The 7 Best Up And Coming Cities For Recent Grads

You march across the stage, grab your diploma, and throw your hat…and now where do you go? Life after college graduation can be daunting, and one of the most difficult decisions to make is where to live next. The exciting part is that you can move to practically anywhere, the overwhelming part is that, well, you can move to practically anywhere.

SmartAsset, an online personal finance website, started the research for you with a ranking of the 100 largest U.S. cities based on life outside work, job availability and affordability all geared toward recent grads. The majority of the cities are perhaps shockingly located in the Midwest, the Great Plains and the South versus the sexier coastal spots. Why? High affordability, job availability and an up and coming atmosphere made just for Millenials make these cities unexpected sweet spots. From SmartAsset’s cities, we narrowed the list down, hunted for more info and now highlight he most well-rounded cities with a special emphasis on city culture, because what’s a city without any fun?



The Practical: Based SmartAsset’s study, Denver scored a 77.38 for job availability and 81.80 for life outside of work. The median gross rent including utilities and fuel came in around $913. The area has an incredible low unemployment rate at just 3.3%. Modern foodie companies such as Molson Coors Brewing, Chipotle Mexican Grill and WhiteWave Food are headquartered there.

The Good Stuff: Outdoor adventure meets modern energy in the Mile High City. Down-to-earth values mingle with highly progressive values, making the city great for outdoorsy Millennials. Craft beer and an emphasis on biking, hiking and skiing means you can wear flannel pretty much 24/7. Plus, with 300 days of sunshine your weekends will be packed with sports, a visit to the REI Flagship Store and concerts at possibly the most beloved music venue in the country–Red Rocks.



The Practical: Seattle has been having a moment for quite some time now. According to SmartAsset, the city scored high for job availability at 82.26 and life outside of work at a perfect 100. Yes, 100. But that perfect 100 comes with sacrifices. The the city’s affordability scored at just 21.80 and the median gross rent is $1,131. However, with a 2.6% unemployment rate for those with a bachelor’s degree, our bet is that you’ll be able to support the pricier cost of living. Major tech and consumer companies such as, Starbuck, Microsoft, Alaska Air and Nordstrom all reside in Seattle.

The Good Stuff: Seattle’s quirky and earth-friendly sensibilities are popular for a reason. So while yes, there are million reasons why Seattle is a hipster’s paradise (coffee shops, an abundance of farmers markets, hardcore cycling, chicken coops), any recent grad will find a reason to love the city. Mountain views are pristine and just a short drive will take you to stunning vistas such as Snoqualmie Falls or the Green River. It makes city living feel, well, less city-like. Plus the city boasts amazing seafood and is one of the friendliest cities for pet owners. We are sold.



The Practical: Milwaukee scored a 72.99 and 82.57 for affordability and life outside of work, respectively. Median gross rent, including utilities and fuel, was just $784. Unemployment rates are below the national average and average travel time to work was just around 22 minutes.

The Good Stuff: Experience a city feel with a friendly Midwestern atmosphere, complete with a down-to-earth vibe and all four seasons. Plus, the outdoors are just a step away with a spot right on Lake Michigan and a river cutting straight through the downtown. Hop on the river to kayak to different breweries (it is called Beer City for a reason), and crack out your festival gear all year long. Milwaukee is famous for all sorts of cultural festivals, but the most popular is Summerfest, the country’s longest running (and one of the cheapest) musical festivals.



The Practical: Nashville scored extremely well in SmartAsset’s category for life outside of work with a 89.46 out of 100.  Affordability sits at 47.39 with an unemployment rate at a low 3.2%. Average travel time to work clocked in at 23 minutes, with a median gross rent of $858. Job options in Nashville range from major Fortune 1000 companies such as Genesco and General Motors to thousands of smaller, more independent enterprises. In addition to music, Nashville also is a strong industry for hospitals, start ups and publishing.

The Good Stuff: We don’t really need to spell out why the music capital of the U.S. is such a hot spot for recent grads to live and is even dubbed as Nowville. All it takes is a weekend visit to Nashville to be blown away by all the of phenomenal and countless live music options at every turn. The city is growing at an unprecedented rate, attracting aspiring stars and young professionals looking for a lively and bustling scene with good old Southern values. Plus, weather, safety and cleanliness rank very high next to other growing U.S. cities.

San Antonio


The Practical: In recent years, most people moving to Texas head to super hip Austin. However, that recent boom has skyrocketed prices in the once cheap city. That’s why San Antonio, Texas, makes our list. SmartAsset ranked it the fifth best city for new graduates. The city scored well across the board with job availability at 63.50, affordability at 73.46 and life outside of work at 69.54. Median gross rent clocked in at $840 with a 3.7% unemployment rate. Local businesses mingle with major energy-related companies such as Valero Energy.

The Good Stuff: This city boasts way more to do than just remembering the Alamo. A combination of Southern pride, Mexican influence and outdoor adventures mix in this eclectic city. Wander through streets of beautiful Mexican and Spanish influenced architecture and take a turn at the River Walk lined with fantastic little gems and Cyprus trees. And you’ll always get your fill of lively color and cheap, authentic Mexican food. Texas Hill Country goes full bloom with wildflowers in the spring, and you can head underground at Natural Springs Caverns. Or spend your Saturdays at one of the many unique parks (including the former 1968 World’s Fair site).



The Practical: Pittsburgh was ranked SmartAsset’s second best city for new graduates with a score of 62.72 for job availability, a score of 78.20 for affordability and a whooping 91.57 for life outside of work. Median gross rent comes in at $794 and if you have a bachelor’s degree unemployment is a VERY low at 2.7%. The steel industry is still huge in the Steel City, but other major corporations such as American Eagle Outfitters and WESCO International call the city home, and it even hosts one of the largest concentrations of non-profits.

The Good Stuff: The city that formally seemed all gloom and doom, has gone through a major youthful revival and some even consider it the new Brooklyn. The educated Millennial population is flocking to the city for more than just low cost of living with many jobs. Creative cooking, buzzy tech startups, a blossoming art scene and energetic nightlife attract recent grads. But the city is also full of classic family fun for grads looking to stay awhile and settle down.



The Practical: This city scored the number one spot on SmartAsset’s list for new graduates. Despite a low score of 58.87 for job availability, Cincinnati ranked high on affordability at 97.16 and for life outside of work at 84.10. The city has the lowest cost of living among major U.S. cities, SmartAsset said. The median gross rent was just $653 for the four years through 2014. Unemployment rate sits at 4.8% as of March 2016. The list of large companies that call the city home goes on and on with Kroger, Procter & Gamble, Macy’s, Omnicare, Fifth Third Bancorp, American Financial, Wester & Southern Financial and Cintas, and more.

The Good Stuff: Professional sports, great BBQ and chili, titled as one of the best cities for beer enthusiasts— it is all right there in Queen City. The city breaks the Midwestern stereotype with a bustling creative scene and huge music venues. Museums are a pretty big hit here too. There’s the Cincinnati Observatory, unbelievably large Cincinnati Museum Center in the old Union Terminal, Taft Art Museum, the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center and more. The best part of the city is its blend of upscale business, local flavor, massive green spaces, and close proximity to Kentucky–just walk across the Purple People Bridge. Scared of making friends? The city also boats one of the highest concentrations of young people.

Paige Pope

Contributing Editor, Purdue University Major: Public Relations and Strategic Communications Her heart belongs to: Michael Scott Take her away to: Orvieto, Italy- endless gelato, Tuscan sun, late pasta dinners and siestas

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