From job opportunities to social circles to breakfast tacos, here's what inspired people to settle down in their college towns.
The just-released Top 10 Best Cities for Recent College Grads list is an indispensable guide for recent (and soon-to-be) graduates who are deciding where to relocate. Our data team looked at income, education levels, and job opportunities to identify the 10 best cities in the country for young people to start the next chapter of their personal and professional lives.
But there’s another aspect to the post-college relocation discussion we wanted to make sure to cover: the option of making your college town a long-term home base. After all, as exciting as it can be to start fresh somewhere new after receiving your diploma, college towns are indisputably great places to live.
We wanted to know more about why people opt to put down roots in their college towns, so we talked to 10 people who moved to a new city for college – and decided to stay there after graduation.
1. “I stayed in Madison because it felt like home.”
“I transferred to UW-Madison after a difficult freshman year at a small private college. I felt immediately at home and comfortable in Madison, and as simple as it sounds, that’s what motivated me to find a way to stay.
I work on the UW campus, and have the opportunity to create and maintain a welcoming environment for today’s students, much as others did for me. I have never felt out of place here, the way I have in other communities. I appreciate living in a place where knowledge and intelligence are valued.”
– Laura, Librarian from Janesville, WI
2. “I stayed in Champaign to start my business.”
“I came to Champaign for graduate school in University of Illinois at the Institute for Genomic Biology, where we developed technologies to speed up biological discovery and engineering. We spun off from the University in 2017 and started a company to commercialize the technologies in the UI Research Park. Running the business in Champaign helps us access the talents and academic resources on U of I campus. The low cost of living here also keeps our operating costs down. Champaign-Urbana has all the convenience we need within a 10-min drive, and it’s multicultural and open to diversity.”
– Ran, Entrepreneur & Researcher from Taiyuan, Shanxi, China
3. “I stayed in Blacksburg to continue the work I started as a student.”
“As a student at Virginia Tech, I had the opportunity to work as a student developer. I was given a chance to make that a full-time job, which would allow me to keep working with people that had become friends. In addition, I had a great relationship with my boss (who still is, but we mostly treat each other as peers now), which has made work super enjoyable.
The small town feel in Blacksburg is fantastic! We’ve had many opportunities to serve, work, and learn with others while we’ve been raising a family of our own. I also love the openness that exists in a university town, where diversity of ideas and opinions is not only welcomed, but encouraged.”
– Michael, Software Developer from Smithfield, VA
4. “I stayed in Corvallis for a job and friends.”
“We did not have plans to stay in Corvallis originally. I got married in college, and we moved away after I was finished, but we wanted to come back home after working seasonally in Colorado for a couple of years. When we came back to Oregon, we decided on Corvallis due to the job market. So, I guess the job market and friends made us come back.
We actually live in Philomath, it being cheaper to live and still very close to Corvallis, but we like the small town feel. It’s compact, easily travelled by alternative means (bike, walking paths, etc). I also love the closeness to farms for fresh food and the people who are passionate about their local foods and products.”
– Ashley, Office Manager from Beaverton, OR
5. “I stayed in Nashville for the ‘big small town feel.'”
“Six months before I graduated from Belmont in Nashville, I thought I’d move home to Rhode Island after college. There, I’d work for my mom, who’s a small town dentist. My plan at the time was to go to dental school, but that changed about four months before I graduated when I decided I wanted to be a writer instead.
I’ve been in Nashville for almost 13 years now. I’ve seen it go from a sleepy, country music town, to a city that’s buzzing with tech, finance, and entertainment. What I’ve always loved about Nashville is its big small town feel. Yes, there’s a great urban core you can go have fun in, but you can also easily get out into more quiet and rural areas in less than 10 minutes. There’s a lot of young energy, here. Great food. Somewhat affordable housing. Plus, it’s a great jumping-off point for travel to other locations around the U.S. The airport is easy to get to, and flies almost anywhere.”
– Chris, Writer and Producer from Hope Valley, RI
6. “I stayed in Richmond because I love the city (and hate moving).”
“I moved to Richmond to attend VCU because I had friends come here and love it, and I came to visit several times and really loved how it wasn’t a “regular” campus. The city was the campus, really.
I wound up staying in Richmond because I hate moving, honestly, and because this city is pretty awesome and I made a ton of rad friends. Now I have a child and a fiance here and our neighborhood is nice, and I still hate moving, so I’ll probably be here for a long time.
People here often joke about the ‘Richmond curse,’ which is once you come to Richmond, you can’t ever leave. And if you DO leave, you ALWAYS come back. I’ve seen a lot of people leave…and a lot of them come back. So maybe there’s some truth to it?”
– Lauren, Office Manager from Leesburg, VA
7. “I stayed in Houston when I got married.”
“I really was planning on going home, but I stayed because I met and married my husband. His work required a coast, and since we were already on the Gulf Coast, we didn’t move. I have always taken Houston for granted, but when I actually think about it, I love the museums, the theaters, the ballet, and the Redneck Country Club, and the Rodeo. It’s such a mix of big city and country and I love that I can expose my children to both.”
– Vanessa, English Literature Teacher from Brownsville, TX
8. “I stayed in Austin for a job (and breakfast tacos).”
“I chose to stay in Austin mostly because of my job! I was able to secure employment at my alma mater (UT Austin) and now I get to help students navigate their college experience every day. I LOVE living in Austin for a lot of reasons: it’s a happening city, there’s always something to do, the weather is fantastic and I love the near-daily sunshine, and the food here is so great! I don’t think I can live anymore without direct access to breakfast tacos and real Texas BBQ.”
– Brittney, Academic Advisor from Hillsboro, OR
9. “I stayed in Chicago because I’d already put down roots.”
“I knew I was going to wind up leaving home in order to go to college and looked at a variety of schools literally coast to coast. I wound up attending Northwestern in Evanston, a suburb of Chicago. In some ways, I stayed in the Chicago area after graduation because I’d already started putting down roots. I had friends, favorite haunts and connections in the journalism world where I would start my career.
While I was eager to inch closer to ‘downtown,’ I was never really interested in leaving despite some pretty serious tugs in other directions for various work opportunities. My Detroit “home” will always feel like home, and Chicago will always be home now, too. I don’t feel like I need a third home.”
– Matt, Editorial Director from Detroit
10. “I stayed in Corvallis because it’s a great place to raise a family.”
“I graduated college in 2005 and began bartending. This being a lucrative and fabulously portable job allowed me to really enjoy my twenties and travel and whatnot. When I moved back to Oregon after living out of the country for a couple of years, I moved in with my sister in Corvallis, and, unsurprisingly, found myself a bartending & waitressing gig while talking about going back for my Master’s degree.
Corvallis is so wonderful. There are massive public and private forests with trails and recreational land all around the perimeter of town, and it’s less than an hour to the coast on ‘the new highway.’ We have a surprising amount of live music available in town, and Portland and Eugene are close enough for day trips. And it’s a fabulous place to raise a family!”
– Morgan, Restaurant Group General Manager from Beaverton, OR