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Housing In The USA

Students studying in the US can choose to live on campus, in dormitories or housing owned by the university, or off campus, in apartments or in homes not owned by the university. It is best to contact the International Student Office before you leave to find out about your options. Here are some factors to keep in mind when choosing which housing alternative is better for you are:

Cost: How much will you be paying per month to live there? Just remember  that university housing may seem more expensive, but utilities (heat, hot water, gas, local phone service, electricity) are included in that price. If you rent an apartment, more often utilities are not included. Sometimes the landlord will pay some utilities (hot water, gas for heating), and you will pay the rest. It is important to understand which utilities you will be required to pay. Try to find out from the landlord or former tenants how much utility costs average per month. In general, you should not pay more than 25% to 35% of your income or monthly stipend on rent, including utilities.

Distance: If you live on campus, you will be able to walk to class or take a university bus that is free for students. If you live off campus, you need to consider the distance from the university and transportation costs. Buses and metro can cost anywhere from $1-$2.50 for a 1-way trip. In some cities these transportation costs may offset the benefits of cheaper housing farther from the university.

Roommates: You will also need to consider whether you want to live with one or more roommates. Sometimes living with other people can be difficult, but a single dorm room or renting an apartment alone will be considerably more expensive. If it turns out that you are absolutely incompatible with your roommates, take steps to move to a different place, to live with different people or alone.

Study Needs: Do you like studying at home, or are you content to spend late nights in the university library? If the university housing is inhabited for the most part by undergraduates, the living conditions may be rather noisy. Try to find out the atmosphere of the place before you agree to live there.

If you decide to rent, ask the following questions of the landlord when you are viewing apartments or group homes:

  • Which utilities are included in the rent, and which are not?
  • On average, how much are the utilities per month?
  • When is rent payment due each month? Are there any fees if payment is late?
  • Are laundry facilities available?
  • Is air conditioning available, and how much does it cost on average?
  • Is the apartment furnished, and if so, is there a deposit?
  • Is shopping available nearby?

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Updated: January 06, 2006.

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