January 29, 2018
Moving to a new city is daunting, let alone a new country (In my case). Before venturing to find housing, I think it is important to gauge your exact needs as a MA student before committing to anything. If you are planning to stay in student housing offered by USC, start as early as possible in order to find a space. However, if you plan to stay off campus, then take your time before signing any leases. You would find better options when looking in person than online, but do not scratch off the online hunt just yet because Facebook is full of USC student groups with ads by Trojans who are looking for roommates or to sublease their apartments.
A tip that most students do before settling on an apartment is to rent a place for short stay or stay with friends or family for the first couple of weeks and look for an apartment physically. During the first few weeks, you will know what your class schedule is, and get a sense of how much time you will need on campus, and even get a chance to prioritize the apartment features you will need as an MA student. For example, knowing what time you finish classes at the end of the day could help you determine whether or not you need a car. If you spend long hours on campus but finish early, perhaps using public transportation would be wiser to avoid traffic. If your classes are more spread out through the day and you finish at night, then getting a car would be the wiser choice since it would be safer.
Location, location, location!
A well located apartment is way better than an apartment with a lot of amenities. Both are important, but in the long run being closer to public transportation, school/work, grocery stores, pharmacies, etc, will prove to be more helpful than having an en suite washer/dryer or whatever. When visiting prospective apartments, use Google maps to check the duration of the commute to campus and vice versa. Almost all housing offered by the university is close to the main campus. As an MA student, most if not all classes will be on the Health Sciences Campus. So, choosing to live on the main campus will mean a daily 40 minute commute to Health Sciences Campus (or 20 minutes if you’re driving). This should be taken into account as well as how close are other services to the apartment, like grocery stores or pharmacies or quick bite restaurants. A good tip for this is to use Yelp or Foursquare to see what is near your prospective apartment. Nobody wants to end up stranded or commuting just for groceries at the end of a long day.
Spending extra on rent might mean saving money in the long run
A well located apartment that includes utilities will be expensive. However, a cheaper apartment that is far and does not offer any amenities will cost more on the long run because you will have to compensate for what the apartment lacks with your own money. For example, splurging a bit on rent and getting an apartment that is close to a metro station, includes utilities, and offers maintenance services, and parking for free will relieve you from needing a car for everything, or paying for parking, gas, electricity or even buying some household appliances. Of course, this all depends on your living needs in LA. So, doing the math beforehand is the only way to determine if this will help you cut costs or not. Also, how long you intend to stay in LA is a contributing factor as well when it comes to deciding how long is your “long run”.
Car or no car?
I think this decision depends on your budget, class schedule, and how close to public transportation you are. For budgeting, bear in mind that a car in LA is very useful but can be expensive. The cost does not only entail the actual cost of the car or its rent, but also parking fees, parking permits, gas money, insurance, and possible maintenance fees. All these costs will pile up at the end of every month, and it is important to make sure that your budget can handle it.
If you decide to opt out of getting a car, then USC has got you covered! The USC shuttle covers all USC campuses and is free of charge for all Trojans. The bus routes conveniently pass through Union Station which is one of the biggest train stations in LA that connects most metro lines. As a USC student you could also get a UPass, which is a metro card that is purchasable at a discounted flat rate at the beginning of every semester. I understand that LA has a reputation of being an “unwalkable” city, but since the Health Science Campus is located so close to downtown LA, public transportation suffices.