Finding Affordable Housing Options for International Students in the USA?

Finding Affordable Housing Options for International Students in the USA

Studying abroad can be financially challenging, and in addition to the already substantial tuition fees, the high cost of accommodation can strain your budget. While many U.S. cities excel in terms of university rankings, employment prospects, and job opportunities, they can be quite expensive when it comes to living expenses, making it difficult for students to manage their finances. Nevertheless, it’s important to note that there are also affordable student housing options in the USA.


To assist you in making an informed decision, this blog aims to provide insights into the advantages and disadvantages of student accommodation in the U.S., conduct cost comparisons, outline key factors to consider when renting off-campus student housing, and ultimately help you choose the option that suits your needs best.

On Campus Student Housing vs Off Campus Student Housing

Selecting the appropriate accommodation is crucial. To make an informed decision, it’s important to weigh the advantages and disadvantages of both on-campus and off-campus student housing in the USA. By choosing the most suitable student housing option, you can enhance your study experience in the USA and potentially save on costs.

Pros of On-campus Accommodation

  • Enhanced safety with 24/7 security and CCTV surveillance.
  • Time and cost savings due to proximity to campus.
  • Convenient access to campus amenities.
  • Easier participation in on-campus events.
  • Networking opportunities within the residential community.
  • Essential amenities included in the rent.
  • Simplified renting process without lengthy agreements.

Cons of On-campus Accommodation

  • Requirement to adhere to university rules and regulations.
  • Roommate assignment without choice.
  • Mandatory one-year on-campus stay as per the agreement.

Pros of Off-campus Accommodation

  • You will get the freedom to live on your own terms.
  • Staying off-campus will help you learn a lot about managing your expenses too.
  • You will get a complete study abroad experience if you share your room with students from different colleges.

Cons of Off-campus Accommodation

  • You will have to budget and manage all utilities by yourself.
  • Rent of off-campus accommodation does not include electricity, food bills and miscellaneous expenses.
  • You cannot always access on-campus facilities.
  • Traveling between your accommodation and campus can be time consuming as well as adds to the cost.

Types of Accommodation in USA

Student housing in the USA can be broadly categorized into two types: on-campus student housing and off-campus student housing. In the following sections, we will explore various options within each of these categories.


On-campus Student Housing

On-campus student housing is one of the most popular and budget-friendly accommodation options for international students in the USA. In fact, some universities may even require all freshmen to live on campus during their first year. Let’s delve into how on-campus student housing operates:

  • US universities comprise various residence halls, apartments, and private suites known as student dorms.
  • Based on your preference, you will be given a room in one of these dorms.
  • Accommodation at US universities costs somewhere between $9,500 and $11,000 per year.
  • Dorms are classified for first-year, sophomore, and senior-year students.
  • Common amenities available to students living in dorms include common room, TV, kitchen, laundry services, meal plans, basic furniture, bathroom, etc.
  • You will be served timely meals in dining halls as per the package you opt for.

Off-campus Student Housing

Among off-campus student housing options, you can choose between renting an apartment or considering a homestay. We will explore both of these arrangements to assist you in determining which option is the most suitable for you.

Student Apartment in USA

  • This is the most preferred option among students who wish to live independently in the US.
  • Senior year students and graduate students are most likely to opt for student apartments.
  • It tends to be a costlier option if you are looking for a place in a central location.
  • The rent of apartments in USA is around $800-1,500 per month and may even cross $2,000.
  • Before renting an apartment, there are various factors to be taken care of such as distance from your campus, safety of the neighborhood, availability of daily necessities, public transport, eateries, etc.
  • If you rent an apartment, you will get access to a private room, shared or private kitchen, bathroom, living area and other amenities available in the house.

Shared Apartment

First-year students opt for shared apartments because it allows them to make new friends and adjust to campus life.

  • Shared apartments are not connected to the universities.
  • Presence of tenancy contracts.


  • Homestays are very popular in USA and probably the most suitable option for freshers who are about to stay in a new country alone for the first time.
  • You will live with an American family and get a personal room as well as meals.
  • It will cost you around $600-1,000 per month which is quite affordable compared to student apartments.
  • You will be placed not more than 20-40 minutes away from your campus.
  • It will give you the warmth of living with a family and also help you learn a lot about the American culture and way of life.
  • It is quite a safe option especially because of the American Homestay Network that keeps a check on the safety and quality of homestay.
  • Homestay is definitely a viable option for international students in Chicago, Washington and Portland.

