Housing Advice

Getting Started with Housing:

If you’ve never had to look for an apartment before, you might feel a little overwhelmed. The first things you probably want to do are figure out your budget, and how far from school you are willing to live. Everyone will have a different opinion on how close you should be to school; a large number of students end up studying there, even if they never have studied anywhere except their home before, so you might want to take that into consideration.

It is best to start looking for housing early. Available and affordable housing is a hot commodity and does not stay available for long. In addition, most students find to convenient to move in and settle into your new home before the week of orientation. You will be in school during normal business hours almost every day that week, making it difficult for you to connect your phone, cable, and utilities.


Being without a Car:

Being without a car is extremely difficult in New Jersey. The state is not made for walkers—most of the streets don’t have sidewalks and there are few residential areas convenient to commercial areas. However, it is not impossible if you plan wisely. First off, it is easiest if you know someone in the area who does have a car, in case of emergencies. Also, we do not recommend living with another car-less student. Plan on finding a place that is in close proximity to Rutgers bus routes. Certain areas of Piscataway, New Brunswick, or Highland Park are your best bets. Information on those routes can be found online here or at the info booth located near the main Rutgers bus route on College Avenue in New Brunswick.

For the new course Patient-Centered Medicine, you will be required to participate in two off-campus activities. The first is community site visits, which you go to in groups, and therefore, you should be able to carpool with students who have cars. The second activity is either physician shadowing or working at the Promise Clinic, a student-run free clinic for the underprivileged. The Promise Clinic is in New Brunswick and is accessible by bus. If you need to shadow a doctor on a bus route, mentioning it early to the course directors may help; however, they do find it difficult to accommodate all students.


Commuting:

Commuting is not very easy. The traffic on local highways such as Routes 287 & 18 is usually horrendous, and school hours coincide with rush hour. It is certainly not impossible to commute, as several students do; but, with the long school hours, it is not preferable.


Roommates:
It is of course ideal to know the person you’re living with; unfortunately, this will prove difficult in most cases. One of the best places to meet fellow incoming first-years as potential roommates is at the Housing Days, since these are generally low-pressure ways to meet people. It may feel awkward to ask someone if you want to live together after only knowing them for a couple of hours, but it might be preferable to the alternatives (some of us never met our roommates face-to-face before moving in with them!).

Exercise some caution about the people you’re living with. There have been horror stories about roommates running off with deposits. Though that seldom happens, it is good to discuss issues like timeliness of paying the bills and how utilities will be split. It is also important to talk about living boundaries, especially with the stresses of being a medical student. You might want to try and talk about quiet times (some people study in the afternoon, others at three o’clock in the morning) and rules about pets, if you are living with them.

In general, living with someone is an exercise in compromise. Use your common sense and stand up for yourself when you need to, but make allowances for others when you can.


Landlord Limits and Responsibilities:

It is important to know that you as a responsible tenant deserve a responsible landlord who gives you the care, courtesy, and privacy that you need. Discuss your lease with the landlord before you sign, and remember that you both have room for negotiations. Be sure to go over both their responsibilities and yours, such as utilities, plumbing issues, and other repairs, especially external. Find out how to contact them in case of emergency, and how long they usually take to respond to important issues that can arise (like an overflowing toilet). With regards to privacy, talk to your landlord about how often they plan to frequent your space if they live nearby your home. Possibly discuss limitations if it comes to that point.

Since landlords are representing themselves rather than a company, personalities often come into play more than dealing with an apartment complex. Some landlords will require a month (or more) of rent for security, and may even ask for a co-signer to vouch for your financial stability. Others will trust you simply on merit of being a medical student. If you are getting a bad feeling from your landlord and you still have ample time to find housing, look elsewhere; you will have to deal with them whenever a problem arises during the year, and they will not likely become more pleasant.


Apartment Complexes:

Many apartment complexes have application procedures and waitlists, which can add time to your housing search. Some are hesitant to rent to a “student” without a typical income. It may help to explain to them that you are a medical student, not a “college” student, and that your income is your loan money. Some of the complexes will try to accommodate you by allowing co-signers, such as parents, which may further add to the time you need.

Websites can give you some feedback on apartment complexes in our area (Middlesex/Somerset Counties, or Central/North New Jersey). Previous tenants provide their opinions about the complex and the ratings are averaged. Keep in mind that people, depending on personality, may exaggerate so don't take what you read for face value. Visit the complex, ask questions, and decide if it could be the place for you.


Living in New Brunswick:

If you're moving to New Brunswick, ask your landlord about the parking situation. Will s/he provide you with off-street parking (a driveway or a garage)? If not, will there be plenty of on-street parking day and night during the school year? Empty streets in the summer can be misleading, especially if you’ll be living in an area with a high student population. When Rutgers classes begin in the fall you might find yourself competing for parking. There will be times you may want or need to spend late hours at school. You don't want to get stuck with a 7pm “curfew” to find a decent parking spot.



Resources to Learn about Safety:

Contact a town's local police if you're questioning the reputation of a street or area you're seriously considering to live in. A notorious street such as Remsen Avenue in New Brunswick is an example of an area to stay away from.