Tune into the most popular college radio stations.
Looking for the biggest college radio stations to tune into this study session? Then you’ve come to the right place, read on for more…
College radio stations are a staple of the American student experience.
More than just a source of music and entertainment, the best college radio stations help to connect students in a meaningful way. Some of the top college radio stations are best-known for the feeling of camaraderie they create between current students and alumni alike.
College radio stations exploded in popularity during the 1960s, when the FCC began issuing new “D-class” licenses for smaller stations. Since then, almost every college has its own dedicated station to talk about student life and play fantastic music.
Is college radio still a thing? What are student radio stations?
College radio might seem like an outdated concept at a time when everyone has access to the internet and digital channels for entertainment. However, even in the age of podcasts and streaming, local college radio stations still have value to offer.
Perhaps the most compelling part of listening to college radio is connecting with a group of people dedicated to the same schooling experience. The top college radio stations in the US right now offer a unique combination of entertainment options.
You can tune in to listen to news, sports updates, music, and even special student programming.
The great thing about the college radio station is it’s not just the listeners who benefit here. Students also appreciate access to college radio programs because it offers them a chance to learn new skills.
Operating and managing a radio station teaches students technical skills and helps them with business and leadership talents. Students using college radio to share valuable information with peers also generate journalism skills.
The humble college radio actually plays an important role in educational communities.
Today’s most popular college radio stations stand out for various reasons. The top channels offer everything from excellent sound quality and signal strength to versatile content.
15 fantastic college radio stations to explore
Notably, the best student radio station for you will often depend on your preferences. Many people prefer to listen specifically to the college radio station they grew up with. If you went to a specific school, you’ll probably want to stick with the school’s station later in life.
Here are some of our top choices if you’re looking for the biggest college radio stations to start your student radio education.
1. WUSF 89.7 FM
The flagship national public radio station of Tampa Bay, this radio channel is owned by South Florida’s University. The channel began in 1963, only around 7 years after the USF college being founded.
In 1976, WUSF became the first public radio station in the country, and the first in Florida to launch access to HD radio signals.
Today, the WUSF 89.7 channel includes all kinds of news and talk programming, with jazz music at night. There are various programs and unique talk shows on the weekend, including “Radio Lab”.
There’s even access to HD classical music from the sister station WSMR, for people who need extra help concentrating during their study sessions.
2. WSBU 88.3 FM
Known best as “rock radio 88.3”, or “The Buzz”, the WSBU radio station is a non-commercial radio station, nationally recognized throughout the US. This station is licensed to Saint Bonaventure University in New York.
Run and managed entirely by students, the WSBU station has around 200 volunteers keeping it up and running at all times.
The station is versatile in the kind of programming it offers, from alternative rock music throughout the week to classic rock and hip-hop on weekends. The station also has an internet version, so you can stream online if you don’t have the best FM connection.
The WSBU station has gained a lot of attention and recognition from publications over the years.
3. WERS 88.9 FM
One of two radio stations hosted by Emerson College in Boston Massachusetts, WERS 88.9 and WECB work together to provide access to a host of different entertainment options. This college radio station offers easy access to a host of news reporting and musical sessions.
There are more than 20 different styles of music to explore, and live performances are common too.
WERS is the oldest non-commercial station available in New England today. The station began running in November 1949. Among the founders of the station was the professor Arthur F. Edes, who taught broadcasting courses at the college in 1932.
Ithaca’s college radio station launched in 1941, within the Little Theater dressing rooms of Ithaca. Though the hosts originally struggled with access to equipment, the radio station rapidly gained attention and critical acclaim.
This station is widely regarded as one of the most popular student radio stations around, broadcasting alternative music to the Ithica, New York area.
Along with access to all kinds of alternative music, WICB also provides access to programming in various different formats, including reggae, jazz, hip-hop, urban music, and sports broadcasting. News broadcasting is also available from Westwood One.
