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enoksrd

Madison, WI

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Hi janusnori,

I've lived in Madison for four and a half years, two and a half of those as a graduate student. Reading through this thread I'm amazed at all the negative comments Madison got! I *love* this town. Yeah, it's quirky, but I absolutely love it. It's small but big enough to be entertaining, it's cheap, and it's fun.

As for good ethnic/asian restaurants, there are a few. Perhaps the most well-known is Himal Chuli on State St. It's sister restaurant, Chautara, is also Himalayan food and is owned by the same people. There are a number of decent Indian restaurants, including one just a few blocks from campus (Maharani, I think?). There are two Afghani restaurants that are decent, one Ethiopian that's okay (doesn't compare to the ones in Boston), and a number of Thai and Indonesian restaurants. We have a disproportionate number of ethnic restaurants for a city our size.

As for rent, when I was a Master's student here I had a studio/one bedroom (it was one big room and one big eat-in kitchen) with all utilities included for $550/month. Coming from Boston, where I paid $550/month for my share of a hole in the wall, it seemed awesome. The apartment I have now is a nice two bedroom for $920/month (heat included) and the rent hasn't changed since 2005. Right now my boyfriend and I are both PhD students, but housing in the town is affordable enough that we are buying a house next week. Having lived all my life on the east coast, the idea of being able to afford a house while in grad school is somewhat outrageous to me, but I'm thrilled. But the people who move from rural Wisconsin to Madison think the housing is outrageously expensive (which it is, compared to the rural areas).

Also, when you say UWM in your post, do you mean UW-Milwaukee? That's what we traditionally call UWM. The school in Madison is called UW-Madison. I have no idea who made that distinction or why...

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I was an undergrad here, then came back in a different field for graduate school. This is my fourth and last year of coursework in the Communication Arts program. I've always loved this city. I love the balance between small town and city feel. There are plenty of cultural events available for me, and the city is drivable without being overwhelming. It's more liberal than anywhere I've ever lived, and is especially friendly toward LGBT people (IMO). You end up with a mix of preppy business people and people who still think it's the 1960s (especially on the east side near Williamson Street!). It works for me.

The apartment prices I've seen listed are pretty accurate. I paid $775 total, including heat, utilities and parking, for a one bedroom within 15-minute walking distance of campus. My friend paid $550 for a large studio with separate kitchen, about 3 blocks farther away. Now we're sharing a huge 3-bedroom that's going for $1000 total. It's 1.5 miles from campus, so I can walk if I feel like it, but usually take the bus. To me, the bus system is very convenient, especially since it's free to students. The only bad side is they don't run very late on weekends. I only use my car for grocery shopping and the laundromat, and the occasional Target run. It's expensive to park anywhere near campus, and street parking off-campus is a *huge* pain in the winter. I highly recommend finding an apartment with off-street parking. I see people bicycling all winter, even through the snow, so I guess that's possible. I will say that you want to sign a lease ASAP. Most are signed in February or March. I found my apartment in May and was a bit surprised at how nice it was, actually. It's just the way this city works.

I've been a T.A. my entire time here, and have lived on that stipend plus a part-time job at a campus computer lab (8 hours/week) and summer jobs without getting additional loans. It's not a rich life by any means, but comfortable for me. I'm used to getting by on that kind of money. The computer lab job is the best you'll find, by the way - I spend most of my time reading for seminars or surfing the Internet.

In the end, if you're coming from a big city and expecting the same, you will be disappointed. It all depends on what you're looking for. I'd be more concerned about your department and where it's headed. Mine changed drastically in my time here - very different place 4 years later.

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Hi janusnori,

I've lived in Madison for four and a half years, two and a half of those as a graduate student. Reading through this thread I'm amazed at all the negative comments Madison got! I *love* this town. Yeah, it's quirky, but I absolutely love it. It's small but big enough to be entertaining, it's cheap, and it's fun.

As for good ethnic/asian restaurants, there are a few. Perhaps the most well-known is Himal Chuli on State St. It's sister restaurant, Chautara, is also Himalayan food and is owned by the same people. There are a number of decent Indian restaurants, including one just a few blocks from campus (Maharani, I think?). There are two Afghani restaurants that are decent, one Ethiopian that's okay (doesn't compare to the ones in Boston), and a number of Thai and Indonesian restaurants. We have a disproportionate number of ethnic restaurants for a city our size.

