Moving New York City NYC Moving Guide

A Guide for the College Student Living in NYC

The choice to go to college in New York City should be one of the most exciting decisions you'll make in your lifetime. Chances are, you're coming to NYC because of Columbia, NYU, Fordham, or one of the city's other reputable schools. No matter which college you've chosen to attend, you'll need to know a few things to have a positive experience as a student living in NYC, and thrive during your time in "The City That Never Sleeps."

college student living nyc

Not living in a dorm? Choose the right neighborhood.

If you decide to forgo dorm life, you'll have dozens of neighborhoods to choose from, so you'll need to research locations to find a perfect match. I recommend starting with a budget and looking at areas close (or within an easy commute) to your school.

You'll also want to consider the activities that are important when you're not hitting the books, or if you'll be working part-time while taking classes. If you're an avid runner, for instance, living near a park will be a priority. Crown Heights and Prospect Heights, both in proximity to Prospect Park, might be options if you choose to live in Brooklyn, which would be convenient if you attend Pratt or Brooklyn College.

If you're enrolled in Columbia, you can live most anywhere on the west side—Hell's Kitchen, Upper West Side, Morningside Heights, or Harlem—and have access to Central Park or Riverside Park, and still be within a quick commute to the campus. In other words, know your budget, make your wish list, and then begin your apartment search. But location will be key.

Find a roommate, limit expenses.

Unless you're willing to live in a closet, if you're going to college in NYC, you'll need to split living expenses. If your school doesn't provide a roommate match service, try services like Perfect Strangers, Roomster, or PadMapper so you can lease a larger pad and not have the stress of paying the rent yourself. Even with a roommate and larger apartment, space in any NYC apartment will be limited. Consider student storage—sharing a self-storage facility will allow you some extra room in your new apartment.

Use public transit.

Learn to use the NYC subway, because it's the cheapest and most efficient way to get around town. Not only will it save you money, but time as well. Never taken the subway before? No worries. After a brief adjustment period, you'll be able to ride the trains in your sleep.

Schedule time to socialize.

It's not easy securing a place to live in the Big Apple, and it's no easier making friends. Yes, you'll meet a lot of people in your classes, but school can be demanding and require a lot of focus, especially depending on the major you choose.

Be sure to schedule time to mingle with your classmates. Get involved in school activities and spend some time away from the books each week, with people who have common interests. And, study groups are crucial to college life, but they don't count toward social time unless you go out afterward.

Columbia University students

Columbia University; Credit: Mike Steele

Don't party your way through school.

While socializing is an essential aspect of college life, remember why you're in NYC in the first place. Yes, you'll find bars on every block, and once you're of legal drinking age, you'll be tempted to hit watering holes regularly. And even if you're under 21, you'll probably make a friend or two who's over 21, so partying in your apartment or dorm will be easy. The whole reason you're going to college in NYC is to get an education so you can succeed in your field. While being social is essential, so is staying focused.

Occasionally, get off campus.

Fordham University NYC

Fordham University; Credit: Raymond Bucko, SJ

You are living in the greatest city in the world, so take advantage of it. Have a free weekend? Get out of the area where your school is. For instance, if you go to NYU in the Village, yes, you'll have so much to do in that nabe, but I recommend exploring other parts of Manhattan and the boroughs. Get to know the city as much as possible in the years you spend here.

Stay on a budget.

No one wants to think about money, but trust me, in NYC, it's all about money. The city continues to get more expensive with every passing year, so staying on a budget is a must, especially if you're footing your own college bill.

Know your monthly expenses and stick to those expenses. If you have a few extra dollars, splurge on that special something you've coveted––be it a day to pamper yourself, that pair of shoes in Bloomingdale's window, or a ticket to that Broadway show you've been dying to see. That's where part-time jobs for college students come in handy.

Be ready to work.

The cost of living in New York can be tough for a student and, even if your parents are paying the bill, you'll need some spending money. A part-time gig on weekends or a few nights a week will enable you to take those spin classes you love and go out for cocktails or a nice dinner a few times per month.

Pratt Institute, NYC

Pratt Institute; Credit: Nick Amoscato

Have a resume.

Even if you plan to bartend or wait tables, in New York City, you'll need a resume. It will help if you have previous experience in the job you're seeking because believe it or not, the competition is stiff no matter which job you apply for.

Try to live a balanced life.

Maintaining balance isn't easy in today's world, and in Gotham––a city that's go go go and do do do—keeping that balance could be even tougher than it would be if you lived elsewhere. Go home to visit family and friends when you have a break because escaping the city will keep your priorities in perspective.

Caught up on homework? Spend a quiet night alone and binge-watch your fave shows on Netflix or have a few classmates over for pizza. Try not to get caught up in the hectic, nonstop world that is life in New York. Then you'll be sure to savor every minute of college life.

Take advantage of all the Big Apple offers.

And most importantly, remember, living in New York City is an education in itself. Use the city, experience life here, and make it part of your curriculum. I can't imagine any better place to go to college than NYC.

About the author

Tracy Kaler

Tracy Kaler is a ballet dancer turned interior designer turned lifestyle and travel writer who blogs at tracysnewyorklife.com. A former Atlantan, you can now find her byline in The Telegraph, IN New York Magazine, TravelMag, National Geographic, Mabuhay Magazine, am New York and others. When she's not glued to her laptop, you'll find her wandering the streets of New York City or off discovering another part of the planet.

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