6 Tips for a Smooth Relocation to Grad School

Stagger moving and employment start dates with the beginning of grad school to make the process easier.

By + More
Map out moving and employment dates ahead of time to prepare for graduate school.
Map out moving and employment dates ahead of time to prepare for graduate school.

This week we address the fifth in a series of questions that admitted graduate school students often ask with tips about relocating for a master's or doctoral program.

Now that you have been admitted, paid your enrollment deposit and started completing financial aid, registration and orientation papers, you may also be contemplating a move. Planning for this part of the process is very important.

1. Decide if you will live on or off campus: Most graduate schools offer a wealth of information on their admitted student websites about both of these options. There is also a housing office on every campus, which in some cases offers information on incoming or current graduate students looking for a roommate and also on local rental agencies.

Keep in mind that on-campus housing for graduate students is usually limited, and many international students pursue this option because of their desire to be near the institution, especially in the first year.

[Learn why graduate school pays off.]

2. Schedule a visit: Take time to thoroughly investigate your options to find the right on- or off-campus living arrangement. Ideally, you should visit the campus and surrounding community as soon after admission as possible.

This way you have more time to put in a housing application and confirm your arrangements. In addition, for on-campus housing, many institutions assign apartments on a first-come, first-serve basis.

3. Set your employment start date: If employment is part of the arrangement for you or your spouse or partner, try to schedule the start date a few weeks before orientation. That way you are not moving, beginning a new job and getting started with the new academic term all at the same time.

4. Determine when to move: Many students decide to move several months before the start of orientation, so as to allow plenty of time for adjustment.

If you will be living in on-campus housing, however, you may not have as easy a time moving in much before the start of your term of enrollment. Many institutions use breaks in the academic calendar to perform maintenance on their residential facilities. This is especially true during the summer months, so plan accordingly.

5. Consider how you will move: Will you move yourself or hire a moving company? There are several things to keep in mind, including what kind of housing you are moving from and into.

Other questions to ask yourself include: Do you have the time to pack and move it all? Do you need helpers? Can you drive a rental truck, or do you know someone who can?

If you moving from or to a dorm, moving yourself is probably the way to go. A move between apartments or houses will be more complicated.

If you are moving heavy, awkward or expensive items – an antique armoire or a 250-pound heirloom desk, for example – you may want to have help from professional movers.

[Learn ways to save money on moving.]

6. Plan well ahead of time: If you'll be moving yourself, determine how many truck rental companies you will research and make sure to ask the important questions.

Find out how early you need to reserve a truck, how large a truck you need, what insurance is necessary and logistical details like time restrictions, pick-up and drop-off points and the cancellation policy. A good rule of thumb is to rent a slightly larger truck, just in case.

If you need help moving, do your homework when hiring a moving company. Ask friends and family for recommendations. Approach several companies and request a free home visit to receive accurate estimates.

Ask for a written contract and be sure you understand it. Most importantly, secure adequate insurance to cover any losses.

Part of the moving decision is cost, which is most always paid for by the student. Loans and scholarship funds are rarely considered part of the student's budget set by the institution each year, and therefore cannot be used to pay for moving expenses. Financial aid – which includes on-campus fellowships and grad work-study – from the institution takes effect with the start of the academic term.