A Guide to “The College Life” in Tennessee

(No better place in the world for a study-time soundtrack.)

Campus of Vanderbilt Unversity in Nashville, Tennessee

Welcome to college in Tennessee. Whether you’re brand new around here or not, 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 life around the state that puts the extra in extracurricular. So, let's get into it.

Chapter One: Tennessee Conversation Starters

Now, easily the most important thing to do once you get to Tennessee is make some new friends. However, in order to make friends with a real-life Volunteer you should know a thing or two about them 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:

  • “Want some hot chicken?” The answer is always yes. But we’re not just talking about temp, hot chicken is a Tennessee favorite with a bunch of spice, just waiting for a sweet tea to wash it all down.
  • “Oh look, another bachelorette party.” Said in Nashville about every minute, this city is the hot destination for bachelorettes trying to have that last hurrah with the gals before the nuptials. And with all the live music, restaurants, and bars, it’s no wonder.
  • “Just waiting until August to buy a few big things.” All around Tennessee, locals wait until a certain weekend in August when there is no sales tax on certain items. It’s perfect for back-to-school shopping for clothes, computers, supplies, and so on.

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 Tennessee, Knoxville, has the average apartment going for about $1,071/month. In Memphis, home to the university of the same name, you’ll find apartments for even less, about $807/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.

Just make sure you're covered with unaffordable renters insurance policy.

Chapter Three: What's with These Locals?

To live among the folks of Tennessee, it’s best if you understand them. First thing to know is that most would agree you won't find friendlier people anywhere in the country. Apparently, they even wave to you as they drive by in the opposite direction.

And speaking of friendly, they’re a bunch of Chatty Cathy’s around here. In fact, unless you have a spare 45 minutes, you better not start up some small talk with a local.  

Everyone here raves about the scenery—everyone. The Great Smoky Mountains are an absolute must-see, drawing people in from all over to witness their beauty. The autumn leaves are rumored to be out of this world.

But there's more to see in The Big Bend State than just mountains—you'll also find beautiful rural areas, rivers and lakes, wooded patches, and more than 9,000 caves. Locals love to spend their time exploring the breathtaking nature all around them. Hiking and fishing are just a couple of the outdoor activities here. 

You'll find lots of artsy types in The Volunteer State, that's for sure. In fact, Nashville was ranked second on the list of the "Top 10 Places for Creatives in 2018" on smartasset.com. Obviously, with such a huge music scene, you'll find most are musicians and singers, but the art scene stretches all over the place here.

Chapter Four: Where To “Study” Around Town

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

  • Great Smoky Mountains National Park: Straddling the border between Tennessee and North Carolina is a sight that residents say you'd be crazy to miss. This sprawling landscape of lush forests and wildflowers, mixed with streams, rivers, waterfalls, and hiking trails, is incredible. It’s full of beautiful spots worth hiking to before relaxing with a little study session.
  • Ruby Falls: Near Chattanooga, an underground waterfall is hidden inside a cave in Lookout Mountain. A tour here is filled with incredible views of stones and formations, and the added bonus of a waterfall lit up by multicolored lights. Talk about a secluded place for some good study time.
  • Any music venue: The Ryman. Grand Ole Opry. The Blue Room. Just pick one and you’ve got the perfect study-time soundtrack to keep you going.

Chapter Five: No FOMO Weekend Activities around Tennessee

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

  • Sun Studio: The recording studio that prides itself on being "The Birthplace of Rock 'n' Roll" is located right in Memphis. Musical icons Johnny Cash, Elvis Presley, and Jerry Lee Lewis got their start here. The studio opened in 1950 and has produced many hit records and music stars since its inception.
  • The Sunsphere: This iconic landmark in Knoxville is one of the last remaining artifacts from the great World's Fair of 1982, and this specific structure was the symbol associated with the event because of its slogan, "Energy Turns the World." Though it was out of commission for decades, the observation deck was renovated and reopened to the public in 2014 and now overlooks the Knoxville Convention Center, where festivals and activities go on all the time. 
  • Titanic Museum: Located in Pigeon Forge, this is the second museum of its kind to feature a recreation of the doomed ocean liner that sank 1912. Since 2010, attendees have been able to explore re-creations of rooms based on actual Titanic blueprints, including a dining room and the oh-so-impressive grand staircase. The museum holds more than 400 artifacts from the ship. 

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.

For starters, Tennessee has a fairly low unemployment rate—just 3.4%, according the Bureau of Labor Statistics. So odds of finding work here are looking pretty good. The current minimum wage is $7.25/hour, which is the same as the federal minimum, according to minimum-wage.org.

But where’s business booming? Well, the fastest-growing fields currently include: physical therapist, medical sonographer, tax preparer, home health aide, interpreter/translator, nurse practitioner, and marketer. Plenty of room for growth there. But if you’re really looking to shoot for the stars, the highest-paying jobs in the state currently are: surgeon, pediatrician, orthodontist, OB/GYN, psychiatrist, dentist, and nurse anesthetist. 

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

Chapter Seven: Pack Your Boots, ‘Cuz Here You Come

Alright folks, there you have it — your supremely helpful, though far-from-complete, guide to Tennessee 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 finding an affordable renters insurance policy.

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