Luxury Accommodations

If you desire a comfortable choice of living, you can consider this option.

  • The option could either be self-catered apartments or studios.
  • Fully furnished with designer fittings and fixtures.
  • Luxury services like concierge,  24/7 security, 24/7 on-site gymnasiums, and cinema rooms.

How do I find student housing in the USA?

Many international students initially choose on-campus housing for their first year and then transition to private off-campus student apartments in the USA for the following years. This allows them to become familiar with the best neighborhoods. There are several ways to find student housing in the USA, including:

  • The best place to start looking for student housing in USA is your university website. Not only for locating on-campus accommodation, the International Student Office at your university will assist you find appropriate off-campus housing options with links to rental listings and contacts of agents.
  • Apart from this, there are several websites such as Uniplaces, Nestpick, UniAcco, AmberStudent, Spotahome, Homelike among others that will provide you with all the required resources to rent proper student accommodation in USA.
  • You can also talk to your seniors to get some good advice for renting apartments.

Factors to Keep in Mind Before Leasing Student Accommodation in the USA

International students prioritize safety when looking for student housing in the USA. It’s crucial to assess various aspects related to emergencies and everyday necessities in the neighborhood where you plan to rent accommodation. Here are key factors to keep in mind when considering housing options in the USA for Indian students

  • Proximity to the university: It’s advisable to seek accommodation near the campus so you can not only explore the new neighborhood and build friendships but also enjoy the convenience of campus facilities.
  • Availability of essential amenities: If you choose off-campus living, you may need to visit the grocery store frequently for your daily necessities. Ensure that your chosen location offers easy access to these essentials.
  • Cafes, restaurants, and social spots: Opt for housing in an area with nearby cafes, restaurants, social venues, and shopping centers to enhance your social life.
  • Safety: Prioritize safety and a student-friendly environment. You can research this online or ask other students living in the area. Look for accommodations with secure entry points, CCTV surveillance, and security personnel.
  • Proximity to public transportation: Ensure that your accommodation is well-connected to public transportation options to reduce commuting expenses and save time.
  • Nearby hospitals: It’s crucial to have a hospital in close proximity to your apartment, especially considering the lessons learned during the pandemic. While medical facilities are available on the university campus, it’s wise to be prepared, especially if you’re living independently.

Things to Know About U.S. Student Housing

  • International students typically need to submit a refundable deposit, usually equivalent to one month’s rent, upon securing their housing.
  • Private accommodations often entail additional expenses for utilities like internet, water, electricity, and cable, whereas university-managed halls tend to include these utility costs in the monthly rent.
  • Be watchful for possible extra fees, such as those associated with laundry facilities, parking spaces, or concierge services.
  • When seeking housing, consider whether it comes furnished or if you need to furnish it yourself. Verify the provision of essential amenities like washing machines and refrigerators.
  • University dorms and apartment complexes may offer access to amenities like pools or gyms.
  • Prioritize awareness of safety features in your accommodation, which could include secure door access, the presence of security personnel, or the use of CCTV cameras in communal areas.

Projected Expenses for Housing in the USA

Accommodation expenses are among the primary costs you’ll need to consider when moving to the USA. It’s essential to establish a budget in advance and seek accommodation that aligns with it. When estimating your housing budget, be sure to account for factors like the housing deposit, utilities not included in your rent, and supplementary costs associated with parking, laundry, heating, and more.

Take a look at the table below for insights into the projected accommodation expenses at some of the leading universities in the USA for international students:

University Name Average Annual Rent
New York University $15,000-24,000
Columbia University $10,000-16,150
Princeton University $10,960
University of Pennsylvania $11,800
Massachusetts Institute of Technology $11,980
Brown University $14,800
University of California $17,800
Yale University $18,000
Stanford University $18,600
Harvard University $19,500

The cost of renting a house for students in the USA can vary considerably depending on the city. It hinges on factors like the facilities you desire, location, access to a kitchen and bathroom, and more. Below, you’ll find the average rental costs for apartments in some of the most student-friendly cities in the USA, allowing you to make comparisons:

Cities Average Monthly Rent of Accommodation
San Francisco $2,200-4,000
Boston $1,500-3,000
New York $1,700-3,000
Los Angeles $1,500-2,500
Washington DC $1,500-2,500
Atlanta $1,200-2,200
San Diego $1,400-2,400
Chicago $1,000-1,500
Philadelphia $1,200-1,500
Pittsburg $750-1,050
Baltimore $1,500-1,800