Finding Your Home Away From Home: Graduate Student Housing Experiences

Greetings!

The start of fall semester is right around the corner. Now that you’ve registered for classes, made contact with your program director or adviser, and set-up your RU Access, it’s time to focus on finding an apartment. Don’t fret if you haven’t found an apartment yet. It’s always best to search for apartments closer to your desired move-in date. Many apartments get snatched up right away (especially the affordable ones with a view), but there are always a few hidden gems located around the city. Our summer student workers share their advice about locating that hidden gem and the steps they took to find their home.

Mia J. – Clinical Psychology, PsyD

I moved to Chicago a year ago from Cincinnati, Ohio (which is about a 5 hour drive) with my boyfriend. I entered graduate school straight from undergrad at Ohio University, where it is the norm (and sometimes required) for students to live off-campus during their Junior and Senior year. As a result, finding apartments was not a new thing for me. However, finding a place in the city was. Finding an apartment proved extremely difficult as I had only been to Chicago once before for my program interview. Fortunately, I had the help of my boyfriend and his family who lived in the suburbs of Chicago. They helped me find neighborhoods that would be affordable, close, and right for my boyfriend and I. In addition to this, I used Zillow.com and Apartments.com to scope out places. With such a small budget for our first apartment, we had a tough time. My advice to those hunting for an apartment is to make sure you figure out your budget and start looking early as the cheaper places tend to go much quicker than the expensive highrise apartments in the Loop. Since I didn’t have any help from my parents to pay rent, an affordable apartment where heat, water, and trash were included was a big deal for me.

When it came time to actually look at apartments in-person, my boyfriend and I drove to the city and stayed in his family’s condo downtown. They let us stay for a little over a week while we made appointment after appointment to view different places. We ended up finding a great place in Oak Park for only $975 a month, with heat, water, and trash included. We like Oak Park, but it’s about a 45-50 minute train ride to the Loop every day. While the neighborhood itself is nice, we found that it was a “family neighborhood” and not a neighborhood for twenty-somethings. So, we’re gearing up to find a place this fall and are now equipped with all of the knowledge that we acquired during the last round of apartment hunting. We’re now looking to live in areas like Near West Side, Edgewater, Uptown, or Lakeview so that I can be closer to my practicum site and he can be closer to work. In addition, these areas have a much “younger” feel that, I think, both of us have missed since moving to Oak Park. My final piece of advice is to choose a more affordable option for your first year living in the city. Look for a “safe” neighborhood so that you can really get to know the city and what you want out of your living situation. Then, once you’re more stable financially and more confident in your knowledge of the city, you can look for a new apartment the following year where you can (hopefully) stay for the remainder of your time in graduate school.

https://www.apartments.com

 

https://www.zillow.com

 

Monica G. – Clinical Psychology, MA

I moved to Chicago from Missouri, about an eight hour drive away. I’d only visited once before I decided to make the move up to Chicago, so I didn’t know the area at all. Luckily, though, I had a friend that lived here, and I was able to stay with her for a week while I looked for an apartment. I used a lot of online platforms to search for apartments and met with several leasing agents for tours. I eventually settled on a small, 4th floor studio apartment in Logan Square. It was right next to the Blue Line, so getting downtown was easy. However, during my first semester, I commuted out to the Schaumburg campus, which meant I drove most days instead of using public transportation.

I loved the location of my first apartment, but decided living alone in a studio wasn’t for me. When my friends from undergrad (who lived just down the street) finished their lease term, we all decided to move in together. I found a subleaser to take over my apartment for the last six months of my lease term, and my friends and I moved to the Lakeview area. Again, we used online platforms such as Apartments.com and Hotpads to find listings in the area and met with more agents. I now live in a 3-bedroom apartment in Lakeview with my friends. It has a backyard and great neighbors. I still drive out to Schaumburg once a week for class, but the rest of my classes are downtown. I just walk five minutes to the train station and hop on the Brown Line to take me downtown. To me, proximity to a train stop was key. I have a car, so driving is always an option, but it’s often so much easier to just take public transportation.

My advice to you is to write down a list of all the things that are important to you (i.e. a backyard, close to transportation, street parking, etc.) and then try to find a place that fits as many of those items as possible. New listings pop up all the time, so if you don’t find what you’re looking for right away just keep checking!

https://hotpads.com

 

Desi M. – Clinical Psychology (Counseling Practice), MA

Unlike most of my classmates, I live at home. However, I do spend an ample amount of time in the city. While I don’t pay rent, I’ve done enough of my own research to find that living in the suburbs is cheaper than living in the city (e.g. Forest Park, Oak Park, Berwyn). However, if you do choose to move to the city, areas such as Wicker Park, Chicago’s Little Itay area (located by UIC), Pilsen, Lakeview, or the South Loop area are neighborhoods that I recommend.
Even if you do live at home or in the suburbs, you’ll likely live close enough to a CTA station and be able to take the train to your destination. But, the train is not without its cons as well! Whatever is most convenient for you and in your price range, then I suggest going with that option. Whatever you choose, though, just make sure it’s a safe area and that you’re taking measures to protect yourself, especially when commuting.
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