Survey Finds Student Dissatisfaction With Post-Grad Living Plans
- 53% of college students report they wish they could live where they want rather than where they plan to or will likely have to.
- 33% of students plan to live or will consider living in the Northeast after college; of those, 57% are interested in the New York-Newark-Jersey City area.
- Students of color were more than twice as likely as white students to say their plans are impacted because they will take care of a family member or contribute to family income after college.
As Americans reevaluate their life choices amid an ongoing pandemic, students are expressing dissatisfaction over their potential living arrangements post-graduation. In a new BestColleges survey of currently enrolled undergraduate students, 53% of respondents report that they wish they could live where they want to, rather than where they plan to or will likely have to, after college.
For most students, it all comes down to responsibilities. Better job prospects, affordability concerns, and safety are some of the primary drivers for students choosing specific locations. But students also desire independence and new experiences when it comes to considering where to live.
A quarter of students (25%) report that they are tired of their current situation and want change, while 29% wish they'd gone to school in an entirely different area. Nearly half (48%) just want to experience a new place altogether after college.
Many students are unsure of where they will end up living after college, but they are trying to plan a realistic future for themselves despite the uncertainty.
More Than 1 in 3 Students Don't Know Where They'll Live After College
Students are often unsure of where they'll live after college, with more than a third (39%) of survey respondents reporting uncertainty about their post-grad living plans.
Still, a significant number of students do have some plans for where they will move once they graduate. Just under a third (29%) of respondents plan to move to a new area and about a fifth (18%) plan to stay in the area where their school is located.
Nearly two-thirds (61%) of respondents report that they left their hometown or area where their family lives to attend college, and 14% of students plan to move back.
Despite current uncertainties, most students have a good idea of the type of area they'd like to live in after college. More than a third of students (36%) plan to or will consider living in a large city or metropolitan area after college, while nearly two-thirds (60%) plan to or will consider a mid-sized town or city.
Students were less likely to plan to or consider living in a small town, with just 21% reporting it as one of their location options.
Students Plan to Head Northeast After Graduating
One in 3 students (33%) plan to live or will consider living in the Northeast after college. It was the most commonly chosen region selected by survey respondents. Other popular destinations for students include the South Atlantic and Pacific West regions.
Eight percent of students plan to or will consider living abroad, just 1% will consider Puerto Rico as an option, and 13% are unsure.
Among the students considering moving to or staying in the Northeast, 57% are interested in the New York-Newark-Jersey City metropolitan area in New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania.
For students considering living in the South Atlantic, the Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater metropolitan area in Florida was the most popular choice (25%). And half of students (50%) hoping to live in the Pacific West will consider the Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim metropolitan area in California.
Students Care Most About Affordability and Career Opportunities
Affordable cost of living was the most common factor students selected as contributing to their plan to live somewhere after college (57%). The second most common factor was career-related opportunities (56%).
White students were more likely than students of color to select proximity to family/friends as a contributing factor in their plan to live somewhere (45% vs. 34%). They were additionally more likely to select affordable cost of living (61% vs. 52%).
Arts, entertainment, food, and culture were more commonly selected factors by female students than male students (37% vs. 30%). Female students were also more likely than male students to choose proximity to family and friends as a contributing factor in their location planning (41% vs. 32%).
Students Also Value Independence and New Experiences
Additional factors that contributed to students' post-graduation relocation plans included the desire to experience a new place (48%) and to live independently (40%).
Students of color are more than twice as likely as white students to plan to live somewhere because they will be a caregiver to a family member (10% vs. 4%). They are also more than twice as likely as white students to choose a specific location because they will be contributing to their family's household income (21% vs. 10%).
Students Make Realistic Location Choices
Fifty-three percent of students report that their post-grad living plans are more realistic than idealistic. This isn't the first time students have reported making choices with a heavy dose of reality in mind. When it came to choosing their field of study, the majority of students also reported making decisions based on realism over idealism.
Male students were more likely than female students to agree that where they plan to live is more realistic than idealistic (63% vs. 47%). They were also more likely to admit dissatisfaction about their living situation. Sixty-two percent of male students reported they wish to live where they want over where they'll most likely end up compared to 47% of female students.
Students of color were also more likely than white students to say that where they plan to live after college is more realistic than idealistic (59% vs. 47%).
Though realistic considerations continue to drive student choices, 73% still believe that carrying out their relocation plan after college would be a dream come true. What they want above all else is to create a secure future for themselves.
The survey was conducted from September 9-22, 2021. Student respondents were fielded by Lucid LLC. Survey participants included 1,000 currently enrolled undergraduate students nationwide. Respondents were 18-26 years of age, enrolled at a college or university, and pursuing a bachelor's degree. The respondents for the survey were screened by various quality checks, including systems like Relevant ID, and responses were manually reviewed to ensure consistency and accuracy.
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