The YA Book Guide to Choosing a College

When it comes to picking a college, the choice can be difficult. There are literally thousands of options in the United States and even more if you’re open to traveling to another country.

We created a list of the colleges chosen by characters from YA books. Some of these books are set in high school and others are set at college. Most of the colleges are in the United States, with a couple in the United Kingdom.

This blog post is all about the colleges chosen by characters from YA books!

Boston University: 99 Days by Katie Cotugno

In 99 Days, Molly Barlow moves back home from the summer and is counting down the days (99) until she can move to Boston to attend Boston University. In the sequel, 9 Days and 9 Nights, we see Molly after she finishes her freshman year and his heading to Europe for an adventure.

It’s interesting to see Molly before and after starting college and how she adapted to life in Boston. Let’s just say, changing is never easy.

Columbia University: The Summer of Us by Cecilia Vinesse

The Summer of Us follows a group of friends as they travel around Europe the summer before starting college. Aubrey wants to enjoy her time with her friends before they all leave London and go to different places for college. After the European adventure, Aubrey is headed to New York City to study at Columbia University.

The Summer of Us captures the difficult transition between high school and college. While Aubrey is excited to go to college, she also has to let go of the life she has lived the last few years.

Dartmouth College: Isla and the Happily Ever After by Stephanie Perkins

Isla and the Happily Ever After is the last book in the Anna and the French Kiss trilogy. Isla Martin is used to being the quiet and invisible girl. But senior year is different. She starts dating the mysterious Josh Wasserstein.

Isla is struggling with her new life, which includes balancing a relationship and working hard to make sure she gets into her dream school, Dartmouth. Isla and Josh are so cute together and it’s realistic to watch a high school couple see if a relationship after graduation could work.

Harvard University: The Ivy by Lauren Kunze

You got into Harvard University, now what? Callie Andrews was unprepared for how her freshman year of college would go. Quickly, she’s brought into the world of the elite students and juggles hard classes, friendships and guys.

The Ivy series will forever be our favorite college YA books. We love everything about this series, from the setting, to the characters, to the plot. Kunze is a Harvard graduate and based the series off of her time in college.

Howard University: The Killing Code by Ellie Marney

In The Killing Code, a historical fiction novel set in DC and Virginia during World War II, the character Violet Dulac wants to attend Howard University. Violet works for the war effort and gets involved in a murder investigation.

Violet was one of our favorite characters and we enjoyed watching her build up the confidence to apply to her dream school and give her family a better life. We’re happy to say that after the hectic events of the book, Violet is ready to start college.

Louisiana State University: 10 Truths and a Dare by Ashley Elston

The four best friends always planned on going to college together at Louisiana State University. Olivia, Sophie, Wes and Charlie are ecstatic to be going away to school together. But before they can do that, Olivia has to graduate high school.

Olivia Perkins has always been the perfect student. But in 10 Truths and a Dare, she learns that she is missing a PE credit and needs to spend her last week before graduation at a golf tournament. It’ll take the help from her favorite people to get Olivia to graduation day.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology: American Panda by Gloria Chao

Is it weird to be one of the youngest people in college? Mei is a freshman at MIT and is following her parents perfect life plan. Too bad it’s not what Mei wants for her life.

American Panda is relatable for anyone who has ever tried to balance what they want, while also trying to please their parents. Mei wants to enjoy college, choose her major and date the guy she likes, even though those choices come with consequences.

Michigan State University: Angelfire by Courtney Allison Moulton

Ellie has been having terrible nightmares recently, which don’t make sense until a guy named Will tells her the truth about her past and her purpose. Ellie is juggling her new life, while also hoping to go to Michigan State University. It won’t be easy to get there, but Ellie is determined to keep the life she planned, while saving the world.

New York University: Wait for Me by Sara Shepard

Being a sophomore in college, but only 17 years old, is super weird for Casey Rhodes. But lately Casey felt like everything in her life was going well. She’s doing well in school, she has a best friend and she’s dating Manhattan’s most eligible college student.

Only, when Casey starts hearing voices and picturing scenes in her head, Casey takes off to a beach town on Long Island for some solitude and answers. Wait for Me is a unique thriller and we enjoyed this college YA book.

Penn State University: The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

The Perks of Being a Wallflower is a YA classic and one of our favorites. While the main character Charlie isn’t in college or applying to college, all of his friends are older than him. His friend and crush Sam eventually gets into Penn State and moves there from Pittsburgh at the end of the story.

Oxford University: The Heir and the Spare by Emily Albright

Traveling all the way to the UK for college is scary, but Evie also can’t wait to explore her mom’s home country. Of course going to Oxford University is a big deal. Yet, she never expected to be part of the same friend group as Edmund, the second Prince of the UK.

The Heir and the Spare is great for those who want to read a college YA book set in England. There’s even a cozy mystery aspect of this YA contemporary. And the book does a good job of describing the challenges of going to college in another country and balancing course work with a social life/a relationship.

Rutgers University: This is So Not Happening by Kieran Scott

Senior year should be incredible, but for Ally Ryan, there are a lot of challenges. Including that her boyfriend Jake Graydon got another girl pregnant. Ally is trying to navigate life and figure out her post-high school life and that means where she should play college basketball. In This is So Not Happening, Ally eventually decides that Rutgers in her home state of New Jersey is the best for her family and her relationship.

