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The Graduate Student's Guide to Living in Dallas

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The decisions you make about graduate study have a significant impact on your life. When you decide to pursue a graduate degree, you are choosing intellectual mentors, friendships, an area of expertise, and to some degree, the potential trajectory of your life.

It’s a decision that opens many doors. It’s also a decision that involves your whole person; in order to thrive in graduate school, you will need to like the people you’re spending time with, the place you live in, and the opportunities you have for relaxation, learning, and fun.

The Dallas motto is simple: “Big things happen here.” Could your graduate career be one of those big things?

Big things happen here.

Southern Methodist University is proud to say we make our home in Dallas, Texas. Our bustling city is one of the fastest-growing metropolitan areas in the U.S., and one of the best places for graduate students to live, learn and play. 

This guide is dedicated to helping you learn more about the city of Dallas and what it’s like to live here. Watch and read about some of our favorite highlights about the city SMU calls home. We look forward to sharing our city with you in person as a student! 


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How Location Plays a Role in Your
Graduate Student Success

We love to talk about Southern Methodist University’s hometown of Dallas, Texas. It’s not just because Dallas is an exciting, growing city, but more importantly, because our home in Dallas offers SMU graduate students world-class learning and working opportunities. The combination of an SMU education and a powerful local economy makes magic for our graduate students. 

There’s a symbiotic relationship between high-quality schools and thriving cities. The best graduate education tends to take place in populated environments with access to a variety of expertise across all industries, plenty of cultural resources, and a plethora of work opportunities. In turn, exceptional graduate programs attract talented individuals who participate in the local life during their years of graduate study and beyond. 

Your time in graduate school is a time to grow as a whole person, with all of your interests and hobbies. The beautiful city of Dallas offers you educational, professional, and personal outlets for creativity and growth.

Now, let’s dive into the top five reasons why we think Dallas is an ideal city for students, explore some of Dallas’ best food, parks, and museums, and get a quick overview of SMU resources for graduate students.



Top 5 Reasons to Go to Graduate School in Dallas


1. Find opportunities and internships at one of Dallas’ Fortune 500 companies.

Exxon-Mobil. AT&T. American Airlines. These are just a few of the over 22 Fortune 500 companies that have chosen Dallas for their corporate headquarters. Drawn by the area’s excellent labor pool (read highly educated young people!), friendly tax and regulatory systems, and Dallas’ central location within the United States, these top-ranked companies become major employers in the region.

Dallas’ concentration of Fortune 500 companies across many industries means that there are highly competitive work opportunities right in your backyard. No need to even leave the area!

2. Enjoy the fastest growing economy in the United States.

Dallas already boasts the 4th largest GDP of all metropolitan areas in the United States, and the economy continues to boom. Recent data indicates that between 2016-2017, Dallas had both the highest job growth rate and the most jobs added for any metropolitan area in the United States. One example of this — Uber recently broke ground for its new headquarters in Dallas and plans to hire 400 employees by the end of 2020 and another 4,000 by the close of 2023.

Why does this matter to you as a graduate student if you’re not interested in a career in business? Because a rapidly growing economy and a continued influx of new workers means that the opportunities in every field increase. Whether you’re interested in teaching, research, data analysis, or the social sciences, the Dallas area will need your skills and interests as it continues to grow.

3. Save your budget with inexpensive living.

Despite the rapid growth taking place in and around Dallas, the area is still manageable for a graduate student budget. You shouldn’t have to be scraping by to afford your basic necessities simply because you are in graduate school. Choosing to go to graduate school in an area of the country with all the advantages of a major metropolis, but without the major price tag, will make your years of study much more pleasant.

Consider just this: the cost of living, including food, housing, and transportation, is estimated to be 55% more expensive in New York City and 40% more expensive in Washington, D.C. than in Dallas. That’s a significant chunk of change that you won’t be spending on daily necessities.

4. Enrich your life through Dallas’ emphasis on culture and arts.

Are you a fan of art, music, beautiful spaces, and other types of artistic or cultural life? Dallas is home to beautiful museums, concert venues, and park spaces. In fact, Dallas as a city places a huge emphasis on making the urban experience as culturally rich as possible by bringing in renowned architects like Renzo Piano and Thom Mayne to construct key cultural buildings in the heart of the city.

The Dallas Arboretum has been named “One of the World’s 15 Most Breathtaking Gardens,” and the Dallas Arts District “is said to be the largest contiguous urban arts district in the nation,” according to Forbes.

5. Take advantage of world-class research centers.

Hosted on the campus of Southern Methodist University, the city of Dallas can boast about the presence of two world-class research facilities: the supercomputer complex known as ManeFrame and the George W. Bush Presidential Center. For graduate students who are interested in American history and historical research or in data analysis, statistical science, computational chemistry, and drug design and discovery, these resources offer a unique opportunity to be at the heart of cutting-edge research developments.

