A Guide to “The College Life” in Mississippi

(First thing to study up on is your manners)
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.

Paul B. Johnson Commons at Ole Miss (the University of Mississippi) in Oxford, Mississippi

Welcome to college in Mississippi. No matter if you’re brand new around here or you’ve been spelling M-I-S-S-I-S-S-I-P-P-I all you’re 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.

Chapter One: Mississippi Conversation Starters

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

  • Magnolia flowers are pretty, but your wife is ‘purty.’ Just a small distinction the locals make.
  • “Yessir” and “Yes ma’am.” Used around here more than anything else. Manners are key.
  • “See ya in church.” Around here, church is a huge part of the community, and when someone invites you to church, you be there. It’d be impolite not to show up.

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 Mississippi, Oxford, has one-bedroom apartments going for about $1,466/month, with the same around Mississippi State University. But of course that’s right inside the city, and you can always find lower prices out in a number of nearby 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 Mississippi, it’s best if you understand them. And the first thing to know is that Mississippi is a state with a rich southern history. From its place as the second state to secede from the Union in 1861 to being at the forefront of the civil rights movement in the middle of the 20th century, Mississippi has been a state in constant transition.

One thing the state is extremely proud of is its music. Not only was the King himself from a tiny town in ol’ Miss but blues music originated here, evolving from the spirituals and hymns sung by African slaves while they worked on the plantations. 

As a largely rural and poor state (21% of the state was below the poverty line in 2016), most of its population has embraced a slower pace of living rooted deep in southern charm and hospitality, but with a fighting spirit. Go to the Magnolia State and you’ll find a state that may be struggling to evolve with the rest of the US, but also a state with people ready to embrace the coming years. 

But the soul isn’t just in the music and food around here. In fact, Mississippi is tied with Alabama as the most religious state. With 77% of adults who identify as highly religious, they tend to lean further to the right in matters of politics with the state voting strongly Republican in every presidential election since 1980. 

Chapter Four: Where to “Study” around Town

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

  • Rock and Blues Museum: If you like a little music while you’re studying, this is the place for you. In Clarksdale, this 7,000 square foot museum is packed with exhibits that detail the lives of famous rock and blues musicians alongside artifacts of the classic music genres. 
  • Down by the river: You know, the Mississippi River. Grab a fishing pole, lean back against a tree, and you’re all set for a relaxing day of studying and hopefully some record catfish.
  • Biloxi: Take a little road trip down to the gulf and grab a cup of coffee at Grind Coffee and Nosh for a great spot away from any distractions of the campus.

Chapter Five: No FOMO Weekend Activities around Mississippi

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

  • Vicksburg National Military Park: A memorial to the Battle of Vicksburg during the Civil War, this 20-mile strip of land still has the trenches where this game-changing battle was fought in 1863. It’s like going on a field trip for history class.
  • Tupelo Automobile Museum: Car enthusiasts, this one’s for you. This 120,000 square foot museum has over 100 classic and collectible automobiles. They include an 1886 Mercedes-Benz, a never-driven 2004 Dodge Viper, and a Lincoln that was owned by Elvis Presley. Commence drooling. 
  • Elvis Presley Birthplace and Museum: This museum commemorating the life of the one and only King of Rock and Roll solidifies the quiet town of Tupelo’s spot on the map. 
  • Prairie Arts Festival: Held in West Point every year for the past 38 years, this festival was named one of the top ten events in the South. It’s a day filled with arts, crafts, cooking, cars, music, and everything else quintessentially southern. With over 600 exhibits, it’s one of the largest arts and crafts festivals in the country. 

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.

While the economy is still trying to come back from a monster recession in 2008, the state remains affordable (an unintended consequence). U.S. News ranked it 13th for affordability overall, and first for affordable cost of living. That’s good news for your healthcare costs, utilities, and weekly supply of Oreos. It’s also good that the state is so affordable with minimum wage at a federal-low $7.25 an hour.

As for jobs to take care of that Oreo fixation, agriculture and forestry are the supreme rulers. Agriculture employs around 30% of the state’s workers on farms covering more than 10 million acres of land, making it the state’s number one industry. 

Other leading industries include manufacturing, trade, education, and health services. The top fastest-growing jobs are physician’s assistant, home health aide, and industrial mechanic. Out of the ten professions listed, five relate to health services. It makes sense, considering the organizations with the largest workforces in the state include the University of Mississippi Medical Center and the North Mississippi Medical Center. 

While it seems the Magnolia State offers affordable living for its citizens, at what cost are you willing to get it? At the cost of job security, a livable paycheck, or your Oreos? We’re putting that decision in your hands. 

Chapter Seven: Pack Your Blue Suede Shoes, ‘Cuz Here You Come

All right folks, there you have it — your supremely helpful, though far-from-complete, guide to the Mississippi 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 we’ll see you in church.

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