San Diego State University: Going Dark by Melissa de la Cruz

A lot of the characters in Going Dark are sophomores at San Diego State, including the first narrator Josh Reuter. He talks about balancing school and the impending investigation. But another part of the story was that college is viewed as a chance to start over, for Josh and his girlfriend Amelia.

If you want sunny weather and classes near the ocean, San Diego State may be for you.

St. Andrews University: To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han

Lara Jean Covey’s older sister Margot is leaving for college…all the way in Edinburgh, Scotland. Lara Jean is sad that her older sister chose to move thousands of miles away, but she understands Margot’s desire to get out of their small city. Through video chats, the reader gets to see Margot adapt to life in Scotland and hear about her college experience throughout the entire series.

The College of William and Mary: All I Want for Christmas is the Girl Who Can’t Love by Chelsea Bobulski

All I Want for Christmas is the Girl Who Can’t Love is set at The College of William & Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia. Savannah Mason doesn’t believe in love, but Jordan Merrick is trying to convince her that love exists. As the two get closer at school and while working in Williamsburg together, Savannah realizes she shouldn’t let her family’s past define her future relationships.

If you’re looking for a college YA book where you really get a feel for the school and the town, look no further. Savannah and Jordan take the reader all around campus and through historical Williamsburg.

University of California, Berkeley: Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins

Anna Oliphant’s life goal is to become a film critic and go to college in California. She never expected to spend her senior of year of high school in Paris, France at boarding school. Thankfully, she makes some great friends, including the charming Etienne St. Clair, who also wants to go to school in California.

Anna and the French Kiss is a very popular YA book with an adorable romance. Luckily, Anna and Etienne find their way to each other and to California for college. Etienne is excited to study at UC Berkeley.

University of Connecticut: Never Ever Getting Back by Sophie Gonzales

Maya is ready to move on with her life and attend UConn in the fall. However, her ex-boyfriend Jordy has other plans. Now that his sister married a prince, Jordy is everywhere and now there’s going to be a reality show about him. Maya could use the money from the show for college, but she has no desire to be on TV with the rest of Jordy’s exes.

While Never Ever Getting Back Together doesn’t have the most relatable plot, it’s characters are what makes it standout. Maya is trying to achieve her dreams, while also dealing with the fact that Jordy cheated on her years ago.

University of Nebraska-Lincoln: Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

College can be hard when you’re introverted, but your twin sister is the life of the party. Cath is devastated that her sister doesn’t want to be roommates in college. Cath is trying to get through (and maybe enjoy) her first year of college without her sister by her side.

Fangirl does a great job of portraying the difficulties and excitement of moving to college. Cath, like many college students, eventually finds her place and her people.

University of North Carolina: Always and Forever, Lara Jean by Jenny Han

After a whirlwind year of romance and finding herself, in Always and Forever Lara Jean, it’s time for Lara Jean to apply to college. But what happens when you don’t get into your dream school? Peter got into UVA, but now Lara Jean has to decide among the other schools in Virginia and North Carolina that she received acceptance letters from.

Peter wants Lara Jean to choose the school closest to him and then reapply to UVA. However, Lara Jean realizes she needs to pick the school that’s the best fit for her. Enter UNC Chapel Hill. There are some fun scenes from when Lara Jean and her friend Chris decide to drive to UNC’s campus and explore.

University of Virginia: P.S. I Still Love You by Jenny Han

Lara Jean has her life mapped out, at least, she plans on staying in Charlottesville and going to UVA. After all, she has good grades and volunteers at the local senior center. Her boyfriend Peter also wants to go to UVA. It’s also where her neighbor/Margot’s ex-boyfriend Josh chooses to go.

In P.S. I Still Love You and throughout the series, UVA is mentioned a lot because it’s set in Charlottesville, where Lara Jean and her family live. To see how Lara Jean’s college journey goes, see UNC, listed above. If you want to check out a book set on UVA’s campus, we also recommend checking out Begin Again by Emma Lord. While it’s set at the fictional Blue Ridge State, it’s clearly based off of UVA.

Yale University: One of Us is Lying by Karen McManus

Bronwyn Rojas may be under investigation for murder, but her biggest priority is still getting accepted to Yale University. In One of Us is Lying, Bronwyn, along three of her classmates, are under investigation after a disastrous detention.

Bronwyn isn’t ready to give up on her dream, despite how crazy senior year turned out to be. If you’re driven like Bronwyn, don’t let anyone stop you from applying to an Ivy League school.

23 thoughts on “The YA Book Guide to Choosing a College”

  1. It honestly makes me so happy when I see VA universities represented – or really, when I see VA at all in a book! I enjoyed that TATBILB was set in VA, but I never felt like it was a huge focus point. However, as you mentioned, Begin Again did a great job showing off the beauty of the state! Now, if only I can see my hometown of Richmond (and possibly VCU) more often in books haha.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Well we have UVA and William & Mary represented so far. Maybe by the time we’re ready to update we can find a book set at VCU. We agree TATBILB didn’t talk too much about VA, but we were still sad that the movies were set in Oregon.


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