American Experience | 体验美国

The Best Activities for a College Student on a Budget

March 25, 2013 7:09 pm | By Christian

I chose Northwestern University in part because of its proximity to Chicago.  One of the main appeals of living near a big city is the seemingly limitless options of sports game, concerts, and other activities.  On the other hand, one of the main drawbacks of living near a big city is how much all these things can cost.  However, as I quickly learned, there are cheap and fun activities out there if you just look.


The fastest growing sport in America is soccer, thanks in part to Major League Soccer (MLS).  Since the founding of MLS in 1993, the “beautiful game” has grown substantially in the United States.  Last year, MLS drew more fans per game than both the National Basketball Association and the National Hockey League to become the third best-attended sports league in North America (just behind Major League Baseball and the National Football League).  With teams in 16 cities throughout the United States and 3 cities in Canada, MLS games have become popular amongst college students for their low cost (the average ticket price of $25 is the lowest amongst the five leagues) and electric atmosphere.  The league is especially popular in the Pacific Northwest, where the league’s best-attended team, the Seattle Sounders, regularly draws in crowds of over 40,000.


If you’re not up for spending $100 on a concert, “Open Mic Nights” are a great way to see up and coming local musicians, comedians, and poets.  There are websites specifically designed to help you find open mics and most open mics are free or cost a small cover charge.

City Events

Cities often host parades and festivals which come cheaply and are a great way to get to know the culture of your new home.  Chicago hosts an annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade, which includes the dying of the Chicago River, the “South Side Irish Parade” and concerts all at no cost.  Check your cities website or tourist board for upcoming events.

College Events

While taking advantage of the city is certainly a priority, don’t forget that Colleges often host their own events specifically catered to the student budget.  For example, Northwestern has a free annual music festival call Dillo Day, which has featured artists such as The Roots, Cake, and Lupe Fiasco in the past.  Additionally, student groups will often host concerts and guest speakers of their own to promote their organization so remember to keep a look out for special on events on campus!

Get out there!

Some of my favorite restaurants have been the local ones I’ve discovered myself.  Pick a neighborhood and walk around.  While events’ websites such as Metromix certainly have their use, the best way to explore a city for cheap is to just get out there!