My first summer after college was one big blur: In just a couple of weeks, I went from hitting the books to hitting the streets for a new job in a brand new city.
Although it took only five hours and one overloaded U-Haul to relocate from my small Iowa town to Chicago, deciding where to live after school was really tough. I ended up choosing Chicago for a number of reasons: I was familiar with the city; a friend of mine lived there and was looking for a roommate; I knew public transportation would be easily accessible; and from the research I’d done, job availability in my field seemed decent. So, after drafting a bunch of ‘pros and cons’ lists, I finally made a decision.
If you’re having trouble choosing where to put down post-college roots, my advice is to narrow your debate by considering these key things:
Cost of living: You’ll want to think about how much you’re willing to dish out for rent and utilities each month, especially if you have student loan payments looming. You can find plenty of cost-of-living comparisons online, like this one from Forbes, but it also helps to ask recent grads in those cities how much they pay in rent. You can even contact local utility companies to find out residents’ average rates. For a closer estimate, you should factor in transportation costs, such as parking stickers if you drive, or train and bus passes if you’ll be going public.
Career: Without a job, staying afloat can be a serious challenge, no matter where you’re living. Do some recon with people you know in the area to see how quickly they were able to find jobs—and whether the work they found was relevant to their desired industries. You may also want to consider calling your college’s alumni office. Someone there could connect you with alums in your prospective place of residence or direct you to career services in that city.
Climate: Do you spend all year waiting for ski season? Maybe you cringe when a light breeze brings temps below 75 degrees. Either way, your preferred weather is important when choosing where to shack up after school. If I hated snow, I’d never be able to stomach the knee-high snowdrifts I encountered during my most recent Chicago winter.
Connections: If you can’t handle the thought of entering the “real world” alone, moving someplace where you have a solid network of friends or family members is probably a smart choice. On the other hand, if you crave the adventure of moving completely on your own, that’s worth a shot, too. One of my college friends took a risk by moving 2,000 miles from everyone he knew—and ended up finding a great group of friends and a fast-paced job he loves.
Crime rate: Your parents may never stop worrying about you, but now’s the time when your safety is based on your own choices. Educate yourself about the relative crime rates of different neighborhoods you’re looking into and find out which areas of town you might want to avoid. For additional insight, Allstate’s Common & Costly Claims tool can help you see which types of insurance claims, such as theft and property damage, are most common in the zip codes you’re considering.
Choosing where to settle down after college can be stressful, but if you take the time to think about your wants and needs, you’ll end up in the perfect place to jumpstart your success.