How do I find a job / apartment in a new city?
June 21, 2007 10:35 PM   Subscribe

Any advice on moving to a new, far away city, renting an apartment, getting a job, and perhaps attending a college?

What sort of planning should I go through? I intend to move to somewhere well-populated like Portland or Toronto or Amherst, where I won't know anyone.

I'm poor, I've just finished my freshman year at a large state university (which I didn't particularly enjoy, nor succeed at with a 1.9 GPA). Being away from my parents was good- I find them to be emotionally (sometimes physically abusive), and I don't want to go back, but I also don't want to be homeless.

A few questions about my future education: Is it too late to apply to good colleges for transfering in the fall semester? Would it be a waste of time attending a community college for a year before transfering?

I have some factory work, customer service, and theatre set-dressing work under my belt, as well as some good references- but I'm struggling to find work in the small town where I'm currently staying at a friend's house. There's also a huge problem here, which I intend to avoid / escape.

Aside from looking for opportunities on Craigslist, I'm really not sure how to go about doing any of this; thus any advice on starting over would be appreciated. I don't want this endeavour to end with me failing miserably, being in debt, and listening to the Old 97s song "Nineteen." I really need a life counselor.
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (10 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Good schools with limited have probably just gone through accepting people off their transfer waitlist to fill in any remaining shortfalls in enrollment, so, you are probably too late to transfer for fall enrollment. Honestly, that might be just fine for you.

A 1.9 GPA from a large state university isn't going to look great on a transfer application, but you can probably be more convincing in a year if you can point to evidence that you've grown since then. Moving to a new city and working is both a good way to grow, and demonstrate growth. Taking some community college courses in the interim couldn't hurt either.

At some point, you're probably going to have to start running from problems, but at 19, provided you haven't killed anyone or knocked anyone up, I think you are well within your rights to try and make a fresh start somewhere.

Do you have anyone you can stay for 2-4 weeks in the cities you plan on relocating too? That would probably make finding a job there and a place to live easier. Also, if you know anyone in those areas, start asking for job leads. Say "this is what I can do, can you suggest two people who might be able to help me get closer." You aren't asking for jobs, you are asking for advice on where to find jobs.

Whatever you do, avoid debt. Take a suck-ass job if you have to, as long as it still leaves you with time and energy to look for something better.

Oh, and might I recommend "Friends Forever" instead of "Nineteen," it's more about succeeding yourself and going where life takes you.
posted by Good Brain at 11:37 PM on June 21, 2007

If you want to transfer, call the admissions office of the place you're interested in to ask what you have to do to transfer, and when the deadlines are. They will be able to give you good information. Policies vary from place to place.

Think about this: Why did you do badly at the large state U? If you want to be in school in the fall, what is going to be different, or what will you do differently, to make it go better this time around?

It's perfectly ok to take a year or two -- or several -- off from school. A lot of people have trouble in their first years away from home, getting their bearings on their own, or have some other reason why taking time off makes sense. This is a perfectly good solution. People who take time off and then go back usually do really well, because they grow up and get more discipline in the meantime (that's not meant as patronizing. it's just a fact, the world of work gives a person discipline), and get psych issues under better control.

Suppose you didn't go back to school. What then? You should think about where you want to live (do you have friends somewhere? do you want to break into an industry that's localized in one city? do you love to ski, hike, etc?), or what kind of job you'd like to do. Probably it would be good to move to a city with a lower cost of living than NYC, since you will have a hard time getting a high-paying job -- so maybe think about medium-sized cities. Start looking at the Craigslists of those cities for jobs you think you might be able to do, or once you move go around to different businesses (I'm thinking of bookstores, restaurants, etc -- even giant chain retail stores, since they often have high staff turnover) and see if they're hiring. You'll probably get something quite entry-level. This might be good, if you're trying to shake the cobwebs of school out of your head. A retail job or food-service job should be easy enough to get, and if you work there for a year it will be good reference for future employers and might be enough of a break that you think more seriously about going back to school. Do you have a cash "cushion" that can help you move? Do you have a car and would you consider delivery (eg pizza) work?
posted by LobsterMitten at 11:50 PM on June 21, 2007