As for rent, when I was a Master's student here I had a studio/one bedroom (it was one big room and one big eat-in kitchen) with all utilities included for $550/month. Coming from Boston, where I paid $550/month for my share of a hole in the wall, it seemed awesome. The apartment I have now is a nice two bedroom for $920/month (heat included) and the rent hasn't changed since 2005. Right now my boyfriend and I are both PhD students, but housing in the town is affordable enough that we are buying a house next week. Having lived all my life on the east coast, the idea of being able to afford a house while in grad school is somewhat outrageous to me, but I'm thrilled. But the people who move from rural Wisconsin to Madison think the housing is outrageously expensive (which it is, compared to the rural areas).

Also, when you say UWM in your post, do you mean UW-Milwaukee? That's what we traditionally call UWM. The school in Madison is called UW-Madison. I have no idea who made that distinction or why...

I grew up in Madison and currently live in the Twin Cities. I have a deep love for Upper Midwestern cities, especially Madison, Twin Cities, Milwaukee and Chicago and would recommend any of those cities to anyone. Yes, it's cold and snows in the winter, so if you can't handle that, you probably can't handle the Midwest in general. If you're looking for martini bars and clubs, Madison's probably not the place for you. But if you'd like farmers markets, coffee shops, laid-back bars, and lakes, it's perfect! I remember when growing up people always like to say that Madison has the most restaurants per capita than any other city in the country. Not sure if that's technically true, but if feels true. I'm a big fan of the Weary Traveler on Willy Street.

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I was an undergrad here, then came back in a different field for graduate school. This is my fourth and last year of coursework in the Communication Arts program. I've always loved this city. I love the balance between small town and city feel. There are plenty of cultural events available for me, and the city is drivable without being overwhelming. It's more liberal than anywhere I've ever lived, and is especially friendly toward LGBT people (IMO). You end up with a mix of preppy business people and people who still think it's the 1960s (especially on the east side near Williamson Street!). It works for me.

The apartment prices I've seen listed are pretty accurate. I paid $775 total, including heat, utilities and parking, for a one bedroom within 15-minute walking distance of campus. My friend paid $550 for a large studio with separate kitchen, about 3 blocks farther away. Now we're sharing a huge 3-bedroom that's going for $1000 total. It's 1.5 miles from campus, so I can walk if I feel like it, but usually take the bus. To me, the bus system is very convenient, especially since it's free to students. The only bad side is they don't run very late on weekends. I only use my car for grocery shopping and the laundromat, and the occasional Target run. It's expensive to park anywhere near campus, and street parking off-campus is a *huge* pain in the winter. I highly recommend finding an apartment with off-street parking. I see people bicycling all winter, even through the snow, so I guess that's possible. I will say that you want to sign a lease ASAP. Most are signed in February or March. I found my apartment in May and was a bit surprised at how nice it was, actually. It's just the way this city works.

I've been a T.A. my entire time here, and have lived on that stipend plus a part-time job at a campus computer lab (8 hours/week) and summer jobs without getting additional loans. It's not a rich life by any means, but comfortable for me. I'm used to getting by on that kind of money. The computer lab job is the best you'll find, by the way - I spend most of my time reading for seminars or surfing the Internet.

In the end, if you're coming from a big city and expecting the same, you will be disappointed. It all depends on what you're looking for. I'd be more concerned about your department and where it's headed. Mine changed drastically in my time here - very different place 4 years later.

I've been admitted to the Agricultural and Applied Economics program, and I'm curious about your last statement about departments and where they are headed. Do any current students in the AAE program have any insight on the department?

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I've been living in Madison for about 5 years now. My wife and I both went to grad school here, and we stuck around after for work.

The city is just great. You usually hear people say how it has big city culture and opportunities combined with smaller city benefits, sort of the best of both worlds I guess. It's also nestled on an isthmus between two nice, large lakes so it has some natural beauty as well. The UW and state governments sort of dominate the downtown area, but with about 500,000 people in Dane County you'd be surprised how many other kinds of jobs and opportunities are around. You're also only 90 miles from Milwaukee, and about 150 miles from Chicago, so bigger city weekends are possible. Cheaper airfare, too.

