Accomandation for Study in the USA

It is known from American college films: the notoriously infamous student life in the USA. Nevertheless, many international students still need information about where and how students actually live in the USA. What are the common forms of housing and are they associated with certain country-specific features? What are the advantages and disadvantages of each type of accommodation?

The following guide provides information on accommodation for students studying in the USA and is intended to help students prepare for their studies abroad or semester abroad in the USA.

Accommodation in student residence in the USA

One of the most popular forms of accommodation for studying in the USA is the dormitory. In particular, first-year students prefer to live in Residence Halls and Dormitories or Dorms.

At some universities it is mandatory that first-year students or bachelor’s students generally live on the campus. Masters students usually have the choice of living on or off campus.

Shared Rooms in the USA

In student dormitories it is common practice to live in so-called shared rooms, i. e. to share the room with a second person.
Students usually don’t know with whom they are staying in a room. Some colleges and universities in the USA are trying to bring international students together with American students and mix the rooms. This is intended to ensure that international students are quickly connected to the community and do not remain among themselves.

Some universities have so-called Roommate Matching Forms. By means of questionnaires, the universities try to find out something about the interests and personality of the students and to find suitable rooms. At some universities and colleges it is also possible to make wishes for roommates. However, these cannot always be taken into account.

Types of student residences in the USA

Student residences are available in the USA in a wide variety of variants:

  • Mixed dormitories: This is where men and women live in the same dormitory. However, in U. S. student dormitories, the general rule is that only students of the same sex share a room.
  • Student residences separated by gender
  • Thematic student dormitories: Some universities have halls of residence with a thematic orientation. For example, students who share common academic interests or hobbies or who share the same native language live together. There are more than 30 Living Learning Communities at the University of Minnesota. Students with similar interests live together in certain areas of the Residence Halls.

In addition, dormitories in the USA can be distinguished by their structure.

Hall Style

In so-called Hall Style Dorms, two students often live in a double room. Some rooms are also available for three or four people. Normally, the rooms do not have a kitchen or bathroom. The rooms border on a common corridor. There are one or more bathrooms shared by the students in the adjoining rooms.

Suite Style

Also in „Suite Style Dorms“ there are mostly double rooms. In addition, many universities offer single, triple or four-bed rooms. In contrast to student dormitories according to „Hall Style“ style, the rooms in Suite Style Dorms are usually attached to a common room. Often three or four rooms border on a larger room, which serves as a common living room. Depending on the type of residence, either all students in a dormitory share a bathroom or each double room has a separate bathroom.

Apartments as accommodation for studies in the USA

More and more universities and colleges are offering apartments as an alternative to student dormitories as accommodation for studying in the USA. They are located on the campus or near the campus and are often equipped with shared kitchens and bathrooms and are therefore designed for self-sufficiency. As there are often less strict rules in the apartments than in the student dormitories and students have more privacy, the demand is often very high.

In addition, more and more universities in the USA are starting to place students in privately run apartments. Private operators rent and manage the apartments on behalf of the university.

In these apartment complexes it is often possible to stay for a shorter period of time, which can be particularly attractive for international students. At CSU Fullerton, for example, there is the privately run University Village, which borders directly on the university campus. For example, international students can stay there during their semester abroad at CSUF.

Important: In the USA there is no uniform rule regarding the furnishing of apartments. Some apartments are furnished and equipped with kitchen and bathroom. Other apartments are unfurnished and are offered in combination with Meal Plans for the university dining halls. For this reason, international students should inform themselves in advance about the conditions that apply to each apartment. Academic counselling centres such as College Contact provide support in finding suitable accommodation.

Further accommodation on campus

Some universities in the United States also offer special accommodation options for married students or students with children. For example, at the UC Riverside there is the Familiy Student Housing. These are 2- to 3-room apartments on campus, which are rented to families on a monthly basis.

