How International Graduate Students Can Find U.S. Housing

Contact other international grad students through the school and search Craigslist for places to stay.

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Talk to the international student office at your university to find housing for grad students.
Talk to the international student office at your university to find housing for grad students.

You have been accepted to your dream U.S. school; now you just need to find a place to stay. Finding housing from far away can be intimidating, but there are resources to help international students in their search.

Every school has a housing office to assist students in finding a place to stay for either the academic year, for undergraduates, or the full year, for graduate students. However, there are also a few other options for international students looking to find housing before they land in the U.S.

New undergraduate students – and especially international students – are usually guaranteed housing in one of the school's dormitories, commonly referred to as dorms. You can choose this option by contacting your school's housing office, or, if a form for housing was sent to you, by filling it out as soon as possible.

While college-owned housing tends to be more expensive than off-campus housing, on-campus housing has several advantages for international students: Essential utilities such as electricity and Internet are already set up; maintenance teams are readily available to take care of any repairs; and students will be surrounded by a large community full of students who are also starting college.

[Prepare for common challenges international graduate students face.]

Housing for graduate students is generally also available through the university and is a very convenient option for new international graduate students, who often share rooms in a house to keep costs down. Graduate students may apply for housing once they have received their official acceptance letters by contacting the graduate housing office.

Graduate student housing is usually very limited and a space may not be available for you to lease. A valuable resource, if this happens, is your school's international student office. Staff members in many international student offices are happy to send out emails to all international students asking if anyone has a room available or is aware of a vacancy elsewhere.

When I first came to the University of Rhode Island in 2006, there were no graduate houses for me to lease, so I got in touch with a coordinator at the international student office.

The coordinator helped me get in touch with several graduate students who were looking for housemates. The additional advantage of moving in with someone already set up was that I didn't need to furnish an empty house, which saved me hundreds of dollars.

[Learn budgeting tips for international graduate students.]

You can also ask your department's secretary to help you by emailing students in the department asking if anyone is looking for a roommate for the next year. Most department secretaries are happy to help new students.

This is also a great way to find temporary housing when you first come to the U.S. and your lease for your apartment or house has not yet started. Many current graduate students will happily host you for a few days. 

Another indispensable resource for finding off-campus housing is the website Craigslist. On Craigslist, people post city-specific classified advertisements. You can use Craigslist to search for apartments or a room in a house already being leased either for a temporary, short-term lease or for the full year.

While looking for off-campus housing, find out how far the place you are considering is from your school and if public transportation is available and accessible. Google provides extensive maps of the U.S. and you can use it to check what transportation options you have to and from your school.

[Find out how to research college safety from another country.]

Signing a lease for a house or apartment that already has tenants is a common way for students to save money on deposits and furniture and can provide you with friends in a new place.

A new country can become less daunting once you know you have somewhere to live. Finding a place to stay is very important and while there may be lots of options – some with cheaper price tags – think about what your priorities are when choosing a place to stay.

Swati B. Carr, from India, is currently pursuing her doctorate in synthetic biology at Boston University and advises prospective international students. She first came to the U.S. as an international student for her master's in microbial genetics from the University of Rhode Island.