A Guide to “The College Life” in Utah

(Everything you need to know - and more)

University Signage, Salt Lake City, Utah

Welcome to college in Utah. Whether you’re brand new around here or you’ve been surfing the Great Salt Lake your whole 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: Utah Conversation Starters

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

  • “Really biffed it down that hill.” A big throwback to ‘80s slang. This comes in handy whether you’re mountain biking in Moab or hiking at Bryce Canyon.
  • “No, we’re not all Mormon.” Sure the state has a large number of Mormon faithful, but not everyone is.
  • “Put some Snap Daddy’s on it.” No better way to add a little pop to food that needs a kick than smothered it in some Snap Daddy’s hot sauce.

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 home of the University of Utah, Salt Lake City, has the average apartment going for about $1,239/month. In Provo, home of Brigham Young University, you’ll find apartments for about $1,414/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 an affordable renters insurance policy.

Chapter Three: Local Culture

To live among the folks of Utah, it’s best if you understand them. To start, Salt Lake City especially is regarded as being very liberal and progressive. The city has one of the largest LGBT populations in the country, and celebrates that pride annually. In 2012, Salt Lake City was named the country's "gayest city" by The Advocate magazine. It offers a trendy hipster scene with an artsy vibe on the side.

Utah was the first state to legalize women's suffrage, in 1870. The state also has lakes so salty you’ll float in them — the Great Salt Lake has such a high concentration of salt that it increases your body's buoyancy. The super-salty lakes also make for the nation's saltiest (and locally argued to be the best) salt water taffy. 

Twice in the past six years, the Provo-Orem metropolitan area has been designated in the Gallup-Healthways list of 189 cities and metropolitan areas as having the "highest level of well-being in the US.” The area is often thought of as a "quietly awesome" place to live. It has also received other high honors, such as being named one of six "cultural hubs for outdoorsy types" by National Geographic, one of the "10 best cities for creative jobs" by U.S. News & World Report, and one of the "best places to raise a family" by Forbes.

Chapter Four: Where To “Study” around Town

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

  • Zion National Park: Located near Springdale, this park features waterfalls, cliffs, a river, reflecting pools, and canyons. No shortage of beautiful spots to get some good studying in.
  • Mystic Hot Springs: A soak in some naturally hot waters may be just what you need to get your mind in the game for a long study session.
  • Salt Lake City Public Library: 1. It’s a library. 2. It’s huge. 3. It’s an incredible example of modernist architecture.

Chapter Five: No FOMO Weekend Activities around Utah

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

  • Sundance Film Festival: Hosted annually in Park City, the Sundance Film Festival is the most popular film festival in the country, and the biggest in the world. The Sundance Institute, founded by Robert Redford, is a nonprofit organization that works to advance the projects of independent storytellers in both film and theater. This festival turned both Kevin Smith and Quentin Tarantino from no-names into famous directors. Almost 50,000 people attend annually.
  • Dark Arts Festival: Taking place over three days, this annual festival is held in Salt Lake City. It features music, dance performances, fashion, art, and vendors. The festival is targeted at the Gothic scene and fans of underground or industrial music.
  • Arches National Park: The state's official website says, "The landscape looks like Mars and the place names sound like purgatory, but stroll through Devil's Garden or claw your way out of the Fiery Furnace and you'll feel like you’ve landed in a corner of heaven." This park features more than 2,000 natural arches illuminated by some of the clearest and brightest skies in the country. It's a place made for explorers and photographers.
  • Hole N” The Rock: It was started in the 1940s by a man who dreamed of turning a giant rock into his home. After 12 years of work, he did. And even since the family left, it has remained open as a roadside attraction. Inside, you can tour the 14 rooms that are carved around huge pillars. Outside, you'll find a rock and cactus garden, stone-carved picnic benches and a petting zoo.

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, the state's unemployment rate is a low 3.1%, and it’s been on a nice decline since 2010 — when it was 8%. The state's minimum wage is significantly less impressive, though, matching the federal limit at $7.25/hour.

Some of the fastest-growing job fields include: veterinarian technician, operations analyst, software developer, web developer, interpreter/translator, and miner. But if you’re looking to really rake in the big bucks, the highest-paying positions currently include: OB/GYN, anesthesiologist, surgeon, pediatrician, general practitioner, CEO, law teacher, and petroleum engineer.

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

Chapter Seven: Ready To Live Life Elevated? ‘Cuz Here You Come.

Alright folks, there you have it — your supremely helpful, though far-from-complete, guide to Utah 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 to make sure you're covered by an affordable renters insurance policy if you decide to rent a place.

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