A Guide To “The College Life” in Minnesota

(Prepare for a beginner’s course in cold-weather survival)
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.

Guide to colleges in Minnesota

Welcome to college in Minnesota. No matter if you’re brand new around here and still have a tan, or you’re a long-time local, you’re in for a real treat.

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

Chapter One: Minnesotan Ice-Breakers

Now, easily the most important thing to do once you get to Minnesota is to make some new friends. BUT, to make friends with a Minnesotan, you gotta know a thing or two about 'em. You can't just spout off a bunch of facts from the state's Wikipedia page about populations and state birds and all, you gotta go for a much deeper dive. 

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

  • You can be a fan of the Nook or The 5-8 Club all you want, but the original "Jucy Lucy" is from Matt's and deserves your respect.
  • You probably know Prince and Bob Dylan are from here, but did you know the Peanuts Gang grew up on the mean streets of the Twin Cities with the help of local hometown legend and creator Charles Schulz? Winona Ryder, too.
  • The music scene around here is pretty incredible and has been for years. Catch a show at First Ave and you'll never want to see another show anywhere else. Wanna sound like a total insider, just tell locals Hüsker Dü is your fave band of all time and the rest should all fall into 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.

According to Rentcafe, the state’s capital of St. Paul has one-bedroom apartments going for around $1,076/month. Minneapolis is a bit pricier, with one-bedrooms going for around $1,223/month, and two-bedrooms for around $1,635/month. But of course that’s right inside the city, and you can always find lower prices out in a number of nearby suburbs 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 Minnesotans, it’s best if you understand them. So the first thing to know is that around here, folks speak their minds a little differently—with a big spoonful of passive-aggressive. For example, if you ask Karen what she thinks of your wild new hairstyle and she says, “that’s different” or someone calls your cooking "interesting," it's their polite way of saying "it’s terrible." It’s because people around here just don’t want to be mean, and it’s called "Minnesota Nice."

Of course it’s hard to ever really be mad at a Minnesotan with all their adorable quirks and that unique little accent. Here, words like “bag” and “flag” are pronounced more like "plague" through a strong blend of Canadian/Norwegian/American accents. And just like in the movie ‘Fargo’ (which is in North Dakota), you’re sure to hear a few "youbetchas" or "dontchaknows" out in some of the more rural areas.

But one of the most important things to remember is that around here a salad isn’t what you may think it is. In Minnesota, when a local ask you to bring a "salad" to a potluck or cookout, they're usually talking about a cream-based salad, like Jell-O salad, or ham salad, or, yes, Snickers salad. So show up with greens, carrots, and a vinaigrette and youbetcha you’ll be laughed at—only in a nice way.

Chapter Four: Where to “Study” Around Town

Now that you’re getting all nice and settled into Minnesota 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’s a few places we recommend:

  1. Caribou Coffee: Sure there’s Starbucks around, but when in Minnesota, do as the Minnesotans do. Plus, it’s always so cozy inside, like a log cabin with a fire place.
  2. Any of the 10,000+ lakes: In summer that means on the beach or on a boat. But in winter that means inside of a shanty doing some ice fishing. You’d be surprised how much you can get done when the fish aren’t biting.
  3. A secluded cabin: Around here, many residents own both a main home and a cabin (commonly on/near a lake) for vacations and weekend getaways. Find someone who’s got one, start a fire, and relax.
  4. Minneapolis Sculpture Garden (Walker Art Center): Right between the popular Uptown area and Downtown Minneapolis is an oasis for art lovers. It’s a peaceful park with lush, green grass and some very creative art installations. Every heard of the “Spoonbridge and Cherry” fountain? It’s here. And it’s a great place to get those creative studying juices flowing.
  5. At the Minnesota State Fair: Just kidding, it’s the second-largest state fair in the country and  it’s a madhouse. But it is a good getaway for a nice Pronto Pup or tub of Sweet Martha’s Cookies.

Chapter Five: No FOMO Weekend Activities Around Minnesota

One of the best things about college is the weekends. And Minnesota is a gorgeous state with a ton of incredible things to do, see, smell, and eat. So why not soak it all in? Here’s a few of our favorite local things to do:

  1. Shop at the Mall of America: Right in Bloomington, this is one of the biggest tourist destinations in the country. With more than 500 stores, 60 restaurants and the largest indoor theme park in the nation, this mall alone could take up your whole weekend.
  2. Visit the Saint Paul Winter Carnival: Minnesotans don't just survive their winters, they celebrate them. Enter the Saint Paul Winter Carnival. One of the main attractions here is the Ice Palace. Yes, a palace literally made of ice blocks that you can actually walk through. Over the years there have been 36 different unique designs, some containing more than 25,000 ice blocks. The event also features snow and ice sculpting contests, beer tastings, musical performances, and art exhibits. Don’t worry, the fun will keep you warm.
  3. Get your picture at a Paul Bunyan statue (or 20): Minnesota is home to many intriguing roadside attractions (about 366 in total, according to Startribune), including the Jolly Green Giant, the world's largest hockey stick, and Otto the Otter. But some of the most beloved attractions are all the different Paul Bunyan statues scattered throughout the state. Stop by as many as you can for the perfect selfie opportunity.
  4. Cross-country skiing: Minnesotans believe you can either complain about the snow, or you can enjoy it to the fullest. And that’s why cross-country skiing is so big here. There are several resorts throughout the state, but some resident-favorites inside the Twin Cities metro area include Theodore Wirth Park in Minneapolis, and Fort Snelling State Park and Battle Creek Regional Park West, both in St. Paul. Of course, it’s also a great way to get from class to class and get some good cardio in at the same time.
  5. See some live music: The Twin Cities music scene has exploded in recent years, fed by local inspirations of the past like Prince and Bob Dylan, and enjoyed at outdoor events (in the summer) and a number of legendary venues. Um, First Avenue? Hello. But there are hundreds of other places where music’s best acts love to visit.

Chapter Six: The Post-College Job Scene

Maybe you know what field you want to go into 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.

You already know that Minnesota has a bustling metro area, but the state also has 17 Fortune 500 companies including UnitedHealth Group, CHS, 3M, and Best Buy. Plenty of employment opportunities are created by these companies alone, but what does the job market as a whole look like?

For starters, the local unemployment rate is a low 3.1%, which is down from the 7.9% it was back in 2009, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The state's minimum wage is also a couple dollars higher than the federal figure, at $9.65/hour, according to minimum-wage.org. All great news so far.

Some of the fastest-growing job fields, as listed by Zippia, include home health aide, personal care assistant, operations analyst, nurse practitioner, massage therapist, credit counselor, and physical therapist. The highest-paying jobs around here include OB/GYN, psychiatrist, general practitioner, dentist, CEO, nurse anesthetist, benefits manager, and architect.

Can you work with those? If not, nothing to worry about, the opportunities around here are as plentiful as the lakes.

Chapter Seven: Pack Your Long Johns, ‘Cuz Here You Come

All right folks, there you have it—your supremely helpful, though far-from-complete, guide to the Minnesota 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. Youbetcha we'll be rooting for you.

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