by Alex Gillespie
We’re excited to present an updated (and expanded) Top Colleges to Cheer for 2017. Our 2016 “Top 40 Colleges to Cheer” went viral and saw well over 125,000 readers! We’ve made a commitment to ranking colleges by a variety of factors. It’s not about who wins the most or who has the coolest uniforms or whatever criteria you have seen before. We looked at all aspects of various programs to create our Top 75 ranking. This information was compiled using school’s websites, competition results and the 2016 Cheer Scholarship Guide.
Our criteria for the ranking was composed of five categories:
Scholarships Offered: Schools that offer no scholarships get zero points, while five points were awarded to schools that offer full rides and/or more than $1,000 a year. Other scholarships amounts were awarded points based on what their scholarships included. Some schools’ scholarship information could not be found, so we worked them in where we felt they fell in the list regardless of the scholarship amounts.
Academics: While we didn’t dive into what kind of GPA you need to get into the college or how hard the schools are, schools that offered a variety of majors with well respected programs received five points.
Game Day Atmosphere: One of the coolest parts of cheering in college is being on the field or on the sideline for games. In this category, five points were awarded to schools that have incredible game day atmospheres, the kind you hear about and see on TV. Five points were also awarded to schools that had strong football and basketball programs, since those are the main two events that cheerleaders cheer for. Three points were given to the teams that represent smaller athletic programs or are known for just one sport, and one point was awarded to smaller schools and community colleges.
Competitiveness: Teams that have recently won a national title or are consistently in the top three in their divisions were awarded five points. Teams that are always strong competitors but haven’t made their way to the top yet were given three points, and teams that are still working their way up received one point. Non-competitive teams received zero points in this category.
Other Factors: For tiebreakers, we took into consideration past titles won, number of athletes accepted to teams, and other factors.
*Disclaimer: A “Top Colleges To Cheer” list will look different for everyone. This is what we came up with based on the factors listed above, but to evaluate what is important to YOU and make your own list, check out the 2016 Cheer Scholarship Guide for information on over 275 schools.
Now, let’s get to our expanded and updated Top Colleges to Cheer:
75. Northern Illinois University – DeKalb, Illinois
NIU competes in both All Girl and Coed Division IA at NCA Nationals and has performed well in recent years. In 2015, their Coed team finished 5th, and in 2016, All Girl placed 5th while Coed finished 6th.
74. New Mexico State University – Las Cruces, New Mexico
New Mexico State was the runner up for four-year colleges in Large Coed at USA Nationals and finalist for Intermediate Small Coed I at NCA Nationals this year.
73. University of Maine – Bangor, Maine
University of Maine took home the title in Intermediate All Girl at NCA in 2016.
72. Eastern Kentucky University – Richmond, Kentucky
The first of many Kentucky schools you’ll see on our list, Eastern Kentucky fields an always-competitive Division I Coed and All Girl team. Both teams finished in the top five at UCA Nationals this year.
71. The College of New Jersey – Ewing Township, New Jersey
TCNJ won back-to-back Open All Girl titles in 2014 and 2015 and placed 2nd this year. They are always a contender in their division.
70. Nassau Community College – Garden City, New York
The 2016 champions in Open All Girl at UCA, Nassau Community College is a top competitor year after year in the Open All Girl division.
69. Liberty University – Lynchburg, Virginia
Liberty has shown well the last few years at UCA Nationals and has placed in the top of the All Girl partner stunt competition, most recently placing 2nd.
68. Iowa Western Community College – Council Bluffs, Iowa
Iowa Western is always a strong team at UCA Nationals in the Open Coed division, but has emerged as a top contender over the last few years placing 2nd the last two years of competition.
67. California Baptist University – Riverside, California
California Baptist, located just outside of Los Angeles, has won four consecutive All Girl Division II titles since 2013. If you want to leave college with a ring on your finger, California Baptist is a solid option.
66. Univertsity of Texas at Arlington – Arlington, Texas
UTA is the reigning Small Coed Division I champion at NCA Nationals and is a top competitor in their division every year.
65. Florida Atlantic University – Boca Raton, Florida
The reigning Intermediate All Girl IA champs at NCA Nationals.
