Moving Away After College? Your 13-Step Checklist for Success in Your New City


You step out from your favorite coffee shop, iced latte in hand, breathing in the heat of summer. This is the last latte you’ll drink from this café. You won’t need them to get you through those Monday morning classes anymore. It’s a bittersweet realization. You’ve officially graduated and it’s time to move away from this small college town.

Saying goodbye to your favorite coffee shop is difficult, but it is just one of the things you have to do when planning a move after college. We’ve already talked about what you should know when looking for a job out-of-state, but once you’ve found that job (or if you’ve made the decision to pack up and move without an offer) there are a lot of other things you need to keep in mind.

In order to help you with the move and to make sure you don’t forget anything important, we’ve created a list of 13 things you need to do when moving to a new city after college.

  • Save up as much as possible

This is suggestion numero uno. Even if you’re moving because you have a job offer, remember that you’re not going to get that paycheck for a while. You’ll probably have to put some sort of money down on the apartment you’re staying in. That means you need to have quite a bit saved up.

There’s also the necessary furnishing expenses you’re going to have to pay. You’ll need something to sleep on, sheets, pillows, probably a lamp of some sort, and a dresser. These things all cost money (yes, even if you’re self-assembling via IKEA).

Crashing at a friend’s house? There’s still food and travel expenses to think about. Groceries and public transportation or gas start to add up.

You’re going to want a nice cushion of cash to sit on when first getting to a new place. Find a way to save up before making that move. If that means working part-time at a “non-dream job” and living at home for a while, then do that. You’ll be thankful you did when you’re not panicking after you’ve already moved into a new place and your paycheck has yet to arrive.

  • Contact people in the area

Once you’ve pinned down a location you want to move to, make sure that you get in touch with anyone you know living in the area. Finding a place to live is a lot harder than you might think (especially when you can’t show up in person to meet the building managers). You’re probably going to need to crash on a couch or on an air mattress for a little while. See if you have any relatives, friends, or family acquaintances who wouldn’t mind you staying with them for a bit.

Facebook can be your best friend in this situation. I let it be known that I was going to be homeless for a while when first moving to the city. I ended up getting in touch with a friend from high school who happened to have a room for me to sublet. Another friend of mine recently moved to the city and was jobless and couldn’t afford a place on her own. She stayed with a friend while she was job searching and avoided that whole rent situation.

There’s also the fact that you’re going to be living in a new place and probably want someone who can show you the ropes.

  • Pack ALL types of clothing

Another good thing about getting in contact with whoever you know living in the city you’re moving to is the fact that they can give you the 411 about the weather situation. For example, when I thought of San Francisco, I knew that it got cold, but I thought it only got “California cold.”

I was very lucky to have had a friend who lived here and corrected me before I came. She informed me that I would definitely need more than a light jacket and sweater. And it doesn’t only get cold here. It also can be really, really hot (around October). I’m so happy that I also brought shorts and tank tops with me so that I could survive Saturdays in Golden Gate Park during our Indian summers.

Also, keep in mind that there are going to be days when you just want to lounge around your house in pajamas and other days when you are headed to work and need to look professional. Make sure that you’re prepared for both situations.

  • Research the area

Once again, a great reason to contact people you know who live in the area is to get a better understanding of location. Before I moved up here, I had no sense of what was far and what was close or which neighborhoods were “safe.” I knew that I wanted to be close to San Francisco but I wasn’t really sure what that meant. I applied to work in Walnut Creek and Daly City thinking it’d be an easy commute to the city. Though it’s possible to get from those places to the city, those particular commutes are definitely not what I would call “quick and easy.”

When looking for apartments, I also didn’t have a good understanding of the neighborhoods. A friend of mine helped me figure out which areas of the city I’d probably want to avoid when searching for an apartment.

Make use of Google Maps. Figure out how long it will take to walk, drive, or take public transportation between points A and B. You can also check out Airbnb’s neighborhoods feature that lets locals take pictures of their neighborhoods and write descriptions so that you can figure out which neighborhood has the best “vibe” for you.

  • Learn the bus/train routes

Figuring out where you want to live also has a lot to do with commute times. Google can help you to get a better idea of what your commute will really be like. But, even though Google is pretty good about finding you the best route, it can be wrong. Blasphemy, I know! When my friend moved to the Inner Richmond, Google told her the best route to her office was on the 1. After living there a couple of months, she realized that the 38 express bus was MUCH more convenient.