Madison is known in the area for being fiercely liberal/progressive and having some pretty darn impressive farmers markets. Seriously, I was new to the midwest, but people just love strolling past produce on Saturday mornings at the Capitol square. The city also boasts State St., a one-mile pedestrian street that links the Capitol and the university. It has lots of bookstores, coffee shops, bars, restaurants, and boutique kinds of stores. I've heard that Madison has the most restaurants per capita and I don't know if it's true but I wouldn't be surprised, there are a lot of options. I've also heard Madison has an unusually large number of non-profit/volunteer types of jobs, the sort you would find on http://www.idealist.org. My wife and I have been here 5 years (she's a poet, I'm a statistician) and we've always found things for both of us to do. Nice balance.

Rent seems reasonable. I live on the near-east side (Willy St. area) which is a preferred spot for graduate students. Most of the apartments are in converted 1920s houses and go for about $600 studio, $750 1 bedroom, $900+ for 2 bedrooms. Lots of new condos going up too. I think our neighborhood is considered a bit pricey for rent, so there are probably cheaper options elsewhere. Anything within a mile of campus will be heavily dominated by undergraduate students with very limited parking. I also spent a year in University Graduate Student Housing (Eagle Heights) which was more affordable and right on one lake, but also somewhat cut off from the downtown area of the city. The city bus system is wonderful (and free to students!) so don't be worried about living too far away from campus. Cars are helpful for grocery stores and errands, but not strictly required.

Any drawbacks? Let's see... if you are coming from a bigger city Madison will probably feel somewhat small and more limited. We really don't have a "buzz" like Chicago or NY. Madison is also less diverse than bigger cities. Oh, how could I forget the weather... unless you are coming from Anchorage, Alaska or Duluth, Minnesota, you will find it cold in the winter. It can stay below 20 degrees for weeks with a steady wind whipping across the lakes. Bring a parka, and lose your prejudice against wearing long underwear daily. Other seasons are just beautiful.

Best of luck with wherever you move.

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Hey everyone,

I've decided to attend Madison next year and have started the search for housing. The comments so far have been very helpful! I'm wondering if anyone has any opinions on the university grad housing, particularly the Harvey Street apartments? The pricing seems pretty good, although it sounds like parking could be a problem.

I've also been looking around the capitol area. I want to get far enough away from the campus to stay out of the undergrad party scene, but I also want to be within walking distance, particularly to the east side of campus where my building is.

Does anyone have any recommendations? Places to look at or places to stay away from? Are any parts of town "not safe"?

Thanks in advance :).

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I'm also definitely going to Madison in the fall. I know for sure that I want to live in the Willy St. area, it reminds me of my neighborhood here in Boston. :) Right now I'm feeling pretty stressed about when is the right time to look for an apt. Is early June too late?

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I lived in Madison four 6 years, 4 years as an undergrad and 2 years as a working professional. I loved Madison for its combination of small town appeal and mid sized city practicality. However, that wore off when my wife and I tried to stay there after we graduated. It's job market is always flooded with new graduates.

Housing is also flooded by undergrads and is disproportionately expensive (yeah yeah, less than nyc or hong kong or something, but still more than its big 10 counterparts). For a one bedroom in the Willy St area (a mile and a half from the liberal arts end of campus) I was paying about 750 + utilities. The lakes that provide so much natural beauty and entertainment also keep the isthmus cluttered and isolated from the west and east towns of Madison. No groceries exist on the isthmus (aside from campus convenience stores).

Traffic and pollution are non existent. The lakes and terrace provide absolutely wonderful and there is always a band playing on the terrace. The university rents canoes on the cheap. Walking trails abound in that area.

If I were a graduate student in Madison and wanted to live like an adult, I would find a place in the close neighborhoods outside of the downtown area. Monroe street, Hilldale, Atwood st area are excellent options where your minimal stipend might buy you more. Buses are excellent for the downtown area.

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Does anyone have feelings or advice on Madison this year? I'm particularly interested in suggestions for housing.