64. University of Missouri – Columbia, Missouri
Small Coed IA finalist and Intermediate Small Coed I runner up, the Missouri cheerleaders are getting better each year and are doing it while getting to cheer on their Tigers in the SEC.
63. University of Southern California – Los Angeles, California
USC doesn’t compete, but USC isn’t short on tradition. USC is a great perk to attending school, living in Los Angeles and cheering for the Trojans.
62. Weber State – Ogden, Utah
The Coed I runner up at NCA this year beat out some of the traditional top competitors in the division and have had strong showings the past few years. Weber also competes at USA Nationals, and won the division for Large Coed.
61. University of Washington – Seattle, Washington
Though they didn’t make finals this year, in 2015 Washington had a solid performance at UCA College Nationals. The school is great academically and the Huskies consistently have strong sports teams to cheer for.
60. University of Nevada Las Vegas – Las Vegas, Nevada
UNLV has continued to improve in the All Girl IA division at UCA Nationals, making finals again this year. Many of the team members also receive scholarships, plus how cool would it be to live in Vegas?
59. University of Texas at San Antonio – San Antonio, Texas
The runner up at NCA in Small Coed IA this year, UTSA placed above some of the division’s usual favorites.
58. Lindenwood University – Saint Charles, Missouri
Lindenwood University fields two competitive teams that placed well at the 2016 NCA
Nationals. They took home the title in Intermediate Small Coed II and placed 4th in DII Coed.
57. Vanderbilt University – Nashville, Tennessee
While Vanderbilt doesn’t compete, cheering at Vanderbilt lets an athlete continue doing what they love while getting an education at one of the most prestigious schools in the nation. Cheering on the Commodores through SEC competition is an added bonus.
56. Blinn College – Brenham, Texas
Blinn College completed a three-peat in Small Coed Division II this year at NCA Nationals. If winning a college title is important to you, Blinn College is a good place to go for it.
55. University of Central Arkansas – Conway, Arkansas
UCA has two very strong competitive teams. The Small Coed team won back to back NCA Division I titles in 2012 and 2013 and the Large Coed team won in 2014.
54. Stephen F. Austin State University – Nacogdoches, Texas
SFA is known as being one of the most close-knit cheerleading programs out there. Tradition within the program is not the only that is strong, as the teams always place well in national competition, most recently winning All Girl Division I at NCA.
53. Sam Houston State University – Huntsville, Texas
Sam Houston is a solid destination to be a college cheerleader for both All Girl and Coed athletes. They offer up to $2,000 scholarships for their athletes and are a competitive program at NCA Nationals. They are home to the 2014 All Girl Division I NCA National Champions and 2015 UCA Coed Partner stunt champions, and took home 1st in 2016.
52. Trinity Valley Community College – Athens, Texas
As you go down this list you are going to notice something – community and junior colleges in Texas have some great cheerleading squads. TVCC has won 10 Junior College titles at NCA Nationals and are among the top in their division every year.
51. Southern Methodist University – Dallas, Texas
SMU not only has a beautiful campus along with strong football and basketball tradition, but also a pretty talented cheerleading squad. The NCA Intermediate Small Coed I champions have a front row seat to Mustang sports and receive scholarships to do it, making SMU a great option for college cheerleading.
50. Davenport University – Grand Rapids, Michigan
They are the only DIII school on this list, but they are as deserving as any. The All Girl squad from Davenport University could easily compete with the big dogs from Division I. They are the reigning DIII NCA National Champs.
49. Iowa State University – Ames, Iowa
Iowa State has been increasingly competitive in the last few years, most recently placing 4th in All Girl IA at NCA.
48. Shelton State Community College – Tuscaloosa, Alabama
Shelton is to the Open Coed division at UCA what Kentucky is to the Large Coed division. They just won their 8th consecutive title.
47. University of Colorado – Boulder, Colorado
Located right outside of Denver, University of Colorado has an equally awesome location and cheerleading squad. The All Girl team placed 6th at UCA Nationals this year, and has looked more competitive each of the last few years.
46. Columbus State University – Columbus, Georgia
CSU has won numerous Division II titles since 2002. While none of those titles have come since 2010, they are still a solid program and a great place to check out for prospective college cheerleaders. They placed 5th in Coed and 2nd in All Girl at NCA Nationals in 2016.