So take some time getting to know the bus/train routes before moving, but don’t be afraid to experiment with different routes once you get there.

Also, if you’re anything like me, you might not have used public transportation in a while. Do some research about what the best way to get around the city is. Find out where they sell bus passes and whether it’s worth it to buy a monthly pass or not.

  • Set up a local bank account

You’re going to want to make sure that you have a bank account that you can access in your new location. When I first moved to San Francisco, I was still using my Hawai’i bank account. When I got my first paycheck, I had to rush out to the closest Bank of America to set up an account so that I could actually get to my money. It would have been a lot easier to have had that bank account ahead of time.

  • Download ride apps

You probably want to download a few ride apps ahead of time. There will be times when public transportation will not be your best option. If you haven’t already, download Sidecar, Uber, Lyft, and Flywheel. All of these will become your best friend once you’ve gotten settled in the city.

I recommend downloading all of them. It’s really nice to have more than one so that you can avoid paying ridiculously high prices during surge pricing hours.

  • Figure out your grocery store situation

You’re going to need to eat and eating out can get really pricey. Your best bet is to go to the grocery store and get some supplies that will last you the week. That means you have to find one that is closest to you. But not only do you have to find one that is nearby, but you also should think about prices. We all want to eat healthy, but honestly it’s hard to buy everything from Whole Foods without going broke.

When I first moved to the city there was a Whole Foods a block away. I would buy certain groceries there, but I would also walk to the Lucky grocery store that was eight blocks away because the prices were so much lower.

Also, keep in mind that your most affordable option may not be a grocery store at all. There are farmers’ markets, corner stores, and other places that have reasonably priced produce. Check out this post about living healthy as a twentysomething for a few other ideas.

  • Invest in a steamer

I bought an iron when I moved here, but I really wish I would have just bought one of these steamers. We don’t have an ironing board in my house so it was really difficult to actually get all the wrinkles out of my clothing. With a steamer, I could just hang up my dress shirt and steam out the wrinkles before heading to work. It was easily one of the best investments I have made.

  • Figure out your fitness plan

Moving to a new city might totally throw off your fitness routine. If you’re a runner, find out if there are any running groups you might be interested in. Search on Google for popular running spots. Read some blogs and see if there are any urban hikes that people recommend.

Do you need accessories for your exercise plan like a surfboard or bicycle? Make sure you’re ready to transport those things. If you grew up surfing in Hawai’i like many of my friends have, remember that you’re not only going to need your board but also a wetsuit. Do you have a place to store these things? Some apartments in different cities can be pretty small. Is there a place you can keep your bike when you’re not riding it? Also, if bicycling is your thing, make sure to find out the best/safest routes to ride.

Check out what gyms are near your new home or job. Are there any affordable fitness centers?

  • Be a tourist

Once you’ve lived in the city for a while, being “touristy” is going to be so uncool. But there’s a lot of fun stuff you could potentially miss out on by adopting this attitude. Take advantage of your excitement upon first moving to a new city.

I NEVER go to Fisherman’s Wharf anymore, but I had a blast heading down there my first couple weeks in the city, eating clam chowder out of sourdough bread bowls, checking out the Ferry Building, and taking cable cars (all very stereotypical “San Francisco tourist” activities). Don’t miss out on that sort of thing by waiting too long to play tourist.

  • Find out about social events

One of the best parts about moving to a new city is finding out about all the cool stuff it has going on. Don’t be afraid to participate in free events like the Chipotle Festival and Pride. A lot of the time it’s even worth splurging for the ones that cost money like certain pub crawls, concerts, or other parties that just happen to be going on in the city.

And don’t just show up. Take part in the festivities. One of the best parts about San Francisco is the fact that we will take any excuse to dress up in a costume—think SantaCon and Bay to Breakers. Join in! Dress up and embrace the madness of it all, whatever that means in your particular city!

  • Take care of business

Okay, so even though we love all this costume talk, we have to get a little serious at the end here. Make sure that you are taking care of the important stuff like changing your driver’s license, registering to vote, letting your banks know where to send your credit card bills, etc. Nothing is worse than getting a bad credit score because you never paid off a bill you didn’t get.

Homework time! If you’re moving away after college, make sure that you’re prepared. Research the area, contact your network, find out where you can buy frozen pizzas! And, once you’re in the city, you can check out our post about five ways to make new friends.


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