A Guide to Choosing, Applying for, and Thriving in a Ph.D. Program:

Ph.D. Guide Cover viewed on an iPad and iPhone.

This resource will offer you everything you need to know about how to select, apply for, and succeed during your years of graduate study.

Access the Guide

Things to Do in Dallas: Sports, Music, Food, Parks, Museums, and More

Now that we’ve made the big-picture case for Dallas, let’s focus on some of the opportunities for fun.

Things to Do in Dallas

Cheer on one of our six major sporting teams. The Cowboys (NFL), Rangers (MLB), Mavericks (NBA), Stars (NHL), FC Dallas (MLS), and the Wings (WNBA) all call Dallas home. This means games galore to attend no matter what your sport of choice may be. We even have a major league gaming team: Dallas Fuel! Between the American Airlines Center, the AT&T Stadium, the Toyota Stadium, and Globe Life Park, our sports and entertainment venues can be counted on to provide many days and nights of fun.

Explore a full spectrum of diverse neighborhoods, cultural events, and places around Dallas. Whether you’re interested in shopping, atmosphere, culture festivals, art, or music, Dallas has you covered.


Neighborhoods and Shopping to Explore

Deep Ellum
Bishop Arts District
The Arts District
Lower Greenville
Trinity Grove
Northpark Center (students may be eligible for store discounts)
Mockingbird Station (students may be eligible for store discounts)

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Festivals and Cultural Events

This festival guide highlights some of the major cultural celebrations that take place throughout the year. From the India Association of North Texas, the Korean Festival, the North Texas Irish Festival to the weekly Dallas Farmers’ Market in the heart of the city, there is something for everyone in Dallas. The State Fair of Texas is another major annual attraction, celebrating Texas agriculture, education and community with great food, rides, rodeos, and more.

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Museums and Libraries

In general, a Dallas library card and your student ID are powerful things to have. Those with a Dallas library card can get free tickets with their Culture Pass to cultural events and museums. Many of the following institutions also offer free or discounted rates to students who are able to present their SMU ID.

Dallas Museum of Art
Nasher Sculpture Center
African American Museum of Dallas
Frontiers of Flight Museum
Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth
Kimball Art Museum
Dallas Symphony
Fort Worth Symphony
Dallas Opera
George W. Bush Presidential Library

Embrace your inner adrenaline junkie at Six Flags over Texas. The Dallas area is home to the first-ever Six Flags theme park, complete with the world’s largest loop coaster. This massive, 212-acre park boasts of 20 thrill rides, 25 family and kid-friendly rides, shows, seasonal events, and restaurants to fit every taste and food preference. 

Eat and drink in Bon Appétit’s 2019 Restaurant City of the Year. It’s tough to know where to begin to eat and drink in Dallas, and the options are only growing. Here’s a quick (and very incomplete) list of some Dallas coffee shops, bars, and restaurants to explore:

If you are a connoisseur of ambiance, food, and drinks, check out the Visit Dallas list of best restaurants to kick off your tour of Dallas’ culinary treats.

Spend time in nature at Dallas’ gardens and parks. Visit the Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Garden for seasonal floral festivals and the beautiful, 66 acres of curated parkland. Picnic, fish, kayak, or bike at White Rock Lake, a popular destination spot for outdoor adventurers. The nine-mile walking/running loop around the lake is always full of activity in nice weather.

And of course, you can’t miss the heart of Downtown, Klyde Warren Park, a 5-mile green space lined with shops, restaurants and more. Here, you’ll find free yoga classes on the grass, families playing, groups of friends organizing games of pick up sports, and plenty of walkers and picnickers taking in the ambiance.

Explore this full Visit Dallas Student Itinerary 2019 guide or the Dallas on a Budget guide for more information and ideas!

Weighing the Personal Pros and Cons of Living in Dallas

For many prospective students, choosing a graduate school involves some complex calculations. The reality is that as much as you may enjoy the idea of living in Dallas, whether the city will be a good fit for you comes down to an evaluation of your personal pros and cons.

It’s important for you to determine what your personal priorities are when it comes to graduate school.

Location Related Questions to Ask Yourself When Choosing a Graduate Program in a New City

1. Do I prefer city living or a more suburban environment?

2. Can I see myself feeling at home here?

3. Is it easy for me to travel to and from this location?

4. Will I be able to find a support network here? (For all our SMU students, we hope this answer is YES. Keep reading for more information about how we support you during your grad school years).

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Request More Information:

Still have questions? Contact our Director of Graduate Recruitment and we will help point you in the right direction.

Contact Us!

Housing and Travel in Dallas for Graduate Students

You may have practical questions about going to graduate school in Dallas. Where should you live? How will you get around?

