US Student Accommodation
Most students beginning a postgraduate course in the USA want to live somewhere safe, clean and welcoming, as well as close to the local university. When choosing where to live you’ll also need to think about the kind of housing that has worked best for you in the past, be it a sociable shared dorm or a single room in a quiet house, and also consider how much you can spend on living costs. Here’s a list of the three main choices you’ll have when you begin a postgraduate course in the USA.
Choosing to live on-campus
The Pros: For most undergraduate students in the USA living on-campus in university owned housing is considered the norm. This is also a sensible option for postgraduate students who’d like a convenient place to stay that’s close to their place of study. For out-of-state students and people coming to the US from abroad, it’s a great way to gain an insight into the student experience and make new friends. Rents will vary depending on the state and city you’ll be living in; for the year to 2015 the University of Pennsylvania charged $4,095 for a room in their accommodation, but at the University of Texas in Austin, that fee was almost doubled at $9,272. When you have found an institution that appeals, you can find details of the rental costs you might expect on their website.
The Cons: Not everyone enjoys the busy nature of a college dorm, most have communal bathrooms and some even expect students to share a room. It can be a loud place with lots of people moving around at once and very little chance for solitude. As most graduates tend to be older than first degree students, some colleges try to place them together in a quieter block. Ask your prospective university for details of their graduate dorms if you have any worries, but apply as soon as you can as places tend to fill up fast.
Renting a room or apartment near the university
The Pros: Most universities offer advice and support for students who prefer to live in privately owned houses, they may even be able to provide the names and contact details of trusted landlords in neighbouring communities. This can be a better choice for mature students as there is more space and it’s easier to maintain your independence. Leasing an apartment means you have more choice in terms of the area you live in and the amenities it provides. You can also team up with a compatible friend to house hunt together, then split the rental costs when you find the right place.
The Cons: As a private tenant you’ll usually be expected to organise your own utility bills and telephone services. There’s also the cleaning and cooking to be done, along with a daily commute, which could become tiresome. On top of these added pressures you may feel somewhat isolated from your peer group, and miss the interaction with your friends. Finally, the new responsibilities you face may impact on your academic success, especially if you struggle to establish a regular study schedule.
Staying with a family in their home
The Pros: Often called home stays, living with an American family can really help postgraduate students as they adjust to an unfamiliar way of life. You’ll get your own room in the house, chores are taken care of and in the majority of cases meals are also provided. Many of these arrangements are made through the university and the families will often have previous experience of students as houseguests. You can immerse yourself in American life, plus enjoy all the comforts of home despite being in an entirely new city.
The Cons: Most home stays are relatively close to the university they serve, but you may still be a fair distance away. There is also a lack of privacy, as you’ll be sharing a house with the family who live there, including their bathroom, kitchen and Wi-Fi. As it’s their home, you’ll have to follow their rules and these may be vastly different to your own way of life. They may expect you to sit down to eat at 5pm each day, or ask you to let them know if you’ll be coming home late. If you’re not used to this kind of scrutiny it can be hard to adjust, but as a visitor you’ll have little choice.