Many students fret over their classes and professors, but forget one very important variable: if you’re unhappy at home, you’ll be unhappy in the classroom. This part of the higher education equation was easier during undergrad because the school did much of the thinking for you: they chose your tiny room and roommate in the campus dormitory. In graduate school, you are encouraged to think about which living situation would be best for you: a house or apartment with roommates, living alone, or living with family.
Calculate your budget early so you know what your living expenses will be. This number may dictate whether you have roommates and where you can live.
If the cost is too great and your family is located near your college or university, you may opt to live with them during your graduate schools studies (especially if you cannot work while going to school). This is a good option for those who have a solid relationship with their family, where there is mutual respect of space and time. You will need a place to complete assignments without distractions, so if your younger brother drops down from the top bunk onto your bed while you’re working, you may want to find an alternative.
It’s important to really understand yourself and your preferred lifestyle. At this point in your life, you have likely lived alone and with others. Which did you find more fulfilling? Some students crave the interaction with other students, so they choose to find roommates within their program. Others prefer to live with someone who isn’t even a student, so when they return home from classes they will not hear any school talk. Others know that they will not be tolerant of roommates, so they choose to live alone.
Consider living solo. Graduate students keep erratic schedules, sometimes working before sunrise or long after a reasonable bedtime. Teaching assistantships require patience and flexible schedules for students who need extra instruction. You may be called on to complete some kind of research in a short amount of time, meaning you’ll be working non-stop until it is finished. When you live alone, you don’t have to worry about inconveniencing others with your schedule. If you do choose to live with others, keep your workload in mind as you look for roommates. If and when you are finding people to live with, make sure they understand your schedule and work out a way to live and study that everyone, including you, can tolerate.
If you’re choosing to live in an apartment while you study, start the hunt for your place early. Be diligent about checking online for new listings and reply immediately when you find a possible fit. Ask your campus housing office about the on-campus possibilities, whether the school lists available off-campus apartments, and if there’s a roommate finder service.
In the end, your housing should work well with your lifestyle and complement your studies. Create a situation that will help you ace your classes.