Where to live

When you decide to go to grad school you’ll need to figure out where you are going to live? This may have an easy answer if you already live in the city of the school you’ll be attending, or if you’ll be attending online and location is not important.

If you’re moving to a new city, there are lots of things to think about when you consider location. I have friends in all sorts of different situations. Some own their own house or condo. Others are renting or subletting apartments or townhouses. Some have roommates, some have families, and others live on their own. There are lots of factors to remember when choosing where you should rent or buy.

Do you have a family? You’ll probably need a bigger place. You may want a yard or to be near playgrounds. If you have kids in school, what are the nearby schools likes? If they’re younger, do you need access to a daycare?

Do you have a vehicle and do you plan to drive to school? Then you can probably live farther from the university and not need to worry about bus routes. Do be aware of killer parking costs.

Do you plan on using public transit? Will it take transfers to get to the campus? How frequent does the transit run? How early/late? How close is the nearest bus stop?

Do you plan on walking/biking? When considering this option make sure you consider the year round weather for the city. Walking for 25 minutes may sound fine, but are you still going to be up for it if it gets down to below -10, as Canadian winters often do? Or how about -20? Is it easy enough to find alternative transportation?

How about groceries? If you don’t have a vehicle is there a grocery store either within walking distance or an easy bus/train ride away? Does the city you live in have online grocery buying where they’ll deliver it to your house (mine doesn’t), but if it does, you may still be able to buy in larger quantities.

How much “house” can you afford? And by house, I’m probably referring to an apartment or sublet. Figure out what rent level you can afford, and then try to find something under your limit. The farther under you go, the more money you have to spend on other things (or to save). I know most guides tell you to keep your living costs (rent, water, heating, electricity…) to under 1/3 of your budget. If you can do this, all the more power to you. Depending on if you’re going to be receiving a stipend or scholarship, and how much, you may or may not find this possible.

Do you want a roommate? Roommates can be tricky. I’ve been lucky and all my past roommates have been excellent. But I do know of people where this wasn’t the case. There’s also something to be said for living on your own. It depends on your personality type a lot too. The more social you are, the more having a roommate may be nice. If you’re more of an introvert, you’d probably prefer a place on your own.

Do you plan on studying/working from home? Also think about your study habits. Are you going to be doing a lot of studying/working from home? If so, are you able to do so if you have a roommate wandering the place? Or will you be able to study/work if you don’t like your surroundings?

You can try to cut down your costs by getting a roommate or renting a room or suite in a house. You may be able to do odd jobs around the building in exchange for a reduction in your rent. If you don’t have a car, you don’t need a parking space, and if you have one, you could consider renting it out to someone who needs an extra spot. Or you may be able to negotiate signing a longer lease (typical leases are usually one year) for a lower price.

Personally, I pay a lot for my rent. Probably more than I should. However, I’m comfortable where I am, and I have always been able to afford my bills and food every month without resorting to bread and water. 🙂 I have an excellent view from my place, and I’m not sure I’d trade it for anything. I spend a lot of time staring out my window when I need to think. Grad school can be stressful, and I can never stress enough that things you find relaxing are worth every penny.


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