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Hey Isotope, I'd agree with a lot of the prior posts-- Willy St. area is the place to be for grad students. It's quiet and quirky, with cool houses and a few neat bars close by. It's a bit remote, but my ex boyfriend lived there and he never had any problem getting to campus. Buses are free for students, and he biked through the entire year (not everyone is that hardcore, but it's totally doable, as long as you're careful in the winter and don't mind getting a bit wet sometimes). Willy St. is closer to the Capitol than to campus, which is convenient for the social scene--the Capitol bars are traditionally the grad student bars--quieter, more character, fewer belligerent undergrads. Rents quoted above seem accurate--600 for a studio, 750 for one-bedroom, on up from there. Madison is MAJORLY bike-friendly, so if you are into cycling at all, you can get around no problem. There are bike trails through the whole city, so you can get from one end of downtown to the other without even going on a road. State St. is a pedestrian mall that only allow bicycles and government vehicles, so it's super easy to get around if you're of the two-wheeled persuasion. Bike racks abound, everywhere, as do conveniently-located trees and poles.

A few recommendations: my fave lunch place is Cafe Soleil, which is the less-expensive sister restaurant of L'etoile, the top-25 restaurant that's AMAZING and prohibitively expensive. Cafe Soleil does breakfast and lunch, you can probably get a meal for $10-15, and it'll be incredible, hands down. Try the homemade raspberry lemonade. L'etoile (dinner only) will run maybe $100 for two if you do it right. Anyway, they use all local ingredients (taking advantage of the farmers market) and the menu changes seasonally (sometimes weekly, daily, you get the idea. never the same thing twice). Amazing.

Favorite bar: Nat Spil, near the capitol. Go for the High Tea--lemongrass vodka, green tea liqueur, sparkling lemonade. Cool neo-Chinese decor.

Favorite coffee shop: Barrique's, on the capitol (there are several locations). Hip atmosphere, lots of table space, lots of good people watching, and GREAT food. Closer to Willy St. than a lot of other coffee shops.

Feel free to PM me if you have any specific questions. I love this city, so I'm glad to talk more about it.

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nicholysseus, thank you for you comment. I am seeking for housing in Madison too. I will be there for Fall 2009. I am considering taking an apartment at Main Street. The price is reasonable for an intl student like me. Do you have any ideas about living there?

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You may also want to consider the Old University area since you are in the sciences but I also second the Jennifer/Willy St. area. I attended UW-Madison for undergrad but was not a part of the party scene and I found plenty of cultural and quirky events to keep me busy. If you have any questions about the city, please do not hesitate to ask.

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Not sure if this is already posted somewhere else on this thread, but...

I am pretty sure I will be in Madison this fall and am wondering about when I should start looking at an apartment. Should I start looking right now? What are the best online sites to find one?

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Not sure if this is already posted somewhere else on this thread, but...

I am pretty sure I will be in Madison this fall and am wondering about when I should start looking at an apartment. Should I start looking right now? What are the best online sites to find one?

I used Craig's List to find a place. I e-mailed realtors and landlords in late May, then went out in June to sign a lease for Aug. 1.

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I've been living in Madison for about 5 years now. My wife and I both went to grad school here, and we stuck around after for work.

The city is just great. You usually hear people say how it has big city culture and opportunities combined with smaller city benefits, sort of the best of both worlds I guess. It's also nestled on an isthmus between two nice, large lakes so it has some natural beauty as well. The UW and state governments sort of dominate the downtown area, but with about 500,000 people in Dane County you'd be surprised how many other kinds of jobs and opportunities are around. You're also only 90 miles from Milwaukee, and about 150 miles from Chicago, so bigger city weekends are possible. Cheaper airfare, too.

Madison is known in the area for being fiercely liberal/progressive and having some pretty darn impressive farmers markets. Seriously, I was new to the midwest, but people just love strolling past produce on Saturday mornings at the Capitol square. The city also boasts State St., a one-mile pedestrian street that links the Capitol and the university. It has lots of bookstores, coffee shops, bars, restaurants, and boutique kinds of stores. I've heard that Madison has the most restaurants per capita and I don't know if it's true but I wouldn't be surprised, there are a lot of options. I've also heard Madison has an unusually large number of non-profit/volunteer types of jobs, the sort you would find on http://www.idealist.org. My wife and I have been here 5 years (she's a poet, I'm a statistician) and we've always found things for both of us to do. Nice balance.

