(Editor’s Note: Today’s post continues a three-part series about a common rite of passage for college graduates – moving away after obtaining one’s degree.)
Words can’t elucidate the whirl of emotions I experienced in 2013 as I was preparing for graduation. I was ecstatic for my last exam to be done – no more discussion boards, mid-terms, or group presentations! That was followed by a wave of nostalgia, during which I was constantly thinking about the memories I had created over the past four years. I was disheartened that my core group of friends might never live in the same city again, yet so grateful to have had them in my life.
Aside from all of that sappy reminiscing, I was nervous about the choices I had moving forward.
I had the best four years at Arizona State University, creating friendships and memories that will last a lifetime; nonetheless as I neared graduation, I was ready for a new chapter – in a new city. But where?
The “perfect” city was crafted clearly in my head: I wanted big, hectic city streets, with endless sunshine, surrounded by friends and family. While my vision was crystal clear, I faced a tiny problem – where was it? Did that even exist? Spanning across the country, there were so many great places to live that encompassed what I was looking for. In fact, I had so many options available that it all seemed overwhelming and nerve-wracking.
One of the things I learned after my graduation, and something you might find ultimately comforting, is that moving to a new area isn’t a final decision – it is merely a new chapter. Change is the biggest constant in life, so there is no need to feel bound to the first place you move to after college. There is so much to explore and experience, if that is something you desire. Here are some essential factors to take into consideration when selecting the perfect city for you.
Factors To Help You Determine Your Dream City
Cost of Living
How do people actually live in New York City or San Francisco? Affordability is one of the biggest factors to look at when moving, and this often deters those who are hesitant about their finances.
I quickly realized how spoiled I was with Phoenix’s overall low cost of living as I did my research on other cities I was considering. However, that didn’t nix my decision to move. When considering multiple cities, first focus on housing costs in various neighborhoods as well as salary ranges.
In the table below, Trulia (a company that develops innovative mobile and web products for home buyers, renters and sellers)calculated rental affordability for employed college graduates between ages 22 and 25 years old. The most affordable metros only cost recent grads 31 percent of the local median income for that age group, including rental payment and renter’s insurance.
Top 5 most affordable metros for renting with a newly grad’s income
% of Rentals Affordable to New Grads
Median Income of New Grads
Income Needed to Afford Median Rent
Max Monthly Rent Payment for an Affordable Unit
# of Roommates Needed to Pay Median Rent
*For more information on methodology and full data set, reference Trulia’s original article.
Aside from apartment costs, dive in a little deeper to determine a realistic amount you will be spending in a particular city. Essentials like gas, food, and travel will fluctuate based on where you live, but each city will offer different lifestyle routines that may put a dent in your bank account. Living by the beach may spark your interest in buying a surfboard while a snowboard might be essential in Denver.
Career longevity continues to decline, as millennials have established ‘job hopping’ as a norm. While we don’t start a new position with the intention of leaving, it is smart to think about the bigger picture of your career. As mentioned in the preceding post in this series, Should You Move?, it’s a good idea to look at the industries that dominate prospective cities. A year after graduating, I found myself in the midst of a career change in my new hometown of San Diego. That city is rapidly becoming a tech hub, so I did my research and found a new career path that better fit my skillset, without having to leave the metro area.
Achieving a work life balance and keeping yourself stimulated outside work is essential post-graduate advice that I will forever preach. Each city offers a unique vibe and culture that can’t be replicated anywhere else. I moved out to San Diego very unsure about the choice that I had made at first. Surprisingly, I actually never thought I would be in the state of California, let alone on the beach; I just didn’t think it was for me. It wasn’t until I began exploring the city and emerging myself into activities that I felt like San Diego was home, not just a temporary phase.
As an employee, some spend multiple hours-per-day stuck in traffic, going to and from work, while others have the luxury of stepping out of their high-rise apartment and actually gazing at their office. How will you manage your commute? Consider how long the commute would take in a car vs. public transportation and don’t forget to factor in traffic during rush hour. As I was exploring cities, I would get onto Google Maps and look at traffic in various cities at 8 a.m. and again at 5 p.m. to gauge traffic in specific areas.
Are you ready to ditch your car post-graduation? Hold off until you are certain you won’t need one in your new city. Research transportation options and talk to others about the reality of taking public transportation. Most adults living in cities like New York City and Washington, D.C., rely on the metro and bus systems because of the wide accessibility in those areas. Those trying to navigate public transportation in Los Angles might have a different story – it can be a pretty big nightmare when it’s your only option.
Although this might not be a priority for some, accessibility to the airport and overall travel experience should definitely be weighed in, especially if your position requires travel or if you will be living farther away from family. If a city doesn’t have a major airport nearby, traveling can be expensive and lengthy. Additionally, if the airport itself is small, flights coming in and going out of the city might be limited.
Safety is a major consideration when moving to a new area - be prepared! Photo via Visualhunt.
Cities like Detroit, Oakland, and Memphis are historically known for their high crime rates and dangerous ambiance – how many times have you seen them featured in a The Most Dangerous City to Live In article? However, all cities will endure crime, and the more affordable areas within a bigger city often have higher crime rates.
While you should definitely research crime rates in cities and specific neighborhoods within, it is important to prepare accordingly as you move into a new home. I spoke with Craig Orent, a criminal attorney in Phoenix, who suggested the following for anyone moving into a new area, regardless of reported crime rates:
- For those living in an apartment complex, or any gated community, get detailed information on the security system in place: security guards, patrol units, security cameras, etc. Unfortunately, many apartments have security systems set up but often don’t use them as regularly as one would assume. Make sure to ask questions as you are viewing places.
- Have adequate insurance coverage in case a burglary does occur.
- Improve lighting in your home. Intruders usually attempt to enter a home that is vacant. Some suggest placing timers on your lights, so they will turn on and off automatically when you aren’t home.
- Car break-ins are extremely common, even if you hold a spot in a parking garage. Always assess the lighting of the parking area never leave anything in your vehicle.
Students at ASU typically have lived a pretty luxurious life in the Phoenix area when it comes to the weather; how many of you were at the pool this past January? However, reality hits hard when you experience a blizzard, and find out warmer weather doesn’t make its arrival in many areas until April (what?!?). Check out weather patterns in different cities and talk to anyone who has lived in the area. Even if the freezing temperatures don’t scare you off, you may need to completely revamp your wardrobe.
Have You Found It?
Sacrificing some of your preferences will be inevitable as you review prospective new hometowns, so remember that your happiness is created by you – through your actions and your willpower. When moving into a new city, leading with optimism and excitement are critical. You are just days away from your next big adventure! Don’t let fear and stress take away such an exciting, pivotal point. Do your homework and be vigilant before making a big decision, but hold on to that euphoria of graduating and carry it through to the next chapter of your life.
~ By Katie Bassett ’13 B.S., who has a degree in supply chain management and an international business certificate from the W. P. Carey School of Business. Additional information was supplied by Samuel Brannan, a content strategist with Trulia, a company that develops innovative mobile and web products for home buyers, renters and sellers.