Apartment Hunting Tips for New Grad Students

You just got the happy email and the fat envelope.  You’re very excited about your new school and the move to a new city. Then it hits you: “Where am I going to live?”  You’re going to need to look for housing. However, unlike undergrad, it’s not nearly so easy as your new school plopping you into a dorm, and you taking it from there. Nor is it quite as straightforward as moving to a new city as a working adult, where you’d scout neighborhoods and pick a place. It’s the grad school apartment hunt, which has it’s own unique challenges. Here’s what you’re up against.

School-Provided Housing

apartment huntingDepending on what program and school you get into, you may very well get an offer to be placed in graduate student housing. If you do get this offer, it will certainly be the simplest choice – you just say yes,  sign a few papers, put down a deposit, and then when you arrive in the fall, your dorm is waiting for you. That said, it may not be the best choice. Graduate school housing can be cramped, poorly located, overpriced, or restrictive. Or, it can be fabulous and just what you want. But you don’t know until you do your homework – so before you accept the school’s offer, check the prices against available housing nearby and run through the checklist below. Housing should be about what you need, not just what the school offers.

Living Near Undergrads

When you’re an undergrad, you think you’re mature. You live with other undergrads. All your friends are undergrads. It’s normal – that’s you’re life. So it may be a shock when you’re twenty-four and arrive at graduate school to find that, despite your only being out of college two years, you no longer have anything in common with undergrads. All of a sudden, you think they’re immature. And you wish they weren’t everywhere. But that’s likely what will happen. Think about how you felt when you first encountered high-schoolers a year after you’d started college. Yup. That’s how you’ll feel about undergrads after you’ve lived in the big, wide world for a couple of years. So think about that when you’re looking for housing – you’re going to want to be near campus, since you’ll be studying there, teaching there, attending events there – but you also want to make sure you’re not on undergrad alley. For example, major party schools like Wisconsin and Texas have certain bar-lined streets where you can count on hoards of undergrad students showing up Wednesday through Saturday night. Find out where those areas are – and avoid them, unless that’s still your scene. Also, many college towns have a slumlord of sorts, that owns numerous buildings in one neighborhood, all of which are cheap quality and populated by loud, boisterous undergrads. Again, find out where this is … and avoid it.

Graduate Student Living

student housingEven though you’ll want to avoid living with undergrads,  you’re not necessarily ready (or can afford!) to live in an upscale area, or where professors live with their families. The lifestyle of a graduate student is unique: you’ll be keeping odd hours, working long hours, and you won’t have much money.  So, look for neighborhoods that tend to support a bohemian lifestyle but will also be close enough to allow you to easily make multiple trips to and from campus each day. For example, if you’re taking a seminar in the morning, teaching a class in the late afternoon, and meeting up with a study group after dinner, you’re going to want to be able to travel from your apartment to the campus easily and quickly – it just makes good, common sense.

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Author My First Apartment

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Alex has rented in Minneapolis, Queens, Brooklyn, and now Chicago. He can kill rodents and roaches when required, and loves picture-hanging projects. If you're ever in town, give him a shout.

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Comments (3)

  1. Avatar Regent Student Living

    Whether you are freshman or not, finding a college apartment which fits your needs can be stressful. It should be about what you need, not just what they offer. After going through your post, I have found that the tips provided in this blog are too much cooperative for first time students.

  2. Avatar Whitney champagne

    This is so my life right now. Graduated 2 yrs ago & now I’m starting grad school in September. I probably won’t move till January but planning to move and looking for affordable apartments is a daunting task. Yall make it a lot easier to plan& be prepared.