From job opportunities to social circles to breakfast tacos, here’s what inspired people to settle down in their college towns.

By Winona Dimeo-Ediger on April 26, 2018 11:33 AM
College Town

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

University of Illinois

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Photo: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

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

Blacksburg, VA

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Corvallis OR
Courtesy of Oregon State University Marketing

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

Skyline of Corvallis, OR

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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.