A Guide to “The College Life” in Massachusetts

(Let’s start with the hard part, spelling ‘Massachusetts’)
Written by Andrew Bowsher
Written by Andrew Bowsher

Insurance doesn’t have to be boring — that’s what Andrew always says. He specializes in making sense of mundane subjects, and delivering answers to the insurance questions everyday families need.

The dome of Harvard University's Dunster House and John W. Weeks Bridge over Charles River in Cambridge Massachusetts

Welcome to college in Massachusetts. No matter if you’re brand new around here or you’ve been bumming around the cape since you were in diapers, you’re in for a real treat.

To help get you all settled in and ready for the road ahead, we’ve put together this guide to prep you for a life around the state that puts the extra in extracurricular. So, let's get into it.

Chapter One: Massachusetts Conversation Starters

Now, easily the most important thing to do once you get to Massachusetts is make some new friends. However, in order to make friends with a real-life Bay Stater you gotta know a thing or two about 'em first. You can't just spout off a bunch of facts from the state's Wikipedia page on populations and state birds and all and expect to fit in. You gotta go for a way, way deeper dive. 

When trying to assimilate to local culture, try out a few of these conversation starters:

  • “Wicked” this and “wicked” that. The ultimate adjective around here, wicked can be added before just about every word to really accentuate just how wicked incredible that thing is.
  • “Not black, a REGULAR kaa-ffee.” You could make the argument that a regular coffee is a black coffee, but around here black is black and regular has both cream and sugar in it. And here, it’s Dunkin’ Donuts (aka “Dunks”) or get out of town.
  • “Throw some Jimmies on it.” Everywhere else in the world, they’re sprinkles. But here, they're Jimmies, pal.

Chapter Two: Where to Crash

If you’re not already set on living in the dorms, you’re going to need to know where to lay your ever-growing head at night. So let’s talk about the hot rentals around the area.

According to rentcafe.com, the home of the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, has one-bedroom apartments going for a steep $1,573/month. But it could be worse because in Cambridge, home to Harvard University, you’ll be paying around $3,236/month. But of course that’s right inside the city, and you can always find lower prices out in a number of nearby suburbs or neighboring cities for a few hundred less.

PRO TIP: If you put two to three bunk beds in every room and grab a bunch more roommates, your rent will be dirt cheap!

Chapter Three: What's with These Locals?

To live among the folks of Massachusetts, it’s best if you understand them. First off, they’re quite a progressive bunch. It’s known for being the first in many arenas. From the arrival of the area’s first Pilgrims on the Mayflower in 1620 to the Boston Tea Party that sparked the American Revolution, and even later still being the first state to legalize gay marriage, Massachusetts is a state where American citizens aren’t afraid to stand up for what they believe in (particularly when it comes to baseball).

And around here, the Red Sox (or “The Sawx”) are like a religion. The Sox faithful have stuck by their team through “cursed” decade after decade until finally reversing it all and becoming a powerhouse of the early 21st century. Careful what you wear and say around here, though, their rivalry with the Yankees is not to be taken lightly.

The folks in Massachusetts may have a reputation for being aggressive and loud, but their hearts are in the right place and welcome all who come. Sure they may flip you the bird while driving the streets, but it’s all out of love.

Chapter Four: Where to “Study” around Town

Now that you’re getting all nice and settled into Massachusetts life, it’s time to focus on those studies. But everyone knows how distracting roommates, video games, and fridges can be when you’re trying to focus. So why not try some of the great sights and local hot spots for a little study sesh? Here are a few places we recommend:

  • Well, Dunkin’ Donuts, obviously: Grab a cruller, an XL regular coffee and you’re ready to go.
  • The Cape: It’s 560 miles of white sand beaches and waving sea grass, and it’s perfect for getting a little relaxing work in. Warning: it can get a little crowded at times.
  • Boston Public Garden: Made world famous as a location in Good Will Hunting, this was the first public botanical garden. It’s packed with gorgeous tulips, incredible architecture, tons of benches, and even swans.

Chapter Five: No FOMO Weekend Activities around Massachusetts

One of the best things about college are the weekends. And Massachusetts has plenty of incredible things to do, see, smell, and eat to rest your mind from all that studying you’ve been doing. Here are a few of our favorite local things to do:

  • Martha’s Vineyard: This posh little island off the coast sits in the Atlantic Ocean just south of Cape Cod and has been a long-time summer colony for elite vacationers and celebrity royalty for decades. Only accessible by boat or air, it’s packed with quaint towns, lighthouses, and pristine beaches. Just don’t forget your credit card. Prices are known to be a tad higher out on this little slice of paradise. 
  • Fenway Park: The oldest baseball park in the nation is located in Boston. It’s been home to the Red Sox since 1912, and many would agree that a visit to Boston is not complete without seeing a game in the enchanting Fenway Park. 
  • Freedom Trail (and all the other old stuff): Boston is full of old history from the birth of this nation and it’s far more interesting seeing it in real life than reading about it in your history class. The Freedom Trail is three miles of cobblestone streets that wind through Boston’s old city streets and connects 16 of colonial America’s most famous landmarks.
  • Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary: If you’ve never been whale watching, you’re missing out. This marine sanctuary in the mouth of Massachusetts Bay is among the top ten whale-watching sites in the world with visits from humpback whales, white-sided dolphins, harbor porpoises, seals, and more. 

Chapter Six: The Post-College Job Scene

Maybe you know exactly what you want to do after graduation or maybe you’re still undeclared. Either way, we’re so sure you’re going to want to stick around after the ceremony that we should probably talk about the local market and which careers are hot right now around town.

The good news is the state is ranked 7th overall in best states for job opportunities. So it has that going for it. Massachusetts also has the largest percentage of the New England region’s labor force, almost twice as much as its closest competitor, Connecticut. So where do all of these Bay Staters work? Well, education and health services mostly, which makes sense, considering the dozens of hospitals and universities throughout the state. Two of their hospitals are world-renowned: Massachusetts General Hospital and Boston Children’s Hospital. 

Besides health and education, the technology industry has been on the rise in recent years, with Boston alone employing almost 300,000 in tech jobs. A close-runner up is tourism. Massachusetts boasts a flourishing coastal area that brings in millions of visitors every year. Popular destinations include Cape Cod, Nantucket, and Martha’s Vineyard, to name a few. In 2016 alone, the state saw $20.7 billion in direct tourism spending.

While the state seems to be doing well economically with an unemployment rate below the national average at 3.5%, the job perks have created an expensive cost of living for the state’s residents. 

U.S. News ranked it 47th for affordability overall, and 46th for affordable cost of living. With minimum wage at $11 an hour, you'd better make sure you have a solid paycheck coming in before venturing into Red Sox territory. Living here will cost you a pretty penny. 

Chapter Seven: Pack Your Sox hat, ‘Cuz Here You Come

All right folks, there you have it — your supremely helpful, though far-from-complete, guide to the Massachusetts college life. It's true that we can't pack in absolutely everything that's important to consider before making a huge cross-country move, but we hope we helped you get the ball rolling.

Good luck. And don’t forget to pepper on a few “wicked”s here and there.

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