Accommodation for International Students Living in the USA

Accommodation for International Students Living in the USA

Studying at a university in the US is something that many dream of. The application process can get quite tedious unless you have help from experts. If you have already been accepted into a university, congratulations! However, this is the time to direct all your efforts to find a suitable apartment and roommates. For international students living in the USA, accommodation, utilities, and other essential expenses make up to an average of $10,000/year. This amount can vary significantly from city to city.

It is important that you extensively research on the student life and cost of living in the country even before you get your admit letter. This article tells you what the common accommodation types in the US are and which one you should go for. It also lists out the factors you should keep in mind while choosing an apartment. Finally, it helps you find a bang-for-the­-buck apartment that will make your student life in the US easy.

Start looking early

With each year, tens of thousands of international students enroll into universities in the US. They all look for places close to the campus and supermarkets, apartments that are pocket-friendly and come with all amenities. Now imagine being a late entrant to this rat-race, all the good apartments would have already been occupied. The time constraint is so high that you are out of options. In such a situation, you are more likely to encounter scammers who just want to cash in on your desperation to find an apartment urgently. The bottom line is to be early in the game, so you have enough time to make an informed decision.

Here is some data from that has been calculated after factoring in the cost of living for different cities in the US. If you have received admission letters from more than one university, the average cost of living in the state is an important aspect that you may want to consider.

City Rent Index
New York, NY 100
Los Angeles, CA 72.6
Chicago, IL 57.27
Boston, MA 74.98
Philadelphia, PA 47.70
Miami, FL 57.76
Dallas, TX 49.20
Washington D.C. 78.62
San Francisco, CA 116.18
Houston, TX 44.18

According to the 2018 Global Student Accommodation Indicator, the most expensive cities in the US for students are Boston, New York, Seattle, Providence, San Diego, Los Angeles, Chicago, Philadelphia, and College Park. Accommodation is a major expense that is unavoidable. It is advisable to factor these obligatory costs into your financial plan.

Types of Student Accommodation

Generally, universities help international students with finding suitable accommodation when they first arrive in the country. However, the final choice is yours. Before making that choice, you should be aware of the options available for student accommodation that is best suited for you. Basically, you have two options: On-campus and Off-campus accommodation.

On-Campus Housing

In most US universities, undergraduate students are given preference over graduate students for on-campus housing. On-Campus housing is always in high demand and gets fully booked very quickly. These are usually large buildings with dormitory-like common shared facilities. The proximity to classes makes it very convenient, but this type of housing comes with its own disadvantages.

Advantages of on-campus accommodation

If you have watched Hollywood movies showing sororities and fraternity housings, a more realistic version of the same is what you can expect from on-campus accommodation.

Disadvantages of on-campus accommodation

Off-Campus Housing

A large number of international students choose off-campus housing because of the lower rental costs and to be free from campus restrictions. Usually, apartments close to the university get occupied pretty quickly.

Advantages of off-campus accommodation

Disadvantages of off-campus accommodation

Comparing On-campus and Off-Campus Housing

All this information can be quite overwhelming; below, you can find a quick comparison of the two housing options to help you decide.

Factors to consider On-campus accommodation Off-campus accommodation
Rental costs On the higher side Lower if you find the right place but with extra utility charges
Furnishing costs Usually nil Furniture, appliances and other items for your room
Food facilities Easily accessible with meal options You may need to cook for yourself or eat out often
Transportation costs Nil. most university buildings within walking distance High if your housing complex is far from campus
Overall Convenience High Comparatively low
Privacy Low High
Roommates You cannot choose You can decide your roommate
Socializing opportunities Perfect for networking with fellow students Wider community and good for immersing into the American culture
Probability of getting Lower due to the high demand Comparatively higher if you start looking early

How to find student accommodation?

Regardless of what kind of accommodation you opt for, there are certain processes involved with securing housing in the US. Use the power of the internet to thoroughly research the possibilities of boarding close to your university campus. You can also contact current students on social media to get first-hand information. Below, you can find the general procedures involved with finding student accommodation in the US.

Rental agreement

A lease is a written agreement between the tenant and the landlord, which allows you to stay in an apartment legally. This document also acts as an address proof that you will need for other purposes. Your lease will contain a list of the rules and regulations you must adhere to as a tenant and also the responsibilities of your landlord. Please be cautious and read the lease carefully multiple times before committing/signing.

Due to the high demand for student housing, you may have to search for an apartment while you are still living in your home country (It is recommended that you do so). Once you find a residence on a classified page or an app, you will have to sign a lease. This is sent via courier by the landlord. You and all your roommates will be required to sign and return the document.

Your lease or rental contract should contain at least the following points:

Temporary Housing

If you have finalized a university but have not been able to find an apartment until the beginning of your semester, you can come to the USA and search for a permanent housing facility while staying at an Airbnb or a hotel. This should only be seen as your last resort as it would cost you a lot of money. Some universities also offer temporary housing to international students. This would be your safe bet if you run out of time as it costs less as compared to hotels and Airbnbs. Never opt for temporary housing when you still have time to find an apartment.

10 Tips on finding the perfect Accommodation


Finding the right apartment can be cumbersome. More so if you are attempting to find one from a different country. Housing can be a difficult decision to make. This article provides general information on accommodation options for international students studying and living in the USA and gives ten useful tips that will assist you in your search for housing.

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