The 7 Best Cities for College Grads

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AnnaMarie Houlis4.87k
Journalist & travel blogger
June 23, 2024 at 6:23PM UTC
Graduating college is exciting — you finally get to take what you've worked so hard to learn in school and put it into practice. And you get to make money doing it! So long as you land a job... and don't have to spend the entirety of your hard-earned paychecks paying off your beefed-up student loans that is... 
The reality is that most of us come out of college with a lot of debt. In fact, more Americans are burdened with student loan debt than ever before. Millennials, for example, owe a staggering sum — over $1.48 trillion spread out among about 44 million borrowers, according to 2018 estimates. That's a lot of money for college graduates who are mostly looking to move out of their parents' houses and, ideally, into apartments of their own in cities flourishing with promises of an enriched future. After all, research suggests that millennials all across the country are wanting to explore new places and move to different cities.
But where are those affordable cities that promise lucrative job opportunities? We've dug into a gamut of research that suggests some of the best cities across America for college graduates. Here are our top seven picks.

1. Brooklyn, New York

Sure, New York City is an expensive one. But outside of Manhattan, parts of neighboring Brooklyn lean on the more affordable side. And, according to WalletHub's 2019 happiest states report, New York is the happiest state in America — and New York City has a lot to do with that. Perhaps it's thanks to just how many opportunities there are in the Big Apple. After all, newly grads from all across the country (and the world!) move to New York to pursue their version of the "American dream" every year.
Besides, according to WalletHub's 2019 Best & Worst Cities for an Active Lifestyle, New York City ranks first compared to the 100 biggest cities across 38 key metrics on being an active city. And, according to WalletHub's  2019 Most Fun Cities in America, New York City also comes in at first place, compared to more than 180 U.S. cities across 66 key metrics, with regards to things to do. Couple opportunity with activity, and it's the perfect marriage for young people.

2. Burlington, Vermont

Burlington, Vermont is home to the University of Vermont, which means that there's already a large population of young adults. And, still, there's low unemployment among that community (which makes up about 24% of the city). At least about 33.4% of those young adults hold bachelor's degrees, and young-adult unemployment sits at just about 4.6%, according to Business Insider. While Burlington is a bit more expensive than the national average, young adults earn, on average, about $30,000, which is relatively decent.
Besides, Vermont Governor Phil Scott recently signed a bill into law that will pay remote workers $10,000 over two years if they move to the state. The program is called the New Remote Worker Grant Program, and it was set in place to attract a younger population to Vermont, which is otherwise aging fast than other states. Because the median age in Vermont, at the time of signing the bill, was 42.8, the state is recruiting young millennials to move there by offering incentives. What more could newly grads want?

3. Denver, Colorado

Denver, Colorado is a major hub for young professionals right now, which is why it's a great place for newly grads to go and start their lives. As housing costs skyrocket on the costs, Colorado remains relatively affordable. Perhaps that's why almost a quarter of Denver's population is made up of millennials. According to The Millennial Influence in Metro Denver, released by Development Research Partners, 24 percent of the region’s population base — or almost 891,500 people — now consists of millennial residents, more than a third of whom hold bachelor's degrees.
While the cost of living is still higher than much of middle America, wages in Denver tend to also be higher, thanks for the burgeoning economy there. Tons of opportunities abound for young people who want to do more in Denver than drink craft beers and listen to the live music around every corner! 

4. Orlando, Florida

Orlando, Florida is recognized for its startup culture, which is super attractive to many newly grads who may want real-world experience before diving headfirst into corporate culture. There are tons of reasons why graduates often choose young companies over bigger names — steep learning curves, higher salaries, trendy perks, work-life balance, company culture and more. And, according to WalletHub's 2019 Best Large Cities to Start a Business, Orlando ranks no.1 compared to 100 U.S. cities across 19 key indicators of startup viability (i.e. five-year business-survival rate to office-space affordability). 

5. Boston, Massachusetts 

Boston, Massachusetts serves as home to multiple major national colleges and universities, which means that the city is teeming with young people and newly graduates who stick around because... Boston is beautiful. Almost half of all young people in Boston (43.1%) hold bachelor's degrees, according to the Business Insider, and the unemployment rate is just 5.4%. While the cost of living is, again, a bit higher than the national average, as are the median earnings for the young population — including the newly grads who tend to flock to less-expensive outskirt neighborhoods like "Southie."

6. Lincoln, Nebraska

Nebraska is as central as central America gets. And Lincoln, Nebraska, which is both the capital of Nebraska and the home of the University of Nebraska, is home to tons of young people (about a quarter of the population is made up of young adults!). While many newly grads flee to America's coasts after college, there are tons of companies in need of talent in the center of the country, too. Plus, the cost of living is 8.5% cheaper than the national average, according to the Business Insider, which is a major perk for wallet-strapped millennials.

7. Minneapolis, Minnesota

Minneapolis, Minnesota is a major Midwestern business hub that forms the "Twin Cities" with the neighboring state capital of St. Paul, which means that there is also major opportunity there. Almost a quarter of the population share is made up of young adults (20.7%), 35.9% of whom hold bachelor's degrees and only 4.1% of whom face unemployment. Perhaps that's why Forbes and The Atlantic have both named the Twin Cities as among the best locations for young people.

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AnnaMarie Houlis is a feminist, a freelance journalist and an adventure aficionado with an affinity for impulsive solo travel. She spends her days writing about women’s empowerment from around the world. You can follow her work on her blog,, and follow her journeys on Instagram @her_report, Twitter @herreportand Facebook.

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