The naturally anxious demographic of college students are known to overthink things. Personally, thinking about my fate as a college graduate seems to cause me an uncontrollable amount of stress. Questions like, “What job do I want to have?”, “How do I know that my major is right for me?” and “Will I make enough money?” will, or already have, crossed the minds of most every college student regardless of how easygoing and placid they claim to be.
However, as a generation of graduates transition from working as full-time students to full-time members of the U.S. workforce, the decision of where we want to live has become more and more important. Unlike in the past, people tend to consider their lifestyle choices over cost or employment opportunities when moving to new places. On top of everything else, many college students have a difficult time comparing cities, and, in the end, deciding on which one to live in.
In no particular order, here is my list of the best cities to live in after graduation:
- New York City, N.Y.: As someone who grew up an hour outside of “the city” (slang for Northerners, because we would never call it "The Big Apple"), it's hard to see why anyone wouldn’t want to live there. Since childhood, I’ve planned on following in the footsteps of my parents and cousins who have all experienced living in New York City first hand. Between the breathtaking Highline Park in Manhattan’s Meatpacking District and the tasteful restaurant scene in Brooklyn, it's hard to narrow down my favorite things about New York. For those who haven’t had the chance to visit the city, shows such as “Girls,” “Sex in the City,” “Seinfeld” and “Gossip Girl”have managed create a certain allure about the city. To me, paying the average rent of $3,017 a month is all worth it for the experience. But don’t let the price stop you. There are plenty of places to buy sleeping bags for your 540 square foot studio apartment in Williamsburg, Brooklyn!
- Austin, Texas: Known as a city for music lovers and college students, Austin has recently become exceedingly popular with people in search of adventure. In order to cater to the largest population of young people in the U.S. — 18.9 percent of Austin’s population is between the ages of 25-34 — the city has invested a great deal of time and money in commercial and recreational entities in and throughout the city. Some areas in Austin, especially those in Downtown Austin, have gone to great lengths to protect, as well as evolve, the city's vibrant social scene. With live music at every corner of Congress Avenue (the core roadway of Austin), it's hard not to feel like a college kid again. And even though this may not be the selling point for parents who have decided to generously pay for some of the rent, the presence of ad agencies and technology firms headquartered in the city may spark their interest.
- Washington, D.C.: Beyond the typical poli-sci major and prospective non-profit employee, D.C. is home to one of the country's most diverse populations. It not only boasts a whopping number of young professionals, but it also ranks No. 2 on the list of cities with the highest availability of professional, technical, management and creative jobs in the country. With a walkable landscape and extensive list of corporations and organizations headquartered in or around the city limits, our nation's capital may be the best place to begin your post-graduate journey of success (or "Frank Underwood-esque" political ambitions).
- San Francisco, Calif. and Portland, Ore.: Don’t care what anybody else thinks? Interested in pursuing your photography career? Maybe you just like the West Coast? If you answered "yes" to any of those questions, then you may want to consider living in San Fran or Portland. San Francisco has become a great city for the average techie interested in living near Silicon Valley. And while the average rent prices may compete only with the likes of NYC, the average annual salary for a college grad working in SF is $67,641 — not too bad! Separately, Portland has experienced a cultural revival unlike any other city in recent years. So much so that SNL alum Fred Armisen has been able to produce a show called Portlandia. No, this isn't a show about people who happen to live in Portland, it's about the city, and the semi-fictionalized counter cultures that redefine what it means to be a feminist and an activist for locally grown organic produce. Though you may need to work after college (ugh), at least you can ride your bike and not worry that some raged driver could possibly hit you.
- Raleigh, N.C.: So close, but yet so far away. For many Elon students, the RDU airport is as close as they get to saying that they've been to Raleigh. In fact, there is much more to North Carolina's capital city. If you ever get the chance to take a day trip, I would absolutely recommend spending a few hours walking around South Williamson Street and eating at the array of Ashley Christensen restaurants like "Beasley’s Chicken and Honey" and "Joule Coffee." Tasting some of the state’s best chicken and waffles may easily convince you to stay close after graduation. And with job opportunities at every corner of the aptly named "Research Triangle" (between Raleigh, Durham and Chapel Hill), it's easy to see why Forbes rated it the "Best City in America" in 2011.