Incidentally, if you're a US citizen you will have a hard time moving to Canada unless you already have a job that will sponsor you to come over, or a place in a school program. I would look at cities in the US.
posted by LobsterMitten at 11:53 PM on June 21, 2007

Possible plan of action: Move to Cambridge, MA. Attend the Harvard Extension school (take two courses that sound interesting, courses are around $500 a pop) and find somewhere cheap to live on craigslist. Work full time (classes are in the evenings) and build a better GPA. If you really want to get out of your current situation all you have to do is work REALLY hard and make sound decisions. Get A's in your courses and you could transfer to any number of good schools and get need based grants. Save your money, find good friends, don't get stressed. Life can be hard, but in the end it's just life... take everything with a grain of salt.
posted by pwally at 11:59 PM on June 21, 2007 [1 favorite]

Another tip: when you look for apartments, look for shared living situations - housemates. This will be much, much cheaper than getting your own place.

The rule of thumb is that you should budget no more than 1/3 of your pay for housing. So imagine that you get a job that pays $10/hr at 40 hours a week. For 52 weeks, that's $20,800/year. Divided by 12, and divided again by 3, that's about $575 for your monthly rent. (For several reasons the numbers I'm using here are on the optimistic side -- but until you know what your job is, try looking for a room in a shared house that rents for around $500 a month or less.)
posted by LobsterMitten at 12:04 AM on June 22, 2007

I was a college tour guide and almost got kicked out twice for low grades.

I think you should stay in school where you are, even if that seems impossible and already decided, and not move to Portland, Toronto, or Amherst unless you're able to continue your studies there. I know this is not what you asked for, but I'm still recommending it on the assumption that everyone else will answer your question the way you've framed it and not challenge you to think about other possibilities. (Hope that doesn't make me a total jerk or anything.)

First, though, this: Is it too late to apply to good colleges for transfering in the fall semester? Would it be a waste of time attending a community college for a year before transfering?

No, and no; I'd call the schools you're interested in ASAP and explain your situation; they might recommend only a few classes at a community college, or have a person who works on specific plans for transfers who have some college under their belt already. (Don't be freaked out about "admitting" your "bad grades" on the phone, by the way - I worked in an admissions office and we're nice people who are, on the whole, professional, discreet and understanding.)

But on staying where you are: the university you're at right now doesn't hate you. They probably want you to stay, and there are built-in mechanisms to make staying attractive - things like being able to retake classes, or take a reduced schedule, or take classes for pass/fail credit only (eliminating the GPA worries). You had a hard year - and that's totally OK and permitted and allowed. How familiar are you with the resources your campus offers? Free tutoring/academic counseling/time management help? Probably. Low-cost health care? Probably. Assistance for people with alternative ways of learning? Probably. Those things won't come easily, or at all, out in the "real world," especially if you're turning back the clock by moving to a new place where you don't know anyone.

Lastly, and most importantly, universities offer free/low-cost counseling/psychological help. I don't hear you talking about friends you've made, or life in the dorms, or a relationship, or anything else like that; this especially worries me:

There's also a huge problem here, which I intend to avoid / escape.

Seriously, I wouldn't have made it through my sophomore year without counseling, and all we did was talk about why I was feeling the way I was. Totally confidential - to the point that if my counseling psychologist saw me at a meeting or something, she avoided even making eye contact to maintain confidentiality. It's one of the best things that I ever did, and it was totally free.

My e-mail's in my profile and I'm happy to chat.
posted by mdonley at 12:21 AM on June 22, 2007

If you don't know what you want to do, or aren't motivated enough to get decent grades, work for awhile and then go back to school. I dropped out at 19, went back at 24, and never regretted that. I had a whole new perspective on life and education by then, and I was determined not to spend my life working retail.

