A Guide to “The College Life” in Michigan

Everything you need to know – and more.
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.

Business school at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor

Welcome to college in Michigan. No matter if you’re brand new around here or you’ve been feeling that Canadian down-breeze on your face all your life, 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, and make sure you're covered with an affordable renters insurance policy.

Chapter One: Michigan Conversation Starters

Now, easily the most important thing to do once you get to Michigan is make some new friends. However, in order to make friends with a real-life Michigander 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:

  • “That guy’s a Yooper”: A "Yooper" is anyone from the upper area of Michigan, called the Upper Penninsula, or U.P., which is actually on top of Wisconsin. The rest of Michigan, you know the part that looks like a hand, is called the Lower Penninsula, or L.P.
  • “It’s Macki-naw, not Macki-nack Island”: Pronounce Mackinac correctly or suffer the shaming. This incredible island is just south of the U.P. and is full of Victorian houses, beautiful coastlines, and ZERO cars — they’re not allowed around here.
  • “The Game”: When locals around here speak of THE game, they’re talking about the University of Michigan’s annual battle against THE Ohio State University. Long considered the greatest rivalry in sports, both schools and states take this one pretty seriously.

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, the home of the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, has one-bedroom apartments going for a steep $1,567/month. But in East Lansing, home of Michigan State University, you’ll only have to shell out around $1,299/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 Michigan, it’s best if you understand them. And the first thing to know is that Michigan is a state built on innovation and downright stubbornness. Both have brought it back from almost soul-crushing defeat. Some would call Detroit filing the largest municipal bankruptcy in the nation a defeat. Others saw it as an opportunity for renewal. Out of their metaphorical death grew a stronger and more accepting community.  

Michigan’s people are feisty and creative. They have to be just to survive one of the biggest challenges the state had ever seen (and that severe winter weather). Despite the harsh realities that face many Wolverines up in their northern state, most will still open their arms wide for any newcomers (and they’ll be the first to help you dig your car out). 

They’re survivors in Michigan whether it’s Detroit, the U.P., or all the tiny lil’ towns in between. They’ve been dealt harsh blows but keep coming back with a vengeance. We can appreciate them for that, and more. While there are different types of people doing many different things all over the state (academics, musicians, fishermen, tour guides, car factory workers, etc.), they all have one thing in common, they’re Wolverines. The name alone makes us want to move there. 


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Chapter Four: Where to “Study” around Town

Now that you’re getting all nice and settled into Michigan 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:

  • In a deer stand/blind: November 15th is the state’s deer hunting opener and a pretty popular day to cut class. The thing about hunting is there’s a lot of waiting, and that’s some perfect quiet time to pound through a few chapters in a textbook or two.
  • Mackinac Island: Like we said, it’s pronounced "Mack-i-naw," but the real secret here is just how quiet and relaxing it is. With no cars whatsoever on the island, you don’t have a lick of traffic or any noise from the street — the perfect recipe for a quiet study break.
  • The lakes: Michigan’s coast borders four of the five Great Lakes (all but Lake Ontario). That means there are thousands of miles of coastline and quaint lakeside villages to find the peace you need to hammer through even the toughest subjects.

Chapter Five: No FOMO Weekend Activities around Michigan

One of the best things about college are the weekends. And Michigan 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:

  • Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore: A local favorite situated on Lake Michigan, this perfect vacation spot offers pristine beaches, inland lakes, and plenty of lush forests to explore. Grab a guide map for all the sweet spots for biking, kayaking, or hiking up the towering sand dunes. 
  • Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation: This one pretty much speaks for itself. For any Ford fanatics or general history buffs out there, this one’s for you. Learn about the history of the automobile and other quintessential American inventions while looking through the unbelievable personal collections of Henry Ford’s estate.
  • Detroit: The whole city deserves a shout-out. Once a struggling shell of its formerly bustling self, it’s quickly becoming one of the most innovative and progressive cities in the nation and working to secure a future for its loyal residents. Activities to do here include visiting the Detroit Institute of Arts, exploring the city’s rich music history at the Motown Museum, and lazily strolling down the Detroit Riverfront on a hot date.
  • Upper Peninsula: With only 3% of the state’s population and 29% of its land area, this forested gem is more wild than tame. But that’s ok with the Yoopers who call it home. It has over 300 waterfalls and national parks and offers visitors a chance to see the northern lights. Remember to consider the long, harsh winters when planning your family outing here. The land and wildlife are unforgiving but worth the risks. 

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.

Michigan, particularly Detroit, was hit hard during the economic crisis of 2008. Truth be told, it was already struggling before the crisis hit the rest of the nation. Over the entire decade from 2000 to 2009, the state lost 805,900 jobs or one in every six. In 2009, its unemployment rate peaked at 13.7%. 

But now, current research ranks the state 23rd overall for best states for jobs and economic opportunities. This is a major increase from previous rankings, and today the unemployment rate is closer to the national average at 4.7%. Overall, trade, transportation, and utilities have the largest workforces (794,200 jobs), with General Motors and Ford Motor Company employing many of them. Education and health services come in a close second. 

Tourism is also a leading lady in Michigan’s newly emerging economy. In 2016, the state had 119 million visitors who contributed more than $23 billion. Tourism supported more than 221,000 jobs throughout the state that year. Additionally, the minimum wage is at a healthy $9.25 an hour, and recent statistics ranked it fourth for affordability overall and eighth for affordable cost of living. Not too shabby, Michigan. 

Chapter Seven: Pack Your Winter Jackets, ‘Cuz Here You Come

All right folks, there you have it – your supremely helpful, though far-from-complete, guide to the Michigan 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 remember to make sure you're covered with an affordable renters insurance policy.

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