A Guide to “The College Life” in Nebraska

(How to fit in among all the corn.)
Street side view of the campus of the University of Nebraska in downtown Lincoln.

Welcome to college in Nebraska. Whether you’re brand new around here or you were born with a cob of corn in each hand, you’re in for a real treat.

If you decide to stay after college and buy a new house, make sure you're covered with an affordable home insurance policy.

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: Nebraska Conversation Starters

Now, easily the most important thing to do once you get to Nebraska is make some new friends. However, in order to make friends with a real-life Nebraskan, 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 that and expect to fit in — you gotta go for a way, way deeper dive. 

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

  • “Wanna grab a Runza?” A Runza is like a sandwich, calzone style, and Nebraskans love ‘em. It’s ground beef baked in a closed roll filled with all sorts of goodies — the perfect late-night snack.
  • “Pass the Dorothy Lynch.” Dorothy Lynch dressing is as much a staple of Nebraskan kitchens as a butter dish. It’s big on salads, of course, but it’s also used in casseroles, marinades, or even with your fries. It’s kinda like a French dressing, but it’s a tomato base, not oil, and having a few bottles on standby is key.
  • “Hey, Der Viener Schlinger, over here!!” Nothing is more important in Nebraska than college football. And nothing is more loved at home games than “Der Viener Schlinger” a large contraption that fires fresh, wrapped hot dogs to the Cornhusker faithful.

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.

The home of the University of Nebraska, Lincoln, has one-bedroom apartments going for about $967/month, with apartments around Creighton University in Omaha about the same at $927/month. But of course that’s right inside the city, and you can probably find even lower prices out in a number of nearby cities for less.

PRO TIP: If you put, like, 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?

Nebraska workers comp

To live among the folks of Nebraska, it’s best if you understand them. Nebraska can pretty much be summed up in what we like to call the 3 R’s: religion, Republican, and wrangling. For a state whose major industry is agriculture, it’s pretty obvious what the driving force behind its culture will be. Nebraska’s landscape of rolling hills and fertile plains is the perfect backdrop for the Wild West lifestyle many favor. 

While the thriving urban area of Omaha houses almost a quarter of the population, it’s still a center of agricultural industry. It’s not out unusual to see a person walking down the street in a suit, with a cowboy hat on, getting their business done. The rest of the hundreds of towns (many containing fewer people than are invited to the average wedding) live a life pretty far removed from the hustle of the cities. 

With most of its population living rurally, the way of life in Nebraska is slower and more peaceful. It’s not always an easy life, but the farmers who have worked the land for generations would be more than happy showing any newcomers how Cornhuskers get it done. 

Chapter Four: Where to “Study” Around Town

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

  • Indian Cave State Park: If you like solitude while studying, maybe doing it in a cave is the ticket for you. The caves here are decorated with incredible petroglyphs, with plenty of peace and quiet all around.
  • The Sandhills: if you fear confined spaces, try the Sandhills. Covering a quarter of the state, this place has large dunes, grasslands, shallow lakes and gorgeous views. Just find yourself a nice, peaceful spot and plop down for the quiet you need.
  • Omaha’s Old Market: if you like a little bit of noise around you while you’re studying, the Old Market is a historic area of Omaha with cobblestone streets, quaint little galleries, restaurants and coffee shops that are sure to have exactly what you need to fuel your studies.

Chapter Five: No FOMO Weekend Activities around Nebraska

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

  • Nebraska's Big Rodeo: Since 1921, this one-of-a-kind four-day event can been found in Burwell. Need a place to break in those new cowboy boots and hat? This is the place for it. If you’re a regular Joe looking for a good time, this is also the place for that. 
  • Nebraska Star Party: Yes, it’s exactly what it sounds like. Every August, families of all star-gazing levels gather at the Merritt Reservoir Snake River Campground, about 30 miles southwest of Valentine. They indulge in a night of stargazing where there is almost zero light pollution and some of the darkest skies in the US. 
  • Henry Doorly Zoo: Located in Omaha, it’s been named the World’s Best Zoo by TripAdvisor (they’re a big deal). Started as the Riverview Park Zoo in 1894, it has blossomed into a beloved attraction that features North America’s largest nocturnal exhibit and largest cat compound, and the world’s largest glazed geodesic dome. Big props to this zoo-topia. 
  • Ashfall Fossil Beds State Historical Park: Near the town of Royal, this massive reserve of fossils left after an ancient volcanic eruption offers a prehistoric look into the Midwest’s wild past.
  • Memorial Stadium: Whether you’re going to the University of Nebraska or not, living in Nebraska isn’t done right until you’ve been a part of an actual Cornhuskers game on their home turf and joined in on the Sea of Red.

Chapter Six: The Post-College Job Scene

Maybe you know exactly what you want to do after graduation, or maybe you’re still undecided. 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.

In Nebraska, the job market is as juicy as the corn. The state’s unemployment rate is 2.8%, one of the lowest in the country, and it's ranked 16th overall among the best states for jobs. So that’s a great start. 

But not every job involves husking corn. Nebraska’s largest companies include Berkshire Hathaway (Warren Buffett's crown jewel), Union Pacific, and Home Instead Senior Care. 

And right now, the fastest growing professions include: web developer, home health aide, and computer numerical controller machinist. And five of the ten fastest growing jobs relate to health care. While the agricultural industry still sits on the iron throne (generating $7 billion a year in cattle alone), healthcare services is a steadily growing field. However, the non-farm industry with the most job growth in the last 12 months was the leisure and hospitality industry at 2.4%.

Another great piece of news is that this Wild West state is ranked 5th for affordability by U.S. News & World Report. With Nebraska’s affordable cost of living and a minimum wage of $9.00 an hour, much higher than the federal minimum, we think you could do some pretty big things here.

Chapter Seven: Pack Your Corn Cob Holders, ‘Cuz Here You Come

Alright folks, there you have it — your supremely helpful, though far-from-complete, guide to Nebraska 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 about that affordable home insurance policy when the time comes.

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