As the school year comes to a close, young people everywhere are beginning the next chapter of their lives — and where they choose to begin that chapter can have serious ramifications.
But it turns out smaller cities can get the combination just right.
Personal finance site WalletHub compared 182 cities — including the 150 most populated U.S. cities and at least two of the most populated cities in each state — across two key dimensions, professional opportunities and quality of life. They found that New York and Los Angeles didn't even make the top 100.
Here are the 10 best cities to start a career and build a life:
Total score: 57.13
Professional opportunities ranking: 8
Quality of life ranking: 37
Total score: 57.82
Professional opportunities ranking: 17
Quality of life ranking: 10
Total score: 57.85
Professional opportunities ranking: 16
Quality of life ranking: 12
Total score: 57.98
Professional opportunities ranking: 5
Quality of life ranking: 34
Total score: 60.24
Professional opportunities ranking: 6
Quality of life ranking: 5
Total score: 60.41
Professional opportunities ranking: 10
Quality of life ranking: 2
Total score: 60.70
Professional opportunities ranking: 4
Quality of life ranking: 19
Total score: 65.04
Professional opportunities ranking: 2
Quality of life ranking: 11
Total score: 66.33
Professional opportunities ranking: 1
Quality of life ranking: 6
Total score: 67.83
Professional opportunities ranking: 3
Quality of life ranking: 1
Salt Lake City, Utah topped WalletHub's list, thanks to a simultaneously high professional opportunity and quality of life rankings. The city also has one of the highest percentages of open job opportunities specifically for recent graduates.
New York, on the other hand, has some of the highest numbers of job entry-level positions but ranks 173 when looking at those jobs as a percentage of all local job opportunities
If you want to move to a city with a high concentration of young people, you may need to look beyond this list. Cities like Boston, San Francisco and Seattle have some of the highest percentages of residents between the ages of 25 and 34.
Considering all of these factors can be confusing and overwhelming. James Lowe, Assistant Vice Provost at the University of Connecticut has helped students make the transition from college to the "real world" for almost a decade. He tells WalletHub that the most important thing about deciding where to live is to assess a wide range of factors.
"Before making a decision to relocate to a new city, a well thought out plan is essential to success," he says. "Do research on the city itself; determine the cost of living, availability of housing, accessibility to public transportation, vibrancy of social and cultural events, etc."
These criteria, he stresses, are different for every person. "It's important to remember through all of this that just because a city is right for one person, that doesn't mean it is right for everyone," explains Lowe. "When doing your research and outreach make sure to engage with multiple people on each topic. Everyone will have a different opinion. Your job is to college all of these varying views and make an informed decision of your own."
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