Rent seems reasonable. I live on the near-east side (Willy St. area) which is a preferred spot for graduate students. Most of the apartments are in converted 1920s houses and go for about $600 studio, $750 1 bedroom, $900+ for 2 bedrooms. Lots of new condos going up too. I think our neighborhood is considered a bit pricey for rent, so there are probably cheaper options elsewhere. Anything within a mile of campus will be heavily dominated by undergraduate students with very limited parking. I also spent a year in University Graduate Student Housing (Eagle Heights) which was more affordable and right on one lake, but also somewhat cut off from the downtown area of the city. The city bus system is wonderful (and free to students!) so don't be worried about living too far away from campus. Cars are helpful for grocery stores and errands, but not strictly required.

Any drawbacks? Let's see... if you are coming from a bigger city Madison will probably feel somewhat small and more limited. We really don't have a "buzz" like Chicago or NY. Madison is also less diverse than bigger cities. Oh, how could I forget the weather... unless you are coming from Anchorage, Alaska or Duluth, Minnesota, you will find it cold in the winter. It can stay below 20 degrees for weeks with a steady wind whipping across the lakes. Bring a parka, and lose your prejudice against wearing long underwear daily. Other seasons are just beautiful.

Best of luck with wherever you move.

I am thinking about living in the Eagle Heights apartment- what do they look like on the inside? The website doesn't provide any pictures or floor designs... Is it really worth it?

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enoksrd said:
I am considering U Wisconsin. I would be interested to hear anything people have to say about the city, and in particular, I would be interested to know what the cost of living is like. I have been offered TA support, which will be about $11,200 or $12,500, depending on whether or not the TAA nogotiate a raise. According to the grad school web site, this is a few thousand less than the estimated cost of living. What is the cost of living for grad students living there now? If you aren't picky, is there reasonably priced housing near campus? Also, I have been told it is a great bike city, but how does that work in the winter when its 10F and there is snow everywhere?

Thanks!

I started looking last year right around this time and I think I signed my lease by May 1st. There is a lot of housing near the school. The off-campus housing site on the UW website is pretty thorough, with lots of listings: http://campusareahousing.wisc.edu/ With your stipend, you will probably want to find places with roommates, as a studio is around $600-650 and 1 bedrooms around $700-750, but 2 bedrooms are around $900, so you can really reduce your rent with roomies. It would be worthwhile to visit if you can to check out neighborhoods. I live south of campus in the Regent area, less than a mile from campus (an easy walk and even easier bike ride) and it's really nice except for Football Weekends, when the whole area is overrun by Badger Fans.

Madison itself is a pretty great town -- I moved here from Los Angeles and although Madison has a population of around 1/20th the size of LA, there really isn't too much I haven't been able to find in Madison. Great restaurants, grocery stores, farmer's markets, decent ethnic food options, shopping, culture, sports, etc. Winter *is* a bitch and the cold really blows, but the bus system is pretty good, and you do learn to suck it up and deal.

As for biking, yes, people do it all year round, but the past two winters have had a lot of snow, and I for one would NOT want to bike in it, as they aren't the best about plowing the snow. You will want to get snow tires for your bike if you want to bike in the winter. During other parts of the year, biking is great as they have both dedicated bike paths and bike lanes on all the major roads.

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I am also looking into housing. Does anyone have any recommendations or places I should avoid? I was originally looking into Madison Property Management apartments as there seemed to be quite a few near campus, but further research revealed that they regularly just keep the deposits, regardless of how clean and well repaired the place is left.

My other big concern is mold because I am deathly deathly allergic to it - like couldn't survive a night in a moldy apartment allergic. How proactive are landlords about mold and what kinds of places should I aim for/avoid?

