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The College Graduate City Search, Part I: Factors to Consider for Post-Grad Living

Category: Singles

By Shannon Keating

A few million college seniors are entering the new year with the same realization: 2013 will bring one final semester before the glory days wind to a close and the so-called Real World beckons. One of the most important things to consider for the rising college grad is where to relocate for the beginning of their twenties. Leaving college means entry level positions fetching coffee, pushing mail carts, and working long hours for little pay – but it also means living in bustling apartments overflowing with friends, splurging on a night out at that new bar downtown, and getting to experience a brand new lifestyle in a brand new city.

Choosing where to go after a stint in Mom and Dad’s basement can be one of the most simultaneously stressful and exciting decisions of post-college living. To lessen the stress and heighten the excitement, we have compiled a list of things to consider before honing in any place in particular.


How important is being close to home?

Before you go barreling out your front door, you should consider how long it will be before you’re returning next. While many college grads will have experience with time spent away from home while they’ve been at school, having the large and almost family-like support system of friends, faculty and staff is quite different from launching oneself into a new environment with a much smaller network of contacts – maybe even without knowing anyone at all. College does offer plenty of independence, but with the reliability and comforts of dining halls, laundry rooms, and dormitories full of friendly neighbors, very few recent grads have gotten a taste of life fully and completely on their own. Are you prepared to move hundreds of miles away from the comforts and familiar faces of your hometown, or would you like to be able to pop back home for the occasional weekend?

Are you following a particular industry?

If your career is your number one goal, scouting out the best cities for your industry should be near the top of your list. Those pursuing television production, for example, would do best to consider Los Angeles or New York over, say, Denver or Atlanta. Even areas not quite so obvious as Hollywood are hotspots for certain other industries. Whether you’re interested in software development, engineering, or public relations, certain cities are better for your field than others.

Who is living where?

You have probably been asking everyone already. Figuring out where your friends are going to be can help you start building your new network before you leave the old, especially if you’re a little hesitant about being far from home.Your social life and budding career could be particularly enriched if you were to consider a city or area to which alumni from your university typically flock. Meeting new people – at work, at the gym, in classes – is an exciting part of early twenties life, but it won’t be quite as fast or easy as it was in college. Determining which of your friends are thinking of the same city you are can lead to a motley crew of your past classmates piling into one very small (but doubtlessly very cheery) first apartment together, or at least having some of them close by.

What are your finances like? 

Especially if you’ve decided to take the plunge, pack up a couple boxes, and haul yourself across the country, a preemptive evaluation of your financial situation is (unfortunately) necessary. Do you have enough money to float yourself for a couple months at least, particularly if you’re heading to your new place without a job already lined up?

To have a better idea of how long you can sustain yourself financially, when deciding on your city pay attention to things like cost of living, unemployment rates, average salaries for your occupation, and the average percentages of income that renters spend on housing. Being on an entry-level salary with a thousand new expenses is hard enough without being in a city that’s financially crippling toward recent grads.

Will your stay be temporary or more long-term?

There’s nothing like experiencing a different part of the country when you’re young and free. If you’re still unsure of the industry into which you’ll be entering, why not try out a place you’ve always wanted to go – a hub of nightlife, or a cultural capital? If you plan on going to graduate school in another year or two, all the more reason to experiment and enjoy life pre- (most) responsibility since you’ll be picking up and moving on soon. You could try waiting tables in San Diego or Key West while working on your novel and fellowship applications in the evenings. There is no better time to live somewhere new and unexpected.

What’s your apartment strategy?

After you’ve figured out if you’re living with friends or seeking out roommates, consider ranking your apartment priorities. Is there a certain neighborhood you are dying to live in? Is price your biggest concern? Would you like roommates to be your rowdy new best friends or the quiet type who will leave you in peace? After these considerations, you should probably decide if you’re comfortable seeing a few pictures on a room on Craigslist and putting down a deposit, or if you’d rather see your new home and neighbors face-to-face before you commit. If it’s the latter, try out a hotel or youth hostel for about a week or so when you arrive and go see listings in person, as well as scouting out old-fashioned paper postings of apartments in places like churches and community centers.

Other generalities 

Cities with low average ages mean lots of other young people to befriend, and cultures and ambiances that are lively and youthful. Access to public transportation is another large plus for the fast-traveling, budget-attempting grad. And unless you’re planning on saving up some cash on tips or a temp paycheck for a year or two, it’s best to try and secure a job before graduation hits, especially if your budget is tight. Then, by the time you arrive, you have nothing to worry about besides picking out your Ikea furniture, navigating the metro, and deciding which spin class to join.


Choosing where to live on your own for the first time is a balancing act of dozens of different factors. Facts and statistics are important, but in the end you need to decide on the place that feels right for you. In the second installment of this article, The College Graduate City Search: part II, we’ll let you know some of our own 2013 top city picks for recent grads.

Posted by admin on January 16th, 2013

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