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How to live in NYC as a college student: Advice from people who've been there

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New York City is an exciting place to be a college student, but it can also be very overwhelming. We talked to a handful of veterans of the New York college apartment search. Here are their tips on how to score a good spot, and once you've moved in, how to thrive in the big city.

Ace the search

1. Don't start looking for an apartment too early

“When I was abroad last year, I started the search for an apartment about two months before I was set to come back to New York City and was turned away by every broker. While it’s good to research and get an idea of what you might want, the real estate market seems to move pretty fast here, so don’t freak out about having a place locked down many weeks in advance.”—Meredith Brown, recent NYU grad (pictured below)

2. The outer boroughs are great, but consider hidden expenses

“It’s no secret that the city is crazy expensive. A lot of students flock to Brooklyn in search of cheaper rents, but be sure to consider all of the expenses you’ll have. Your apartment might be cheaper than a dorm, but utilities, unlimited MetroCards and Uber rides home will all add up quickly. Make sure you look at the whole picture before signing your lease.”—Hannah Foley, NYU (pictured below)

3. Put transportation first

“When you think about the neighborhood you want to be in, you want to think about the transportation that’s accessible. Do you want to be close to where you work, go to school or where your friends are? Do you want to take the subway, a bus, or walk places? Think about where you spend the majority of your time and the commute you're willing to make, especially early in the morning or late at night.”—Paige Moskowitz, Barnard

4. Communicate with your broker, and stay organized (Google is your friend)

“The number one problem I came across when searching for a three-bedroom with my two roommates was that a lot of listings didn’t specify that not every 'bedroom' had a window. Make sure and communicate with the broker, or whoever is arranging the apartment showing, what your needs and wants are, and keep track of everyone you've been in contact with and all the apartments you are looking at in a Google doc.”—Natalie Smith, Pratt

5. Think through possible neighborhoods

“The different boroughs all have very different vibes, so choosing the one that suits you best is important. For example, Williamsburg is artsy and has great nightlife, while Central Brooklyn/Brooklyn Heights are more residential and laid back. Do some research, and keep in mind the kind of place you want to surround yourself with like fast vs. slow paced, compact vs. spread out, etc. Then make sure there’s a hospital/clinic nearby and that there’s a grocery store within walking distance.”—Ashley Womack, Pratt

Live well with others

1. Don’t live with your BFF

“This is true especially if you have to share a room. It may seem like a great idea at the time, but it might lead to awkward situations about money, space and food. You don’t think it’ll be a problem until someone takes your last sea salt brownie.”—Hannah Foley, NYU 

2. Find your people

“You might dread having roommates but, in my experience, knowing that there will be people to come home to and hang out with while you make dinner or watch TV is incredibly comforting in such a fast-paced city like New York. Oftentimes your plans will change and you'll need someone to pick up the slack for you. It helps to have someone at home to sign for that really important package you’ve been waiting for, letting in and entertaining your guest while you're stuck on the A train back from work and picking up toilet paper because you're about to run out."—Rowan Hepps Keeney, Barnard

3. Be prepared for noisy neighbors

“It's a fact: NYC apartments are very close together and you will probably hear your neighbors making noise at some point. If it starts to happen on a regular basis, don’t be afraid to knock on their door.”—Meredith Brown, NYU

4. Don't go radio silent with your roommate

“All of the bad roommate horror stories I've heard stemmed from a lack of communication. Before things get too awkward, make sure you both know what kind of living situation you want to have. Some people need to have a very strict cleaning schedule that spells out who's doing what and when. Some people don't. If boundaries such as cleaning, cooking, quiet time, shower time etc. get figured out at the beginning, the rest of the year is smooth sailing.”—Ashley Womack, Pratt

Use these NYC living hacks

1. Take advantage of freebies

“If money is tight, take the time and gauge free ways to enjoy the city. There are a bunch of places that let you in for free like the Met and Natural History museums, and there are a bunch of parks to go to like the High Line, and Central and Prospect Park. Walking is free, too, and it’s a great way to just discover new places and window shop.”—Erika Pajarillo, Pratt (pictured below)

2. Make your furniture do double-duty

“In New York City small spaces are the norm, so everyone learns really quickly how to make the most of a small place. That’s why organizing and having dual roles for your furniture is key. For example, my coffee table is a storage unit with separate bins.”—Pavlina Osta, The King's College (pictured below)

3. Give yourself plenty of travel time

“If you have an interview, appointment, or somewhere important to be, take the subway earlier than [you think] necessary. Assume the subway will be delayed when you need it most, and give yourself ample time. Being late never gives a good first impression.”—Hannah Foley, NYU

 

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