A Guide to “The College Life” in New Jersey

(College in New Jersey? Here's what to know.)
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.

Campus of Princeton University

Welcome to college in New Jersey. Whether you’re brand new around here or you’ve been bummin’ around the Shore your whole life, you’re in for a real treat.

If you choose to stay after college and buy a 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 life around the state that puts the extra in extracurricular. So, let's get into it.

Chapter One: New Jersey Conversation Starters

Now, easily the most important thing to do once you get to New Jersey is make some new friends. However, in order to make friends with a real-life New Jerseyite, 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 population 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 a few of these conversation starters out:

  • It’s just “Jersey,” the  “New” is silent. No one around here calls the state by its full name, so do yourself a favor and start your time here saying it right. Oh, and don’t you dare say “Joy-zee” — a big no-no.
  • “Top it off, wouldja?” New Jersey residents don’t pump their own gas, an attendant handles that for ‘em — the law says so.
  • “Gotta go pick something up at Wawa.” Gas station. Coffee shop. Fresh food. Everything you need is at Wawa, and the locals love the place.

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 Rutgers University, New Brunswick, has the average apartment going for about $1,873/month. Meanwhile in Princeton, home to the Ivy League school of the same name, you’ll be paying around $2,341/month. But of course that’s right inside the city, and you can probably even find 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?

To live among the folks of New Jersey, it’s best if you understand them. And the first thing to know is that the locals are a mixed bag. Each town around the state feels very different from the next. There's even a statewide joke about Northern Jersey vs. Southern Jersey, and how they're basically different worlds. 

New Jerseyans do have a reputation for being kind of "in your face," and locals tend to agree. Residents say that people in this state are "opinionated and argumentative" and even "loud, obnoxious and full of themselves." So, if you're going to hang out with the locals, expect a bit of 'tude. Some of it stems from their fierce state pride—they are "profoundly patriotic" and are quick to get very defensive about their homeland.

Residents also say that they are "well-educated," "respectful," and "fairly cosmopolitan," and that their home state has "people from every religion and creed." There's apparently a huge divide between the very rich and very poor counties, and the people you find on either side are also quite different from each other. 

There's also diversity in terms of terrain in the state. New Jersey’s home to everything from beaches (remember to refer to it as the Shore) and big cities to forests and camping grounds. Locals speak with pride of their home state's boardwalks, and insist that they have the best restaurants around, too. 

Speaking of food, residents here are crazy about it—especially carbs. Bagels and pizza are huge staples of The Garden State diet, and locals will argue that they produce the best in the country. Also big here are disco fries—fries smothered in gravy and cheese. We’re sold.

Chapter Four: Where To “Study” around Town

Victorian architecture along the promenade in the historic district of Cape May, New Jersey

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

  • Cape May: This 18th-century trendy resort town is located on Delaware Bay and features huge Victorian-style homes, beaches, and an impressive lighthouse. This area was packed with the super-rich back in the day, and since then six US presidents have had vacation homes here. Maybe find a spot to crash over the weekend and relax into some weekend studies. Need a break? Head north and see what the Jersey Shore is all about.
  • Grounds for Sculpture: This 42-acre sculpture park in Hamilton Township is home to 300 bronze sculptures of people in "everyday situations." You'll find them stationed throughout the park—playing chess, sitting on benches, reading, dining at an outdoor cafe, and more. The perfect setting to sit, be still and get some work done.
  • Batsto Village: If solitude is your thing when it comes to studying, you can’t beat a ghost town. The town was built in 1766 as an iron-working town but still looks like it was built yesterday.

Chapter Five: No FOMO Weekend Activities around New Jersey

One of the best things about college is the weekends. And New Jersey 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:

  • Camp No-Be-Bo-Sco: You may know this place by it’s popular Hollywood name, Camp Crystal Lake, from the Friday the 13th movies. It’s a still-active Boy Scout camp that offers tours to classic horror film buffs—chi chi chi ha ha ha…
  • Sterling Hill Mining Museum: Opened in the 1630s, a rich vein of zinc was found there  in 1867, and it was one of the oldest operating undergound mines in the US when it was closed down in 1986. Today it’s home to the largest collection of fluorescent rocks in the world that glow like a warehouse rave under black light. And seriously, you’ve never seen anything like it. 
  • Hindenburg Crash Site: In 1937, 36 people died when the Hindenburg, a big blimp you might know from Led Zeppelin’s debut album cover, caught fire and was almost instantly engulfed in a raging fireball at Lakehurst Navy Air Base. Today, this historic landmark in Lakehurst features a memorial at the crash site, with an outline of where the Hindenburg fell to earth. 
  • South Mountain Fairy Trail: In Milburn, along a stretch of the South Mountain Reservation hiking trail, you'll see a mystical community of very detailed fairy houses. Yes, fairy houses. The homes include all the trimmings of human homes, like furniture and supplies—all impressively handcrafted to be tiny enough for fairies. A local artist created the project to give tiny little surprises to curious explorers and it's quite the adorable little scavenger hunt.

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 job market and which careers are hot right now around town.

Despite having the highest population density in the nation, the state’s unemployment rate is still 4.6%, just a hair above the national average. New Jersey’s minimum wage currently sits at $8.60/hour, which is considerably higher than the federal minimum.

Some of the state's fastest-growing jobs are in the fields of home health care, operations, physical therapy, nursing, occupational therapy, optometry, and diagnostic imagery.

But if you’re really looking to bring in the big bucks, the highest-paying jobs include: orthodontist, psychiatrist, anesthesiologist, CEO, surgeon, petroleum engineer and marketing manager. Are you one of those? If not, you could be. 

Chapter Seven: Say Goodbye to Pumping Your Own Gas, ‘Cuz Here You Come

Alright folks, there you have it — your supremely helpful, though far-from-complete, guide to New Jersey 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.

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