45. University of Alabama at Birmingham – Birmingham, Alabama
Though UAB recently lost their football team (they are reportedly bringing football back in the near future), the cheerleaders still have a lot to cheer about. They have had several strong showings in the Small Coed division at UCA Nationals in the last few years.
44. University of Miami– Coral Gables, Florida
Though the U doesn’t compete, cheering there is a pretty sweet gig. The 15-member All Girl and Coed teams cheer on the sidelines at football games and men’s and women’s basketball games, as well as volleyball games. Oh, and they get to live in Miami.
43. Southeastern Louisiana University – Hammond, Louisiana
New to our list, but making moves in college cheerleading, SELU placed 2nd at this year’s UCA College Nationals.
42. Navarro College – Corsicana, Texas
This two-year school in Texas has one of the best cheerleading squads in the nation. Not only have they won the Junior College division at NCA College Nationals for the last six years, but they have also been Grand Champions for the last three years. If you don’t care so much about cheering big games and just want to win, Navarro might be the place for you.
41. Wilmington University – New Castle, Delaware
Another strong Division II competitor and the 2015 Small Coed Division II UCA National Champs come from WU. Year after year, they have a competitive team as well as good finishes in the All Girl and Coed partner stunt divisions.
40. University of West Georgia – Carrollton, Georgia
West Georgia has won numerous titles since 2002. Their Coed squad has won many of those in Division II Coed at UCA Nationals. UWG All Girl has contributed to their banner count, as well.
39. Hofstra University – Hempstead, New York
Hofstra University is home to the 10-time UCA College National Champions in Small Coed Division I. You could say they are the Kentucky of UCA Small Coed. While Hofstra isn’t a huge school and only limited cheerleading scholarships are available, the rings and titles speak for themselves as to why this school is on our list.
38. Central Michigan University – Mount Pleasant, Michigan
CMU was one of the few teams at UCA College Nationals to have an All Girl and Coed IA team to make finals. They also field a Small Coed team so there is something for every type of athlete that makes the team.
37. Austin Peay State University – Clarksville, Tennessee
APSU has had a consistently strong cheerleading program for years and has, in recent years, become a strong Coed I competitor at NCA Nationals. Austin Peay is under great leadership and, though it is a smaller school, offers more cheerleading scholarships than many of the other larger schools on the list.
36. University of Iowa – Iowa City, Iowa
Though Iowa didn’t make finals this year, this is a team that is steadily improving. As they get more competitive, so do other sports at the school that they cheer for, making Iowa a top cheerleading destination.
35. Georgia Institute of Technology – Atlanta, Georgia
Georgia Tech is probably the strongest school academically on this list and is unique in terms of college cheerleading because they compete twice, not just once, each year. Georgia Tech competes at CHEERSPORT and at NCA College Nationals.
34. University of Oregon – Eugene, Oregon
Though Oregon does not compete, how cool would it be to cheer for the Ducks? Oregon is notoriously known for their sponsorship by Nike and all of the apparel they receive, so imagine the cool gear you would get being on the cheer squad. They also offer small scholarships for their cheerleaders. That paired with cheering on one of the nation’s top football teams year after year in Autzen Stadium was enough for them to make our list.
33. Bowling Green State University – Bowling Green, Ohio
A strong competitor in the small coed division at UCA Nationals as well as an up-and-coming All Girl team, BGSU is a great destination for a cheerleader who wants to continue in college.
32. University of Minnesota – Minneapolis, Minnesota
The Minnesota Gophers have one of the largest spirit programs in the country, fielding an All Girl and Coed team that competes, as well as a Small Coed team. They also credit themselves with the birth of sideline cheerleading, so they have to make this list, right?
31. University of Delaware – Newark, Delaware
The back-to-back Division I UCA National Champions in 2014 and 2015 come from UD, though they came in 2nd this year. Some scholarships are available for Coed squad members but even if you don’t receive scholarship money, being one of the top competitors in a tough division makes it worth it.
30. Washington State University – Pullman, Washington
While Washington State is an up-and-coming team in the competition world, they have made the finals and put on great performances at UCA Nationals the last two years. They made this list mainly because of the awesome college atmosphere in Pullman, Washington. Pullman is in the middle of nowhere, and everyone there loves the Cougs.
