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International Student Housing

International Student Housing Guide


Stockholm man with headphones by Yingchou Han is licensed under CC0.

This guide has been provided to international students at the Harrisburg Area Community College, the School of Visual Arts and other universities & colleges around the country.

It might seem simple for an American to find plenty of international student housing, but it’s hard to be an international student deciding on where to live in a brand new country. The language used to describe the housing, the location and the culture is all new for you.

While where to find apartments and pricing varies based on your location, the following information remains constant throughout the United States. This guide will help answer some of the questions swirling through your head about how to secure international student housing.

The Process

Things to Consider When Selecting Housing

Types of Housing

Off-Campus Housing
Off-campus housing is typically more spacious than living in a dorm room. However, living off-campus makes it more laborious to come to campus for extracurricular activities, socialize and to attend spaced out classes.

Students often look for housing with access to a bus stop or housing within walking distance of campus because parking is difficult to find on most campuses.

Off-Campus Housing or Dorms
Students who live in dorms have an easier time coping with spread out classes, as they can return to their home during shorter breaks when an off-campus student would need to hang out around school. It is easier to go to the library, club meetings and class when you live in a dorm. Dorm rooms are often smaller than off-campus housing and sometimes, students are required to share bathrooms and kitchens with large amounts of people. Often students in dorms share rooms with one or more other students.

College Dorm Room by Footprint is licensed under CC BY 2.0.
Where do you want your apartment to be?

It is important to find bus transportation to campus if you live farther from campus. Call ahead to apartment complexes or research online to determine how close the bus will be to your door. Find out how many bus routes stop at your apartment complex and how often they do so. Many houses will not have nearby bus stops. Make sure to determine how you will get to campus, and remember to take the weather into consideration.

Look up the neighborhood you’re looking to live in online before moving in. Make sure that it’s safe! Check to see where the nearest grocery store is and figure out how you will get to and from it.

How much are you willing to spend?

The money you spend on housing can be more than your monthly rent payment. Utilities, parking and repairs can put you well over what you thought you would pay that month. Ask yourselves the following questions before deciding on your apartment:

After you’ve asked these questions, take a moment to figure out how much you will be paying each month. Is the apartment still in your price range?

Understanding Apartment Restrictions

Restrictions may be the reason why you decide to rent at one apartment versus another. You may want to avoid an apartment complex that allows smoking, or the fact that the apartment allows smoking may be the reason you rent there. You may want to live somewhere that doesn’t allow pets because you have allergies, or you may want to be sure that you can have a fuzzy friend once you move in. If you do decide to bring a pet with you, you may be asked to increase your security deposit or pay an extra fee every month.

Tips for Living with Roommates


It’s important to get to know the person before moving in with them, by having phone calls and texting. Moving in with roommates without asking them simple questions can lead to a headache for you or them. For example, if you really hate country music, you don’t want to live with a person who loves to blast it all night long. Maybe you like drinking, but your potential roommate is uncomfortable with it at home. Ask questions about the temperature they like to have the room set to, what they do in their free time, what kind of music they like and what bothers them? Make sure that your interests line up before moving in so that you don’t clash once you do.
International Students by Internatonal House London is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

When you move in with a roommate, you should discuss the following as soon as possible:

The Search for Housing: Timeline and Checklist

When you applied for university, you had deadlines. You knew when to apply, when you would know and when your decision was due. Finding an apartment should have a timeline too.

After deciding where you want to go for university, finding a place to live is an important next step. You shouldn’t wait very long after submitting your decision to start looking. Housing at universities fills up fast and older students began renewing their leases before you were even accepted to your school.

All this to say, sticking to the timeline below is a good option; however, the faster you move to secure housing, the better and more affordable your housing will be. The best places fill up the soonest, and you do not want to be stuck with what’s leftover. Please note that this timeline is based on the assumption that you are beginning classes in the fall in August or September.

To print off this checklist, download this PDF.

General Tips