Costs for student residences in the USA

At first glance, the cost of a room in a dormitory appears to be quite high compared to other types of accommodation. The average monthly rent is US$900 – 1100 in addition to tuition fees in the USA. However, it is hardly possible to make any predictions about the actual rental costs. They depend among other things on the university, the location of the dormitory and the room category.

Living in a student residence in the USA is usually linked to a Meal Plan, which is often already included in the rent. It enables students to eat free of charge in the university dining halls or to use the other meals on campus – sometimes as often as they like, sometimes a certain number of meals per week is covered by the Meal Plan.

In addition, students living in student residences do not normally have to pay any additional costs, such as electricity, gas and water. The cost of using the Internet is also usually included in the price. The bottom line is that the cost of living in the U. S. A. in student residences can even be lower than in other types of housing.

Advantages and disadvantages of dormitories as accommodation during studies in the USA

Experience campus life in the USA and experience the incomparable community spirit at an American university – for many international students this is one of the most important reasons for studying in the USA. The best way to get to know all facets of campus life is to stay in a student residence.

In addition, living in a student dormitory brings further advantages. In addition, there are some arguments that speak in favour of other forms of housing, and thus against a dormitory as an accommodation for studying in the USA.

Advantages Disadvantages
Greater planning certainty, as the accommodation can be arranged before the beginning of the course of studies Less privacy than in a shared apartment or your own apartment.
Faster establishment of social contacts and thus easier entry High demand requires an early application
Good facilities: The majority of the dormitories offer not only washing machines and dryers, but also in-house leisure facilities such as billiard rooms and fitness studios or computer rooms. Many rules and regulations: In the USA, it is not allowed to consume alcohol on campus. In general, the legal alcohol ban applies up to an age of 21 years.
Best possible use of the services offered by the universities possible Relatively high rental costs
More flexibility in the organization of free time activities, because students are „in the middle of the action“ Often no short-term rental contracts are possible (less than one academic year)
Often Resident Assistants as a permanent contact person for the residents of the student dormitory Occasionally, rooms are not rented during the semester break.
Usually no self-sufficiency necessary due to a Meal Plan
Mostly completely furnished rooms, so there are no costs for furniture.
High security because there is an extra security service for the dormitories at many universities in the USA.

Accommodation in a flat or shared apartment in the USA

Although dormitories are widespread in the USA, there are also universities without their own dormitories. In addition, some students prefer to live alone because they are so independent.

Private apartments are often rented unfurnished in the USA. Especially during semester stays, the purchase of furniture is usually not worthwhile due to the limited period of time. Therefore, many international students are looking for a room in a shared apartment. In addition, only a few landlords are prepared to rent out apartments for shorter rental periods (short term). Normally, rental agreements are concluded in the USA for one year.

For a Bachelor’s, Master’s or MBA program in the USA, however, it can be worthwhile to move into an apartment. Small apartments can be found in the USA under the keywords Studios, Bachelor Apartments or Efficiency (Apartments). These are usually one-bedroom apartments with a bathroom in which the living room, bedroom and kitchen area are located in one room. Studios are often a little bigger than Efficiency Apartments and sometimes have a separate kitchen.

Possible contact points for finding accommodation in the USA

If you are looking for an apartment or shared flat in the USA, it is sometimes more difficult to find a place to live at the beginning of your studies. Many students start looking for accommodation on the spot and find a place to stay in a hotel, hostel or guesthouse in the USA. Internet portals such as Airbnb allow you to search for accommodation for the transition from home. There, local hosts offer individual rooms or apartments for a limited period of time.

Many colleges and universities in the USA support international students in finding private accommodation for their studies in the USA. Some universities provide students with lists of available apartments near the campus. Others post current offers of apartments and advertisements for free shared apartment rooms on the notice board.

In addition, many students also make use of the free craigslist. com Internet platform when looking for accommodation in the USA. Here students not only find free apartments and shared rooms, but can also buy furniture and used cars. In addition, there are often helpful tips in the numerous field reports on studying in the USA written by former exchange students for College Contact.