Finding a Place to Live

The vast majority of our graduate students (97% of them) find living arrangements around the city. SMU is located in an area of Dallas known as Highland Park. While the area immediately surrounding campus is one of the more expensive areas in Dallas, many graduate students find attractive, affordable housing in nearby neighborhoods like The Village, Oak Lawn, Knox/Henderson, Uptown, and more.

We offer a full off-campus housing guide for admitted graduate students to help them navigate the best neighborhoods near campus. Our current students are also an excellent resource and can share their perspective on where to live in Dallas for the best convenience and affordability to incoming students. We also have information for local agents who can assist students with their housing search. 

Getting Around Dallas


Dallas’ public transportation system is known as the Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART). This system is a network of buses and trains with continually expanding reach into the suburbs of Dallas. The DART system includes trains to both airports and to the American Airlines Center in case you want to catch a Stars or Mavericks game. The DART offers a wide variety of daily and monthly passes and is a great, affordable transit option for graduate students in Dallas. SMU offers all of its enrolled students a free annual DART pass, which makes this method of transit even more convenient.


Many of our students are from outside of Texas and regularly travel around the country and the world. Living in Dallas means you can also get out of Dallas very easily thanks to the nearby DFW International Airport. The DFW airport is less than a half-hour from SMU and also reachable via the DART system. A second airport, Dallas Love Field, located just 10 minutes from SMU’s campus is another excellent option for more affordable domestic travel.

Currently, from the DFW International Airport you can fly direct to Dubai, Seoul, Mexico City, Hong Kong, Rome, Beijing, and many other places (including one of the longest flights in the world, Dallas to Sydney).

Graduate students tend to be a mobile population, and life is much easier when you have great mass transit options and a major airport or two a short distance away.

A Look at SMU Resources for Graduate Students


SMU Offices That Support Our Graduate Students

There are several offices at SMU that are designed to support graduate students, and meet their academic, professional, and personal needs while they pursue their degrees. Check out these helpful resources, and don’t hesitate to contact these offices if you have any questions before or during your graduate education.

The Moody School of Graduate and Advanced Studies

We are here for general admissions questions for all Ph.D. and Dedman College Master’s applicants. Our school manages University Ph.D. Fellowships, McNair Scholar tuition waivers, graduate student travel grants, graduate student life initiatives, changes in academic status, dropping/adding courses, and other forms for Dedman College students. We also track dissertation submission and graduation requirements for Dedman College students.

The Moody School of Graduate and Advanced Studies also provides students with numerous professional development opportunities including a series of workshops focused on furthering education and professional development and access to the Graduate Writing Center for consultation on all academic writing.

Office of International Student and Scholar Services (ISSS)

This office is there to help provide immigration services for those on F or J visas. We help with the coordination of pre-arrival information, current compliance issues, data management, and programming for SMU’s many international students. We also handle necessary reporting to the U.S. Federal Government, immigration orientations, and the creation of cultural and educational programming opportunities for students.

Hegi Family Career Development Center

Our career development center helps to match SMU graduates with employers. Through coaching from our counselors, students develop the skills necessary for lifelong career management. This center also offers opportunities for employers to recruit students through campus events and online resources, assists students with the transition to postdoctoral work or research, and guides international students in forming partnerships that will lead to their professional success.

Digital Resources to Support Your Success

Are you interested in learning more about how to choose, apply for, and thrive in a Ph.D. program? Or perhaps you are an international student who is considering SMU for graduate work? We have two other resources to offer you as you consider your options.

Choosing, Applying for, and Thriving in a Ph.D. Program

In this resource, we offer you some of the insider information you need in order to choose a program, apply successfully, and thrive during your years of graduate study. You’ll get answers to common questions, tips for putting together your application, and testimonies from students who made it through the application process and are now pursuing Ph.D. ’s.

The International Applicant’s Guide to a Ph.D.: Applying, Funding, Living Abroad, and Everything In Between

In this resource, you will find information about choosing and applying to a Ph.D. program, financing your degree, navigating housing and living in the U.S., and finding resources at SMU that can help you to do all these things successfully. You will also learn from current and past international students at SMU, as they share their experiences and tips for success.

Want to Learn More? Connect with SMU

“Big things happen here.” It’s the Dallas promise, and it’s a promise that may ring true for you as you consider making Dallas your home for your years of graduate study. We hope this resource has provided you with the information and answers you need as you consider living in Dallas and attending graduate school at SMU.

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For information about our programs or assistance with the application process, please contact:

Stevie Otto

Director of Recruitment and Admissions

The Moody School of Graduate and Advanced Studies

Southern Methodist University

Telephone: 214-768-4279

Email: smugrad@smu.edu

Graduate application: smu.edu/gradapp