The station has won various awards, including being the number one most popular college radio station according to Princeton’s Review in 2014.
5. KASC AM
KASC, otherwise known as Blaze radio, is an AM station serving all of the four campuses in Arizona State University. This student-run college station broadcasts 24-hours per day throughout the school year.
The station broadcasts out of the state-of-the-art radio studio at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism. Interviews with popular artists and professionals are common on this station.
The great thing about the KASC student radio station is the experience it offers students. People on campus can volunteer to cover a range of roles, from performance and programming to sports commentating, production, sales, and management.
6. WGRE 91.5 FM
Serving Greencastle, Indiana in the United States, WGRE is one of the oldest stations in the US. Many argue this station was the first student-run station in the educational environment, with a 10-watt broadcast delivered first in 1949.
Today, this station represents one of the largest student organizations at DePauw university, with around 200 DJs getting involved on a regular basis.
Ranking in the top ten of the Princeton college review rankings for radio stations over a number of years, the station is best-known for playing alt-rock sounds. There’s also plenty of opportunity to check out new alternative artists on this station, through interviews and exclusive live songs.
7. WKCR 89.9 FM
A station located in New York, the WKCR-FM radio station belongs to the Columbia University in New York today. Among the most popular student radio stations in the United States, this channel has an interesting history.
The station began life as the Columbia University Radio Club. The exact date of origin isn’t known, but documentation dates back to 1908.
The station today plays a host of different musical styles, including Hip Hop and Jazz. WKCR has struggled with a few difficult periods throughout the years, closing its doors from time to time around major historical events in the US, like September 11th.
8. WASU 90.5
Another great example of a college radio station known for its alternative music, the WASU-FM station in Boone, North Carolina is owned by Appalachian State University.
Along with plenty of rock music, the station has a range of other channels and shows to explore, including a weekly news segment covering local information.
In 2021, the WASU channel won the “College Radio Woodie Award”.
Specialty shows like “Back to the 80s”, and Indie Hour ensure everyone gets a taste of their preferred music when tuning into WASU. The station is also well-known for hosting live interviews with low-key indie artists before they make it big.
9. WRHU 88.7
One of the many top college radio stations located in New York, WRHU 88.7 FM is a student station in Hempstead, operated by the Hofstra University. The main radio home of the New York Islanders games, the station includes a lot of sporting news and commentary.
Current students at Hofstra are responsible for engineering, producing, and performing on-air duties.
WHRU also broadcasts sporting news alongside the NY Islander veteran Chris King. The station was named the top non-commercial station of the year by the National Association of Broadcasters in 2019, 2017, and 2014.
This college radio station has also appeared in the Princeton review of college radio station rankings several times.
10. KEXP 90.3
More than just your average radio station, KEXP-FM is a public radio station in Washington, Seattle, specializing in indie rock and alternative music. The KEXP student radio station hosts all kinds of weekly programs dedicated to various musical genres like world music, blues, rockabilly, and electronica.
Rather than identifying itself as just another college station, KEXP describes itself as a dynamic arts organization with all kinds of unique DJ events.
The first station to produce a host of real-time playlists, the KEXP-FM station regularly schedules live in-studio performances from some pretty impressive up-and-coming artists. Backing from the Friends of KEXP organization keeps the radio station running smoothly.
11. KUPS 90.1 FM
Another non-commercial radio station standing as one of the biggest college radio stations in the US, is KUPS 90.1 FM. This station in Tacoma Washington began operations back in 1968, as part of an experiment exploring closed-circuit broadcasting.
At this time, the station was only available in buildings within the campus of the University of Puget Sound.
Today, the KUPS station broadcasts every day, 24 hours a day, to the greater Tacoma region. People elsewhere in the world can also tune into the station online. The KUPS station features over 120 student volunteers working alongside staff members to create a unique listening experience.
There are many different genres on this station at any given time, from alternative rock to jazz and hip hop.
