General Education

What Every Small-Town Student Should Know About Going to a Big City College

What Every Small-Town Student Should Know About Going to a Big City College
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Elizabeth Xu October 1, 2014

Making the transition from a small town to a big city can be a confusing endeavor. Find out what you can do to make starting school in the big city a little easier.

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There’s no doubt that high school graduation comes with some big decisions and changes.

You made your first big decision to pick the right college, which for you was a one in a big city. Now you’re moving from a small town to that big city college, and you might be concerned about unknown set of challenges you face with this big transition.

Good news comes from a 2013 study by Apartment Guide that showed 30 percent of college graduates eventually move to a big city. Living in a big city now will save you the time later to adjust to city living. Another big plus about living in a big city during college is the built-in support of university supplies and resources.

Regardless of the benefits of going to a big city college, the move can still feel nerve-wracking, but here are a few ways to ease the transition.

Scope out campus before the semester begins.

When you come from a town with two stoplights and one main road, it can be difficult to get your bearings in a large city. Take the time to wander around campus before classes begin, so your first day is a little less stressful. You should also plan — and try out — a few routes to and from campus, so you’re not late to your first class because you turned down the wrong street.

Take public transportation before you need it.

Chances are you’ve had your driver’s license since you turned 16 because otherwise you’d need to rely on someone else for rides — it’s not like you could hop on the next bus. You’re probably familiar with big city transit if you’ve traveled to larger cities before, but taking a few taxis and riding the subway once doesn’t make you a pro.

It’s natural to be nervous about getting lost or simply to not know what to do, but after you take two or three trips on public transit, the rest will be a breeze. Spend some time exploring the subways and buses before you get off on the wrong stop on the way to your first class.

Check out your new city’s transit website for information on routes and fares. You can usually pay cash each ride, but many transit systems require exact change, so it’s often easier to buy a transit pass. Some cities offer a discount to student riders, so check the website for that too. Don’t forget to grab a paper copy of the schedule! Yes, you have your smartphone, but sometimes phone batteries die, and reception isn’t guaranteed. It’s better to have a backup than to miss your stop and end up in unfamiliar territory.

Stick to a budget.

Face it: there will be plenty of opportunities for you to spend your hard earned money in any city. From art galleries to theaters and really great restaurants, you’ll want to explore it all. The first few months will be especially tempting because you’ll want to do every new thing you hear about right now.

That’s where a good budget comes in. Decide how much to spend on entertainment or eating out each month, and stick to it. As a student, you’ll be able to find plenty of entertainment on and off campus for free and you can even cook in your dorm room. Budgeting is a good life skill for the future, so mastering it now has benefits. If you’re really disciplined, you may even be able to save a little money each month, which can add up in the end.

Take crime seriously.

When you visit a friend, do you just knock on the door and let yourself in? If you’re from a very small town, chances are you do since no one locks their doors. While you shouldn’t spend all your time in the city scared of strange noises and dark shadows, crime is something to watch out for, even if you’ve picked a relatively safe campus and a city with low crime rates. Not every suspicious-looking activity or person you see is a reason to call 911, so have the non-emergency police number saved to your phone, and you can still file a report without wasting emergency resources.

Don’t forget why you’re there.

Finding a balance between work and play might be one of the hardest aspects of your first few semesters. The city’s going to have a lot more to explore than a few gas stations, a handful of churches, and three or four bars, but don’t lose sight of why you’re in the city in the first place. Of course, that doesn’t mean you should never have fun because otherwise what was the point of moving to a new and exciting place? Just be sure to keep your educational goals in mind, and don’t let them get drowned out by all the opportunities now available.


Caval, V. (2014, March 21.) Big city living: Post grads students ditch the suburbs. Retrieved September 23, 2014, from

Farrington, R. (2014, August 27.) The 10 Best Money Tips For College Freshmen. Retrieved September 23, 2014 from Forbes

Stockwell, C. (2014, August 6.) 10 of the safest U.S. colleges located in big cities. Retrieved September 23, 2014 from USA Today


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