29. University of Maryland – College Park, Maryland
Maryland has had a strong All Girl program for years and recently made the switch to UCA. Though they haven’t reached the top yet, they come back more talented year after year cheering on the Terps.
28. Pennsylvania State University – University Park, Pennsylvania
Penn State is a cheerleading program on the rise with a great college and game day atmosphere to go with it. Both their All Girl and Coed teams made finals at the 2016 UCA College Nationals.
27. North Carolina State University – Raleigh, North Carolina
NC State is a program that is getting stronger every year. They field Division IA Large and Small Coed teams that compete at NCA College Nationals, as well as cheer for one of the nation’s top basketball programs. Their cheerleading teams have continued to move up in placements and reached the top in Small Coed this year.
26. Purdue University – West Lafayette, Indiana
Purdue University is a steadily improving squad that finished 2nd in Division I Small Coed at UCA this year. It is also a strong school academically and cheers on its teams in one of the bigger conferences.
25. University of Kansas – Lawrence, Kansas
The University of Kansas has become a strong school for cheerleading. All cheerleaders at KU receive scholarship money and get to cheer for football and for the men’s basketball team, who plays in what is considered to be one of the best college basketball environments at Allen Fieldhouse.
24. University of Michigan – Ann Arbor, Michigan
Michigan has taken home the title the last four years in the Intermediate Coed I Division and has placed in the top five seven consecutive times. Their cheerleaders also get to cheer on the Wolverines in the Big House on Saturday’s in the fall.
23. Clemson University – Clemson University
Not only did Clemson’s football team have one of their best finishes in 2016, but so did their cheerleading squad. With a top 5 Small Coed IA finish at NCA this year and sideline views for one of the best football programs in the country, Clemson University is a great place to cheer in college.
22. San Diego State University – San Diego, California
Living close to the beach in sunny California plus cheering on a strong All Girl or Small Coed competitive team was enough for SDSU to make our list.
21. University of Memphis – Memphis, Tennessee
The University of Memphis consistently has a strong cheerleading program and also offers some of the highest amounts in scholarships on this list. They recently made the switch to Small Coed and have fared well, after winning three titles and three top five finishes from 2004 to 2013 in All Girl and Coed Division IA.
20. Rutgers University – New Brunswick, New Jersey
Another program with strong All Girl and Coed competition teams and located with close proximity to New York City. Both the Coed and All Girl teams made finals at UCA Nationals this year.
19. University of South Florida – Tampa, Florida
Competitive All Girl and Coed teams paired with beach access and an improving football team makes South Florida a solid option for cheering in college.
18. Florida State University – Tallahassee, Florida
FSU fields both a Coed and All Girl cheerleading squad that competes at UCA Nationals. While they don’t offer cheerleading scholarships, getting to cheer on one of the country’s top football teams and living in a place with nice weather year round help make up for that.
17. Morehead State University – Morehead, Kentucky
If you want to be on one of the best cheerleading squads year in and year out, head on down to Morehead, Kentucky. Both their All Girl and Coed programs have 10 titles or more EACH. What Morehead lacks in size (as a university) and game day atmosphere, the make up for in cheerleading tradition and national championship rings.
16. University of Cincinnati – Cincinnati, Ohio
Cincinnati is a program on the rise, with a lot to cheer for. Their football and basketball programs are consistently strong and make postseason appearances, and their talent on the blue mat is catching up. After finishing 6th at nationals, Cincinnati is a solid college cheerleading destination.
15. Indiana University – Bloomington, Indiana
IU’s athletic department is known for their strong basketball history, but the All Girl cheerleaders at Indiana have made a name for themselves in the last few years after winning the All Girl Division IA category at UCA College Nationals four of the last five years. The University is very strong academically making it a great place to cheer while you are getting your education.
14. University of Tennessee – Knoxville, Tennessee
Nothing says game day atmosphere like leading a crowd of 103 thousand fans at every home football game. If game days in Knoxville aren’t enough to make Tennessee a top cheerleading destination, full ride scholarships and consistent top ten finishes at nationals should.
13. University of Oklahoma – Norman, Oklahoma
The University of Oklahoma has a storied athletic program with great teams for the cheerleaders to cheer for year round. They also have a strong cheerleading program composed of an All Girl and Coed team. Cheering on the Sooners in one of college football’s best conferences and getting to compete was enough for them to make it into our top 20.
