“Oh, the Places You’ll Go,” says the popular Dr. Seuss book that spikes in sales every spring amid pomp and circumstance. And, hopefully, for new college grads, those places they’ll dispatch to will have affordable rent and plenty of good-paying jobs.
This year’s class of newly minted grads weathered unprecedented college careers with the pandemic lockdowns of 2020. Now they’re entering into a workforce that’s been reshaped by remote work expectations, as more than a third of the American workforce has the option to work entirely from home, according to a 2022 study from McKinsey. The added flexibility opens up options for new grads who are looking to find cities where they can put down roots.
To provide a compass, Zillow crunched some data and came up with a list of five cities fit for recent college grads. To curate the list, the real estate site mined rent data from its own database. All of the cities it puts forth for 2023 grads have median rent below the national average of $2,150.
Zillow also took some other factors into consideration from outside sources, like college grad salary data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics and job growth numbers from Indeed’s Hiring Lab. To make sure the cities have a youthful vibe, Zillow’s team also considered how many people in the 21 to 29 age bracket live in the cities.
Ahead, five cities Zillow says make the grade for college grads:
1. Colorado Springs, Colorado
Median Rent: $1,824
Colorado Springs remains one of the last affordable regions in Colorado (for now, at least). The southern Colorado city is home to the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Training Center, military bases and colleges, including the University of Colorado’s Colorado Springs campus.
While the city’s downtown is packed with local restaurants, bars and boutiques, Colorado Springs is also a great jumping off point for outdoor adventurers. Nearby Pikes Peak was the muse for the lyrics to “America the Beautiful,” and Garden of the Gods is filled with sandstone arches, making for some epic hikes.
Zillow placed Colorado Springs at the top of its list, saying that new grads can pull in salaries of $63,000 and that there’s lots of career potential there. Aerospace and defense and cybersecurity are some of the hot industries in Colorado Springs.
2. Spokane, Washington
Median Rent: $1,563
With an urban waterfall, a gondola that glides above downtown, Art Deco architecture and a burgeoning craft beer scene with more than two dozen breweries, there’s lots to love in this Pacific Northwestern city.
Zillow points out that Spokane is a budget-friendly alternative to Seattle, where rent is more than $2,200 a month. Spokane is also home to Gonzaga University (you know about them if you put the Bulldogs in your men’s NCAA March Madness bracket in 2017 and again in 2021). The city also hosts a 3 vs. 3 Hoopfest tournament every year.
Some niche industries in Spokane and its environs include aircraft part manufacturing and barley production, but healthcare and clean energy are big business, too.
3. Des Moines, Iowa
Median Rent: $1,202
Des Moines is the capital of Iowa, and is also home to Drake University. Those who move here (or stick around after graduation) can enjoy amenities like 800 miles of nearby hiking and biking trails, an award-winning farmers market and concerts at Wells Fargo Arena. Plus, the Iowa State Fair takes place here and that means there’s 70 foods on a stick to choose from.
With affordable rent, dollars stretch a little further in Des Moines, Zillow points out, with residents enjoying a 24% rent-to-income ratio. Business school grads might find some luck in the job market, here, as financial services and insurance are leading industries.
4. Phoenix, Arizona
Median Rent: $1,918
Phoenix is a fast-growing metro and is the fifth-largest city in the country, with 50,000 people a year moving to the area. Rooftop happy hours, golf courses in the Sonoran Desert, First Friday Art Walks and pro sports teams to cheer on mean there’s plenty do do after work lets out.
Career opportunities include up-and-coming industries like autonomous vehicles, semiconductors and blockchain technology.
Zillow pinpointed Phoenix as a top place for new grads despite the typical salary being $62,000, which isn’t great considering rent is nearly $2,000 a month. But, Zillow says, there’s tons of young adults who live in the area (i.e. you’ve got lots of potential roommate candidates here).
5. Buffalo, New York
Median Rent: $1,257
With rent a whopping $2,000 a month cheaper than in New York City, Buffalo is a great “starter city” for those who want to live in The Empire State, points out Zillow.
For those new to Buffalo, there’s all kinds of surprises like Buffalo Riverworks, a gathering space with bars, a concert venue, ziplines, an ice rink and more. For a new resident rite of passage, chow down on buffalo chicken wings at Anchor Bar. The restaurant claims to have invented the saucy bar snack.