I like to browse Craigslist rentals via This will tell you what kind of place you'll be able to afford.

I don't have a lot of advice about jobs; when I last moved to an unknown place, we were still in the hard-copy newspaper era, so what I did was subscribe to the faraway place's newspaper and comb through the wanted ads. I also got a copy of their phone book (wow, does this make me feel old) and sent resumes to businesses that looked interesting. I had dropped out of college with a worse GPA than you, but I found a job and an apartment within two weeks.

To get a job quickly, look at a temp agency. In fact, call some in your intended cities and ask about available jobs, pay, etc. to get a sense of what kinds of industries are hiring there.
posted by desjardins at 6:45 AM on June 22, 2007 [1 favorite]

It sounds like you need a good support network before making these decisions. There IS one at your university, I can guarantee it, you just have to plug into it. Go and talk to your tutor, a counsellor, a student organisation. Remember, you're not failing, you're dealing with a tricky situation before it becomes too tricky. There's no shame or stigma attached. Chances are the person you talk to will have been through similar stuff and will be able to relate. The university wants you to succeed - or it looks bad on their statistics for one thing - but there can be some administrative crap to cut through first. Once you get to a real person you'll find that we're nice, we're human, and we want to help.
posted by danteGideon at 7:15 AM on June 22, 2007

Echoing all the advice about seeking some in-person support and counseling in making these decisions. Talk to the folks at your university's guidance center. That's what they're there for.

Also, you mention that you are poor and are attending a state university. Remember that if you move to another state you will probably need to meet residency requirements in order to get in-state tuition at your new university or community college. That means that you probably couldn't afford to start up in the fall semester at the new school. So, if you do make the move, I'd suggest taking a year off, working, establishing residency, and building up savings.
posted by Robert Angelo at 7:24 AM on June 22, 2007

I had a totally crap home situation at your age as well (well, at 17), so I ditched out of high school and joined the Navy. It's an unpopular, dangerous and frightening option, but not altogether a bad one.

I trained as a medic, which translated directly to civilian life, got money for school and earned a steady paycheck for four years. Granted, I strongly disliked many, many things about the military, but in the end I'm proud I did it and it served me well.

Not a popular thing to advocate right now, but something to think about anyway.

After the Navy I moved to a city I'd never been to (for reasons similar to yours, from what I can tell) and took classes at a community college. Once I was done with my AA I transferred over to the local state university and completed my BFA. The community-college-to-state-school plan work perfectly well for me, is cheaper than the all-uni route and gets you the same credentials in the end.

Whatever you do, if moving to another town is your decision, remember this; moving to another place allows you to restart in many ways, but it is still YOU who is moving (i.e., your problems go with you). Moving can be cathartic, but it isn't always the answer to everything. That said, be aware that you can jump to any place you want as long as you are willing to 'pay your dues'. Work a crap job for a while, leave school off until you stabilize some, PAY YOUR BILLS ON TIME, avoid buying things on credit and keep your priorities in order.

If you have some cash squirrelled away with which to move, that's great. If you only have a few bucks, sell some shit and only take what you can carry (for three jumps of this type that I took, the only-take-what-you-can-carry thing worked out pretty well for me. You can always have someone you trust mail your larger things later, if needs be). You're young enough to bounce back from almost anything, so don't sweat the GPA. As far as planning goes, just make sure you have all your important papers on you (SSN card, Birth Cert., DL, etc), and snoop around online to find apartments, jobs, whever. There's no replacement for beating the pavement, however, so many things won't click until you are acctually where you want to end up.

Keep your head together, don't worry about what you can't do anything about just now, and try to make your decision based on your best long-term interests. And good luck.
posted by Pecinpah at 7:27 AM on June 22, 2007 [1 favorite]

« Older Help me officiate friends wedding   |   I need to to learn about old paper. Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.