It’s no real secret that popular radio stations just ain’t what they used to be. Unless you’re into Top 40, “Soft Country,” or hearing the same Drake, Kanye West, or Beyonce songs over and over and over again, mainstream radio stations leave a lot to be desired.
If you’re not yet ready to switch over to a streaming service, or still want to discover new music the old fashioned way, you’re going to have to search the dial pretty thoroughly to find out which local stations offer the best alternatives. We love college radio because they care less about advertisers and more about quality programming. In fact, we’d happily argue that lower-band college stations are broadcasting some of the best radio waves in the country right now, and we did the research to prove it. Here are the top 7 college radio stations in the country that you can stream online right now.
The tag line at KVRX 91.7 in Austin is, “None of the hits, all of the time.” If that’s not the best opening for a badass radio station, we don’t know what is. As the student-run radio station at the University of Texas in Austin, KVRX has made its personal mission to avoid popular radio airplay and bring their listeners only the best songs we didn’t know we loved, or play stuff we won’t hear anywhere else. Aside from killer alternative programming, KVRX also has their Local Live series, where they record live sets of local Austin bands that we probably wouldn’t get to hear otherwise. Link
South Orange, New Jersey
Seton Hall’s student-run, non-commercial radio is all about rock and roll, and has been for the last 30 years. WSOU proudly notes on its website that it was the first radio station in the area to give bands like Pearl Jam, The Smashing Pumpkin, Rage Against the Machine, and even My Chemical Romance some of their first local (and even national) radio play, and takes great pride in the station’s ability to bring new and innovative rock and roll music to the main stage. If you’re looking for a good punk rock, metal, or hardcore station on this list, WSOU fits the bill perfectly. Link
Consistently ranked as one of the best college stations in the entire country, WGRE 91.5 out of Greencastle, Indiana, is the student-run radio station out of DePauw University. Its tagline is “Your Sound Alternative,” and to give you an idea of just how excellent their programming is, some of the inclusions on November’s “Top 15” list include The Growlers, Modern Baseball, Bon Iver, and Tycho. They’ve also won numerous local and national awards from organizations like the Associated Press and the Society of Professional Journalists. If there’s one thing we can say about radio, it’s that when stations meld quality and taste together, the outcome is simply superb—and WGRE proves it. Link
DePaul University is the single-largest Catholic university in the entire United States. Home to 24,000 students and located in Chicago, its student-run radio station, Radio DePaul, is surprisingly fantastic. Radio DePaul only allows student DJs who are actively pursuing a career in radio broadcasting, and it definitely shows. The Intercollegiate Broadcasting System has awarded them Best College Station in the Nation, Most Creative Show, Most Innovative Program, Best Newscast, and even Best Sports Update. If you’re looking for quality old-school radio, this is it. Link
St. Bonaventure, New York
St. Bonaventure University’s Radio Station, WSBU 88.3 The Buzz, is a station you’ve probably never heard of. It has 16 student directors, 200 volunteers, and only a 165-watt broadcast antenna. Yet, the Princeton Review ranked it one of the best college radio stations in the country for its quality local news coverage and eclectic programming that strives to feature the best in everything from indie rock to hip hop.
According to the FAQ section on their site, regarding what kind of music they play: “You name it. We get tons of new releases every week. We take the stuff we get and throw everything at the wall to see what sticks. If you love music but you’re sick of radio, tune us in. We refuse to bore you”
That’s a message we can get behind! Link
Hempstead, New York
Hofstra University’s university-owned, student-run radio station, 88.7 WRHU, is a variety format radio station that isn’t just home to the New York Islanders games, but also to some of the most unique and innovative programming in the country. For over 50 years, they’ve been helping to groom on-air talent for success, and their care and guidance really does show in their programming. You’ll find a wide array of music selections, ranging from hip hop, to country, to Latin, and even Italian, as well as rock, alternative, and indie. They run the gamut, and play the stuff you simply won’t find anywhere else. Link
Boone, North Carolina
The only station on this list to win an MTVu Woodie Award for best college radio station of the year, WASU 90.5, Appalachian State’s student-run radio station, is one of the absolute best stations on this list. Aside from only allowing broadcasting students a spot in their DJ booth, WASU is famous for spotting some of the biggest names in indie and alternative rock before they make it big. The amount of tact and care that goes into the program selecting here is nothing short of remarkable. Link