I so very much appreciate any help. :)

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If you haven't secured housing by January, February at the latest, you are going to have issues with your ideal rental unit in Madison. Finding a place at this point and beyond that has nice amenities, good campus proximity, and economical rent will take a little luck. Anything under $650/mo without a roommate will be tough. Even places on the west and east sides really aren't saving you that much money, plus the commute to campus isn't fun. Word of mouth is always the best route for Madison rentals. When I was there, I was lucky enough to know people a few years older who got us the inside edge on their apartments. Some of the best/cheapest apartments are barely advertised (specifically, apartements on/near state street). Of course, I'm sure there are available units at the new luxury high rise on University Ave across from Brother's. Enjoy the $900/mo rent share though.

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I found my place, a 2 bedroom on the Near East side (20 minutes to campus by bus, 15 by bike), in June of last year. I had my choice of many great places, my rent is reasonable for the neighborhood.

As far as the mold goes, I recommend renting from an owner, an owner-occupied unit would be best. That kind of situation nearly guarantees an attentive landlord.

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Plate or platter said:

Also, SconnieNation, there was nothing useful or helpful in your post. You say word of mouth is best, but you don't offer to give people referrals to places you've had good experiences with, nor any other advice. You seem to have written it just to discourage people who are currently apartment searching. Way to be a dick.

Congrats on your find. Your view is one way to look at it. I guess I should start blaming the news for discouraging me about the economy under your logic instead of creating something for myself too. Anyways, I was simply trying to share my experiences in madison and that it is not easy to find prime housing (as I define it) after the months I stated. Did I say it was impossible and say you should give up all hope? No. The reaction I was hoping to convery was a sense of urgency and that it takes some work. I don't sugarcoat reality and I guess you could call me a glass half empty guy. I would have loved to have offered some referrals, but I don't remember the landlords numbers/names. They disappeared 2 cell phones ago. Sorry for ruining your day, but I can tell you enjoyed the power to lambast me.

 

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Avoid Madison Property Management. They are the singularly worst slum lords in the Madison area. Madison has a really great place called the Tenant Resource Center

http://www.tenantresourcecenter.org/

There is information on landlords to avoid and practices to avoid. They also have a housing listing that is very good.

Also, avoid CMT.

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If you haven't secured housing by January, February at the latest, you are going to have issues with your ideal rental unit in Madison. Finding a place at this point and beyond that has nice amenities, good campus proximity, and economical rent will take a little luck. Anything under $650/mo without a roommate will be tough. Even places on the west and east sides really aren't saving you that much money, plus the commute to campus isn't fun. Word of mouth is always the best route for Madison rentals. When I was there, I was lucky enough to know people a few years older who got us the inside edge on their apartments. Some of the best/cheapest apartments are barely advertised (specifically, apartements on/near state street). Of course, I'm sure there are available units at the new luxury high rise on University Ave across from Brother's. Enjoy the $900/mo rent share though.

How on earth are you supposed to have secured housing by February if enrollment decisions aren't technically made until April 15th?

Is Willy St. the coffee shop/music area?

Edited by sykora25

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How on earth are you supposed to have secured housing by February if enrollment decisions aren't technically made until April 15th?

Is Willy St. the coffee shop/music area?

I have to agree with SconnieNation - most people sign leases in January/February for the following academic year. Being a college town most leases in Madison run Aug 15-Aug 14 and most people renew in January/Feb. You might be able to find something later (in April or May) if you look around the Near East Side/Willy St. area (yes, lots of coffee shops, bars, etc. - and not many undergrads :)). You will also likely be able to find an apartment farther out (on the West Side/East Side) or Near West Side (near the Hilldale area) later in the spring. I would argue that the amenities at those places are nicer because they're often newer construction, come with free parking, more space, etc. The commute to campus will suck but it will be 30 minutes tops.

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In addition to Craigslist, the Isthmus (a local weekly newspaper) has a good classifieds section full of apartments. When I was looking for an apartment in October one year, I found a bunch of nice options here. It shouldn't be impossible to find an apartment outside the student lease dates, but it might take a bit more effort. Still, somewhere that isn't full of undergrads might be a better choice for a grad student anyway.

The Isthmus's website:

http://www.thedailypage.com/

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Sooo...I'm going to Wisc this fall and looking to move in over the summer. I'm wondering if I should check out apartments when I visit campus in 1.5 weeks. Apparently most leases end in August, so IDK if moving in in summer puts me at an advantage or a disadvantage. Does anyone have thoughts on when/how to find apts in my case? Much appreciated :)

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