*In-state, two semesters' tuition and required fees. Source: U.S. News Best Colleges 2012.
Founded as the Agricultural and Mechanical College of the State of Mississippi in 1878, it was renamed Mississippi State College in 1932 and Mississippi State University in 1958.
Town: Starkville (pop. 28,388)
Nickname: Originally the Aggies, they became the Maroons in 1932 and settled on the Bulldogs in 1961. In 1905, after they defeated Ole Miss, students marched with a bulldog pup on top of a coffin through town in a military funeral parade to celebrate their rival’s dead athletic spirit.
Colors: Maroon and white
Traditions: Fans celebrate victories by ringing cowbells because of a story about a dairy cow wandering onto the field years ago. Another tradition is the gathering of students and alumni in what is today called the Junction. The center of football tailgating on campus, the green space is where train tracks once crossed the campus; original rails are still embedded.
Eats and treats: In 1938, when dairy science department head F.H. Herzer wanted to manufacture a cheese that would draw attention to MSU, he decided on three-pound cannonball Edam cheese. It is still made and sold at the MSU Cheese Store. Breakfast is king at the Starkville Café, and for fine dining and atmosphere, try Restaurant Tyler.
Places and spaces: Start on Main Street for boutique shopping, then work your way through the Southern-style architecture in the Cotton District. Early ROTC cadets had morning and evening drill at the Drill Field, a popular meeting place at the center of campus.