12. Louisiana State University – Baton Rouge, Louisiana
LSU cheerleaders lead the massive crowd at one of the nation’s best college football venues, Tiger Stadium. They are no strangers to being on College Gameday on Saturdays and cheering huge games. They also fare well at UCA Nationals every year, consistently placing in the top 10.
11. Western Kentucky University – Bowling Green, Kentucky
WKU was one of only two universities at the 2015 UCA College National Championship to have two top ten finishes for Division IA All Girl (8th place) and Coed (5th place). Then, to prove that they are here to stay, THEY DID IT AGAIN in 2016, finishing 3rd in All Girl and 8th in Coed. Though in a smaller conference, the Hilltoppers consistently have good athletic programs and make many postseason appearances at tournaments and bowl games.
10. University of South Carolina – Columbia, South Carolina
The University of South Carolina has strong All Girl and Coed competition teams that compete at NCA Nationals and that leads the crowd at games for one of the SEC’s strongest athletic programs. Both their All Girl and Coed teams placed top five at NCA Nationals this year.
9. The Ohio State University – Columbus, Ohio
The Buckeye cheerleaders regularly get to cheer for one of the most competitive college football teams in the nation. They moved up on our list because they are becoming increasingly more competitive in cheer as well, placing 7th at Nationals this year.
8. Mississippi State University – Starkville, Mississippi
The Bulldogs of Mississippi State have it pretty nice – they cheer for athletics that are strong year after year in one of the biggest athletic conferences (Southeastern Conference) and represent their university in both the All Girl and Coed divisions at UCA College Nationals. On top of that, the school is located in Starkville, Mississippi, which is known for being a great little college town. Finishing in 5th place at Nationals this year in Division IA Coed, Mississippi State is getting more competitive year after year.
7. Texas Tech University – Lubbock, Texas
Texas Tech made the cut for our top cheerleading colleges because they are becoming increasingly more competitive at NCA Nationals and provide a great scholarship opportunity for their Coed and All Girl cheerleaders.
6. University of Mississippi – Oxford, Mississippi
Not only does Ole Miss have a great cheerleading program, they also have one of the most beautiful college campuses in the country and great athletic programs to cheer for. They award a good amount of scholarships to their cheerleaders and are improving in competition each year, with a top 5 finish in 2016.
5. University of Central Florida– Orlando, Florida
UCF is one of the perennial powerhouses in college cheerleading. They are consistently among the top three in Division IA Coed cheer, most recently coming in 2nd, and offer scholarships to up to 16 of its cheerleading squad members. The school is also in a great location, just a few minutes from Disney World and where the weather is nice pretty much year round making it an enjoyable place not just to cheer, but also to go to school.
4. Oklahoma State University – Stillwater, Oklahoma
Oklahoma State University is ranked almost every year not only in cheerleading, but also in football and basketball, making it a great place to cheer. Their Small Coed, All Girl, and Large Coed teams are consistently among the best at NCA Nationals each year.
3. University of Alabama – Tuscaloosa, Alabama
Getting to cheer for the most dominant football team in the last decade, having access to some of the best athletic facilities in the country, and being on one of the best cheerleading teams in the nation make Alabama one of our top colleges for cheer. The Crimson Tide’s cheerleading program recently made history when they won the Division IA cheerleading title in both Coed and All Girl, and put on strong performances at the last UCA College Nationals, placing 2nd in All Girl and 3rd in Coed.
2. University of Kentucky – Lexington, Kentucky
The 21-time UCA National Champions are near the top of this list for more than just their impressive number of titles. On game day, whether it be football or basketball, Kentucky fans show out in droves making UK not only one of the most competitive places to cheer at, but one of the most fun. From cheering big SEC games to Final Fours and National Championships, plus earning championships of their own, cheering at Kentucky is a perfect mix of sideline cheering and competition.
1. University of Louisville – Louisville, Kentucky
With 18 Division IA Coed titles, 5 Division IA All Girl wins (since the division split) and 6 Division IA Small Coed titles (since the division split), the U of L is home to the winningest program in NCA National titles. Aside from being one of the best competition teams in the country, they cheer for one of the nation’s elite basketball programs as well as for a football team that has done well in recent years.