In principle, it is advisable to look at apartments or shared apartment rooms in the USA and only sign the rental agreement on site. Under no circumstances should students be willing to make a deposit or transfer the first month’s rent in advance. In addition, rental agreements should be read carefully. Some universities offer support in this respect.

Costs for shared flats and apartments in the USA

Rental prices in the USA vary widely from state to state and even within individual cities.

While the average rent for a studio in Minneapolis is around US$ 750, San Diego tenants pay around double (US$ 1500). Generally, the following average costs apply to the USA:

  • 1-room apartment in the city centre: around US$ 1200 per month
  • 1-room apartment outside: around US$ 900 per month

Added to this are additional costs for gas, electricity and water. US$ 150 per month is the guide for a 85m² apartment. In addition, the cost calculation must also include the costs of food, internet and possibly transport. Since apartments in the USA are normally unfurnished, there are also costs for the purchase of furniture. It is also customary in the USA to pay a deposit of one month’s rent when signing the rental agreement.

A shared room as accommodation for studying in the USA is the cheapest way to live with a view to the rental price. The average monthly rent is US$ 450 – 600 per person. Here, too, additional costs are incurred as well as costs for the Internet connection, which are, however, distributed among the flat-sharing community residents.

Advantages and disadvantages of housing and shared flats as accommodation for studying in the USA

Advantages Disadvantages
Rental costs for shared flats on average the lowest Partly longer distance to campus and thus higher transport costs
More privacy and tranquillity than in the dormitory Less flexibility due to the distance to the campus
Greater independence: no rules and regulations such as in a student residence or with a host family Less planning certainty and possibly stressful search for accommodation immediately after arrival
Possibility to choose your flat mates yourself Risk of hidden charges
WG as a good starting point to get to know different districts of the city Apartments mostly unfurnished
Opportunity to find American roommates No fixed contact person as in a student residence or with a host family
Occasionally greater mobility for flatmates with cars Partially no short-term rental contracts possible
Searching for accommodation on the spot with a better knowledge of the location is possible Contact may be more difficult, especially for students who live alone.

Accommodation with a host family during your studies in the USA

Homestay programs are specifically designed for international students and offer the opportunity to stay with a host family while studying in the USA. Such programs are often used by young people and younger students, for example in the course of an Academic Gap Year or a semester stay in the USA. For many younger students, this is the first longer stay abroad without parents. Therefore, they feel more comfortable in a family environment than in a dormitory or shared flat.

Some universities in the USA offer their own homestay programs and place interested students with families in the area. For example, semester students at CSU Fullerton can register for the Cultural Homestay Program and select one of several Meal Plans. There is a choice of one to three meals a day with the family. In addition, there is a program without meals, which gives students more flexibility in mealtimes.

Other possible contact points for homestay programs in the USA are Internet portals such as homestay. com. In addition, there is a Council for International Visitors in numerous US cities. In many cases, it offers support in finding local host families.

Costs for Homestay in the USA

The cost of homestay programs in the U. S. varies from provider to provider and depends on the location and type of Meal Plan. Generally speaking, accommodation with a host family is one of the cheaper accommodation options in the USA. This is due to the fact that students generally do not incur any additional costs such as ancillary costs or Internet costs. Homestay programs with Meal Plan also eliminate the cost of daily meals. Homestay programs in the United States are based on US$ 550 – 1000 per month.

Advantages and disadvantages of a host family as accommodation for studying in the USA

Advantages Disadvantages
Best and easiest way to immerse yourself in American culture Possibly additional travel expenses due to the distance to campus
Daily practice of the English language Less independence than in a shared flat or student dormitory
Usually cheaper accommodation than in student residences (internet and additional costs usually included in the price) Uncertainty about the host family in advance
Full board and lodging by the host family on request Integration in student life on campus not always guaranteed
Partial transportation service to the university included in the all-inclusive price
Secure accommodation before the start of your studies
Opportunity to get to know life outside of university