Once you've been accepted to a university and have confirmed that you're joining, it is worthwhile to spend some time thinking about where you'll be living. It is important to find accommodation that you are comfortable with, so that you'll have a good experience as a student in the US. Luckily, there are various housing options available:
a) University apartments: These are usually on the university campus. As these apartments are generally few in number, some universities give a higher preference to certain students, e.g. married students or graduate students. It is convenient to live in university apartments, as they are generally close to departments and other facilities like the library, recreational facilities and for these reasons, they are could be more expensive than private housing.
b) University dormitories: These have many rooms in a building, where a room is shared by more than one student. Cooking is usually not allowed, but you can register yourself with the dining hall. Some universities have special traditions associated with the dormitories, and members are very passionate about upholding these traditions. Dormitories are generally more popular with undergraduate students.
c) Private housing: There is a wide range of private housing available in most university towns. Several students may decide to share a two-bedroom apartment, while some students actually own large homes of their own. Depending on your budget, you can consider various options. Many apartment complexes advertise on the internet, and some even send out brochures to students once they have been accepted by the university. Some websites also have customer reviews, which can give you good information.
Before you actually sign the lease on a rented accommodation, these are some points you may want to consider (apart from your budget):
* How far is it from your department? Even if you plan to commute by car, gas prices are on the rise and you may occasionally want to use public transport.
* Is it on the bus route? Many universities offer free or subsidized bus transport to students. The bus route maps are available on the university websites and can serve as an aid in finding which apartments are located nearby.
* Is the laundry easily accessible and well-maintained?
* Is it in a safe location? You may sometimes come home late at night, after a long session at the labs - so make sure there are street lights and other houses nearby.
* Is the general maintenance of the place satisfactory?
* Are there any shopping (grocery) facilities easily accessible? This is especially important if your primary mode of transportation is going to be by bicycle or walking.
* In case you plan to buy a car, do you need to pay extra for parking?
* What are the conditions of the lease? E.g. if you are planning a transfer to another university after a semester, it may be prudent to sign a short-term lease instead of a year-long one. You should be aware of the penalty of breaking the lease midway.
Of course, it is always a good idea to ask friends and fellow app2us.com members who have already lived in the town for advice about housing options!