Living in a college town can be exciting, entertaining, frustrating, and enlightening…Sometimes all in the same day. Here are the top ten things you should know about living in a college town, even if you aren’t in college.
10. Shopping: There are positives and negatives about shopping in a college town. Sure, at the end of August, it can get really frustrating standing in line at major chain stores like Walmart or Meijer, but the sales are often incredible! Need a new printer? This is the perfect time to buy it. Socks? Buy in bulk, you’ll be paying about 1/4 of the regular retail price. While all stores have back-to-school sales, many in college towns will have one or two day blowouts that simply cannot be topped.
Another positive about shopping in a college town are the specialty stores. Countless used book and music shops line the streets, all competing for the lowest prices to offer to the roughly 44,000 students that show up with some cash in their pockets. Other great clothing, jewelry, and unique gift shops aim to please students with a selection for every taste and budget.
9. Transportation: Regardless of how you get around, August through May will bring increased traffic, drunk driving, and accidents. While these occurrences aren’t entirely the fault of students, such a large increase in population each year brings a higher rate of incidents. The best piece of advice? Take alternate routes during move-in/move-out times, and avoid campus at the beginning at end of semester breaks.
Public transportation is reliable and easy to use in university towns. Even for small cities, buses will cover a lot of ground for all of those students who aren’t allowed to bring cars to campus. Our public transportation system even extends it’s hours of operation once the students return to the city. Just remember, it’s going to get crowded! For those who want to use them, you’ll also find sidewalks and bike paths everywhere.
8. Discounts: Many of the attractions in college automatically lower admission rates to draw in visitors, especially at the start of the school year. Yes, the rates for students are even lower, but these places are trying to attract the business of parents moving their kids to town. Take advantage of the season!
University sponsored events are much cheaper for students, but local residents can enjoy those benefits too. If you can’t get invited along as a guest of a student, don’t despair! Many still offer significantly lower prices to local residents who inquire. Just show that you live nearby, and you’ll be all set.
7. Technology: Because the majority of university students won’t leave home without their laptop, everywhere imaginable is a free Wifi Hotspot. Those of us pursuing careers in writing find this to be an invaluable service that allow us to work away from our home computers.
6. The Library: Most public libraries have an extensive selection of research options, but usually university libraries are better. Public schools will allow anyone to come in and use their materials. No, you can’t borrow anything unless you are a registered student, but you can use the library extensively without taking anything with you.
5. Bars and Restaurants: If you’re looking for tasty and cheap food, hit campus. Restaurants are almost exclusively casual, offering excellent deals on food, often with lunch specials that cannot be topped. For dinner, it’s best to get as far from campus as possible, if you’re looking for something a little less rowdy.
The opposite is true with bars. Drinking at campus bars is unpleasant for anyone over the age of 23, not to mention the drinks are usually grossly overpriced and watered down. For example, a bottle of Bud Light might run you $4.50 at a campus bar, while at a more distant establishment, you’ll pay only $3.25. This makes a difference after a few rounds.
The other downside to drinking in a college bar? College students! They are less likely to drink responsibly, leaving you to step over puddles of vomit in the parking lot as you leave. There are larger crowds, more fights, and more drama in bars on or close to a college campus.
4. Animal Shelters: Residents in a college town looking for a new pet can often have their pick from a large selection of animals dumped at the shelter. You’ll mostly find cats needing homes, because most students don’t have the time or resources to care for a dog. With such a large number of animals appearing at the end of the semester, the shelter workers have a hard time finding homes for them all, so adopt one!
3. Music: Some of the greatest bands play college venues. Head out to a coffee shop some night, and check out the young talent waiting to entertain you; you’ll be pleasantly surprised. Also bear in mind that some of the best bands get their start in college, and when they become famous you can say, “I remember when…”
2. Student Services: Not services provided for students, but services provided by students! College kids always need extra money, (Remember the price of beer at campus bars?) so help them out. Look for advertisements or simply ask around, and I bet you’ll find a senior photography major who can take shoot just as well as a professional, for a fraction of the cost.
1. Community: In a large university town, you literally find all kinds of people. Many cultures are represented, not to mention a million different lifestyle choices. You might see an emo kid walking in one direction, and two men holding hands headed the other way. For the open-minded individuals, a university town is a great place to live.
This is what I have learned from living approximately two miles from Michigan State University, and I hope it helps you out!