12. WCWS 90.9
Otherwise known as WKWO or “WOO”, this station in Wooster Ohio is a fantastic public-service college radio station. Offering access to all kinds of amazing content, this is one of the most versatile college radio stations on our list.
Today’s listeners can easily tune into everything from lectures and talk shows, to indie rock, up-and-coming music presentations and insights into local sports.
This high-quality radio station has appeared on the Most Popular College Station Awards list created by Princeton, although it may not be as high up in the rankings as some alternatives. On the plus side, this is a great station to tune into wherever you are in the world thanks to the online version of the show.
13. KALX 90.7
Broadcasting from the University of California in Berkley, the KALX 90.7 radio station is managed and developed entirely by students and the surrounding community.
There are three full-time paid staff members working on the radio station, but more than 300 volunteers work to bring the entire experience together. The station began broadcasting in 1962 and has quickly evolved into one of the top college radio stations in the US.
The radio station has churned out a number of valuable alumni, including Bob Sarlatte, the sports announcer and actor. Today, listeners can tune in to all kinds of different musical genres, as well as local sports updates, news commentary and talk shows.
14. WCRD 91.3 FM
Also known as WWHI, the WCRD college radio station is operated by the students at the Indiana Muncie Ball State University. Advertised with the slogan “Always Better”, the station streams out of the David Letterman building for communication and media at Ball State University.
This popular radio station keeps audiences informed with regular news updates and sporting insights. You can check out all kinds of announcements about high school sports too – which is an uncommon bonus for most listeners.
The radio station is actually funded by the former alumnus, David Letterman. Aside from offering insights into local news happenings, WRCD is popular for access to all kinds of top 40 music and alternative rock.
Students working within the station have the opportunity to learn how to use production equipment, experiment with their announcing talents, and more.
The campus radio station operates just like a real radio station, to give the students the best experience possible. This channel will give you insights into sports coverage and news from around the area, as well as trending music.
There are usually a host of student contests and talk show snippets available within the channel too.
Why is college radio important?
College radio, like standard radio, has endured the test of time, maintaining popularity decades after its original introduction. When answering the question, “What is the best college radio station”, it’s worth noting why these stations are so important.
Not only do you get a unique entertainment experience when tuning into a college radio station, but you support a student’s education too.
College radio stations are useful because they teach skills in everything from broadcasting and advertising, to engineering, programming, and even business skills.
Students have a chance to learn about broadcasting rules in their local area, FCC regulations, and what it takes to become a journalist in the current landscape. Many people find it helpful to work within a college radio initiative when developing their talents at university.
Is college radio dead?
Aside from the traditional radio station experience, a lot of campus locations today offer the opportunity to produce things like articles, podcasts, original shows, and news stories as part of the radio experience. All of these opportunities give students access to new skills in writing and research.
So, the answer to the question is that college radio is very much alive.
How do I submit my music to college radio stations?
Learning how to submit music to college radio stations often means reaching out to the station itself. Creating a college station requires the educational faculty at a school to go through various steps, including earning approval from the correct regulatory groups.
After setting up a college radio station, most students and the faculty of that university will work together to find sources of music and entertainment unique to the area.
There are often contact forms available on the radio channel’s website, so people can learn how to get in touch if they want to offer free music to share or look into setting up an interview.
Many college radio stations also encourage donations and financial support from those who can offer it. College radio channels rely heavily on the support of local and student volunteers to stay up and running.
Some do gain additional financial support from alumni and government grants too.
Enjoying the biggest college radio stations
College radio stations offer a unique experience to those in search of a local, and community-driven station. College radio today might not be as popular as it once was in certain states, due to the rise of various podcasts and online streaming options.
However, it’s worth remembering all kinds of radio still attract a huge listenership.
According to the 2019 Audio Today Report from Nielsen, radio still reaches more listeners than any other medium, with around 245 million people tuning in on a regular basis.
For students at a campus, surrounding locals, and alumni, college radio also provides an excellent way to stay in touch with your local community.