Featured Image

6 Things You'll Experience When You Leave a Small Town

Heading to the big city for college is a huge transition. It can be especially tough coming from a small town. Here are some things you'll experience in the move.

If you’ve lived in a small town, you’re probably well acquainted with the phrase “I can’t wait to get out of here.” It’s parroted by people who feel they have dreams simply too big for their hometowns to accommodate. Small-town America has built a culture around romanticizing a life much bigger than cornfields or logging mills or commercial fishing.

For some, small-town living is comfortable, and there isn’t any shame in sticking to your roots. However, that kind of life isn’t for everyone. In a small town, career opportunities are few and far between, there isn’t much to do, and you get to know people too well. That kind of life can be stifling

The people around you feel this way too. Everyone has a cousin or sibling who made the move to a bigger place and bring home awe-inspiring stories. It’s easy to become enamored with the prospect of bustling metropolises and a fresh start. Plans start forming in your head. You want to attend a college with class sizes as big as your entire high school and see buildings so massive they could fit your whole town—with room to spare! However, if you decide to make this big move, there are a few things you should know about living in a city.

Related: Why I Want to Go to College in the City

1. You'll feel small

Speaking personally, my hometown’s tallest building is maybe only three or four stories high. All the streets are easily navigable, and there aren’t many people on the road. However, in all the visits I’ve made to cities, I felt a little overwhelmed by how big everything is. You might feel the same way, but fear not! There are always people willing to give directions and plenty of apps to help you find your way.

Also awe-inspiring is the sheer amount of people you’ll encounter. Sometimes you’ll feel unremarkable and small compared to the masses of people who occupy this space with you. It may make you feel a little insignificant. But your life will seem that much more spectacular when you attend your first college class or open the door to your new apartment. It’s almost like you have a whole part of the city cut out just for you.

2. You'll meet people with shared interests

Isolation isn’t just about geography. Sometimes people from small towns feel lonesome because they might be interested in things other people around them aren’t. However, at most colleges in urban settings, there are classes and student groups that cater to a wide range of passions and quirky interests. You’ll have people to talk to about your ideas. Suddenly, the variety of people will be a lot less daunting and a little more comforting. You’ll feel like you’re a little less alone in who you really are and what you like.

3. People are less friendly

In a small community, kindness is a necessity. Everyone you encounter in a small town is either friends with, married to, or related to someone you know. Your attitude often reflects strongly on you and all the people in your life. In this kind of community, you try to be your best person and it makes all the difference.

However, in a city, kindness is less of a necessity because you could live there for years and never meet the same person twice. Kindness still exists, but sometimes you have to earn it. Don’t be discouraged by someone on the streets being a little cold to you; they have places to be and might not have time. It happens. Just know that people are willing to be nice not because they have to, but because they want to.

4. You’ll have to plan ahead more

Grocery shopping is probably something you don’t think twice about, especially if you live in a small town. There are virtually no lines and plenty of open parking spaces at your disposal. Aside from stopping to chat with everyone you meet in the aisles, the experience is pretty quick and painless. In a more urban setting, however, you might encounter crowds and long lines to purchase your bread and toothpaste.

Perhaps equal in its inconvenience is traffic. If you made plans for lunch, you might be late because of rush-hour traffic or a road closing. You learn to create more time by leaving earlier and changing your routes on the way to your destination. It will take getting used to, especially if you’re used to walking from place to place or taking a short drive across town.

5. Things are much more expensive

Someone who has a romanticized idea of life in a city might overlook the true expenses of city living, even as a student. Your commute to work or school may be significantly costlier than you thought. The loft you imagined overlooking the city also runs at an astonishingly steep price. It will add up to much, much more than it would in your hometown, and that can be daunting.

Of course, this all depends on where you decide to go. New York City and Des Moines are two very different cities with very different markets, so do your research on how much the cost of living is before you make your move. But don’t sacrifice your dreams because of money. There are plenty of ways to make your life work, even if it means limiting your morning Starbucks runs or starting a carpool at work.

6. Self-expression is easier

Normalcy is a pretty significant feature of rural life. There are certain things that are expected and judged. However, cities don’t really work like that. People want to stand out, express themselves, and have their personalities heard. The urban environment is made for self-expression because variety becomes the normal. Your distinctions are more easily digested by those you encounter, and you become a little truer to yourself in this way.

Related: What Kind of College Town Is Right for You? Take the Quiz!

With all of this in mind, don’t be afraid to take a chance on a move to a big city. It will take time to plan, and maybe a little time to get used to, but it’s the chances you don’t take that you eventually regret in the end.

Small town, big city—where are you hoping to go to college? Let us know on Twitter @CollegeXpress!

Like what you’re reading?

Join the CollegeXpress community! Create a free account and we’ll notify you about new articles, scholarship deadlines, and more.

Join Now

city college transition finding your place moving away small towns

About Breanna Teynor

Breanna often finds that the rural Midwest isn't the best place to have your voice heard and your writing appreciated. Being able to write for CollegeXpress means that she has an outlet to express herself to those who will listen and do exactly what she loves to do—write. When she isn't typing away at a keyboard or scribbling in a journal, Breanna likes to spend her time watching movies, listening to music, or lifeguarding at local swimming pools. She hopes you enjoy her pieces because she thoroughly enjoyed writing them.


Join our community of
over 5 million students!

CollegeXpress has everything you need to simplify your college search, get connected to schools, and find your perfect fit.

Join CollegeXpress
Farrah Macci

Farrah Macci

High School Class of 2016

CollegeXpress has helped me in many ways. For one, online searches are more organized and refined by filtering scholarships through by my personal and academic interests. Due to this, it has made searching for colleges and scholarships significantly less stressful. As a student, life can already get stressful pretty quickly. For me, it’s been helpful to utilize CollegeXpress since it keeps all of my searches and likes together, so I don’t have to branch out on multiple websites just to explore scholarship options.

Maurice Whan

Maurice Whan

$2,000 Spring Scholarship Contest Winner, 2021

This year has been tough for my family and myself, so receiving this scholarship has been a blessing in disguise! CollegeXpress has been an excellent resource in helping me prepare financially for college. Thank you again for this amazing opportunity!

Rayan Hamdan

Rayan Hamdan


I joined CollegeXpress just a few months ago. I had been struggling with severe anxiety, causing me to not be able to tour schools and make sure a college would be perfect for me. I came across CollegeXpress one day when I was searching for colleges online, and it completely changed the game. I was easily able to choose colleges that would suit me, and I also entered a few giveaways! Thank you so much!

Fabiola Rodriguez

Fabiola Rodriguez

High School Class of 2022

CollegeXpress helped me on my journey to get to the school of my first choice by showing me all the options I have. I didn’t know of the College of Southern Nevada until I went on this website, and it helped me look for other choices and compare what colleges would be right for me.

Nazira Abdelkhalek

Nazira Abdelkhalek

$2,000 Community Service Scholarship Winner, 2014

I am very honored to be this year’s recipient of the Multicultural Student Community Service Scholarship! This scholarship is vital to helping me achieve and fulfill my dreams, and gives me confidence and motivation as I begin my college career. The CollegeXpress website has been invaluable over the past year as I planned my educational and professional goals. I highly recommend it to all students as they begin to focus on their college and career interests. The website is a wonderful guide to schools and scholarships.

College Matches