixer, head to the beach, and see what life throws at you, true Spicoli style.
Notable skater alums: Adam Mills (filmer)
Annual tuition + room & board: $44,904
Know the area: Columbia College (not to be confused with the Ivy League Columbia University) is the art and film school in Chicago for kids who can’t get into the more prestigious Art Institute (which local skate legend Stevie Dread attended).
The school is just south of the main downtown area so it’s accessible by most subway lines and has any restaurant, liquor store, grocery store, or convenience store nearby (although for shit-faced late-night meals you’ll have to either find delivery or eat at the 24-hour White Palace Grill).
Skating downtown during the daytime can be a quick bust at most spots, including the post office benches, Chase plaza, Aon Center, and all the alley gaps and other spots you can find strolling around. But nighttime sessions downtown are always fun, plus there’s a 22,000 sq ft skatepark nearby with real marble ledges.
Uprise is Chicago’s longest standing skate shop, and also the shop Neen Williams rode for before he discovered yoga pants. Some good videos have come out of Chicago in the past few years (Chity, Neighborhood Watch, anything from Deep Dish), and more people are visiting to step up the game on the local spots.
Prepare for brutal winters without indoor skate options (besides occasional House of Vans skate nights) and ideal summers with every activity and scene you could be into, including an okay beach. Only thing is you have to promise to try the Picasso statue drop-in.
University of South Florida
Notable skater alums: Could be you!
Annual tuition + room & board: In-state: $21,410 / Out-of-state: $32,320
Know the area: With Tampa being a world-renowned skate destination (at least two weekends out of the year), USF is a smart choice if you’re looking to do a little clout chasing by throwing back shots with Nike SB reps and various other industry insiders. Skatepark of Tampa is a straight shot down from the USF campus (about a 15 minute drive/Uber), and Ybor City becomes a raucous downtown area whenever contests are held in town.
During SPoT event weekends, plenty of skaters can be found at The Bricks, a bar part-owned by SPoT owner Brian Schafer, or Reservoir Bar playing pool or taking turns hitting that stupid punching bag game. Castle Ybor is another good place to check out if you’re into BDSM fetish stuff.
Oh, and since getting some actual skating in is probably important, you can check out the swampy spots around town or head to SPoT to dial in your run, then try to enter Tampa Am every year and see if you can eventually go pro for a sock company.
Notable skater alums: Dan Murphy
Annual tuition + room & board: In-state: $20,000 / Out-of-state: $38,000
Know the area: The campus has smooth brick ground, plenty o’ spots, and hills to bomb whenever you want. The heavy sports crowds might cause a bro or two to get in your way, but it’s generally pretty mellow to skate the campus as long as you’re not barging it during class changes.
There used to be a skateboarding club, NC Skate, that was fully supported by the university for skate trips and events, and has since turned into a nationwide college skateboarding network and scholarship granter. However, NC still a solid community of student skaters that will keep you from feeling like the outcast loner.
Mitch’s Tavern is the old neighborhood bar to hit up, and The Cardinal Bar, co-owned by NC State grad and former Mystery pro Dan Murphy, isn’t far either. Raleigh has no shortage of good food and beer, and you can always try your luck DM-ing North Carolina native Mike Sinclair to ask for skate spot recommendations.
Hit up Endless Grind Skateshop for anything you might need or to find a friend to swap stickers with.
San Francisco Art Institute
Notable skater alums: Ryan Lay
Annual tuition & room and board: $63,395
Know the area: If you go to the SF Art Institute to pursue your dreams of becoming the next biggest corporate “street artist,” you’ll probaly live across the bay in either Oakland or Berkeley rather than pay $2,000 for a 200 sq ft apartment in San Francisco.
Regardless, you’ll have access to all of SF’s rich skate history. From shops like FTC and DLX skate shop, parks like SoMA West and Potrero, and spots like the updated Pier 7, 3rd and Army, and endless hills.
Across the bay you’ll find Town Park in Oakland and 510 Skateshop and Berkeley Skatepark in Berkeley (duh), which means you’ll have plenty of things to keep you busy if SF gets too yuppie or tech bro for you.
As far as nightlife, things close a bit early here, so your best bet for a long and fun night alongside other skaters will probably be Zeitgeist, located just up the hill from SoMA West. It boasts a giant backyard and plenty of cheap beer to fuel endless SoCal shit talking.
California State University, Fullerton
Notable skater almuni: Ducky Kovacs
Annual tuition: $27,782
Know the area: CSU Fullerton is a perfect school if you want to be close to Los Angeles and Long Beach, but still want to avoid the weekly video premieres and free drinks when school picks up.
The campus is in a pretty suburban town with cheap rent, and it has a fair amount of both historical and untouched spots. It’s probably best to avoid Fullerton Skatepark due to the amount of gutter punks and heavy day drinking, but you can skate the green garage curbs or check out all the other Orange County skateparks. Fullerton also has lots of frats and sororities for partying, if that’s your thing.
The skate culture in Fullerton isn’t very cohesive, what with all the longboarders, but the music scene adds a lot to living there. The Observatory in Santa Ana, the music venue/record shop/skate shop known as Programme, and Burger Records are all close enough to campus and offer plenty of shows and events. If you’re worried about spending too much time studying in college, CSUF has more than enough skate and non-skate distractions.