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I am in a bit of a dilemma: I emailed my graduate secretary for the names of other people in the program, then emailed them all asking if anyone is looking for a roommate. One person responded and seemed like a great fit, but later decided to go with someone who was in her lab instead because she thought they would have more in common. Then another responded and we found an apartment, she committed, I filled out the application and was waiting for her to do the same, when she decided this apartment was too expensive and backed out. Since I had already paid the application fee, I frantically emailed the other students again asking if anyone was still looking for a roommate, but I have gotten no response. What should I do? Is there another safe way to go about finding roommates? I don't want to live alone because I can't really afford it and I would be very lonely. I could live in the graduate housing, but it costs nearly my entire stipend per month, so I would have to take out loans and that isn't ideal either.

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Sorry to hear this - must be very frustrating. I think you should continue your search in the same vein. Try Uloop, craigslist and such like. See if there are  relevant facebook groups too and there often are. Ask your 'roommate wanted' ad to be sent not just to incoming students but to the existing student list. The main thing is to clearly discuss commitment. I was very upfront and basically said, "So are you committed to sharing this place? Because then I  will  suspend my roommate hunt. Don't flake on me! " and the person in question was equally forthright. Often people are assessing all their options and are keeping multiple potential-roommates on hold. It's important to ensure that you are on the same page and have both clearly agreed to an arrangement so the other person knows what's at stake. Of course things may still fall through in the end but this is what worked for me. Hope this helps! 

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Try other departments that are related to yours. So, maybe political science, law, speech, etc.?

 

Also, if all you have invested is an application fee, it could be worth it to just walk away. I've never paid more than $50 to apply for a place, which isn't a serious commitment.

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Craigslist! I've used this for years with great success. It can be time-consuming -- you have to do all your own screening and asking lots of questions. Simply reading through the ads to separate the sanity vs. insanity takes time, and be prepared for some people to not follow up or reply to emails. 

 

I would read and reply to some posts, and then on the "housing wanted," I posted my own ad too, describing myself, habits, what I was looking for (including my price point), and definitely emphasized that I was a responsible, financially-savvy grad student. That last part is important, as many people view a very studious or on-campus-all-the-time person as a fairly low-maintenance potential roomie.

 

If someone has a bedroom to fill or offer you, it can cut out a lot of the time spent filling out applications, credit checks, and fees. But, never commit without a written agreement. Subleasing has its upsides -- it may be cheaper, require only a short-term commitment, and may include furniture and utility costs --  but make sure you are protected with a sublease, and a way to directly contact the owner/landlord yourself. 

 

Even if you don't contact anyone via craigslist, I found reading the ads to be really informative...gives you a sense of fair market pricing for rents, when things tend to be available (is 14 days out the norm? or more like 60?), and neighborhoods.

I too would let the application fee go. They shouldn't charge more than $50 for a simple credit check; most I've ever paid was $75 for two of us and we walked away from that particular deal (well-worth it). I'd rather lose $20-50, than getting approved and suddenly being solely responsible for the cost of two people's rent.

 

I refused to do graduate housing for the same reason - even before I arrived in the city, it struck me as a huge racket, with prices waaaay above market. I found it suspicious that I kept getting emails about my special "reserved spot" in grad housing, long after I formally declined it.

 

Don't commit to a place sight-unseen before you arrive...you can always book a week in a hotel or hostel for when you arrive, and search then. Not ideal, but at least you are finally there to see the layout of the city, campus, and apartments first-hand. 

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I'm not planning on having a roommate because I'm bringing my dog, and my boyfriend is moving here at the end of the year. But I did peruse the roommate section on Craigslist -- some ads were a little sketchy, but you can find some legit offers on there. The most important thing, though, if it's at all possible, is to go beforehand to scout it out. I left right after graduation and spent a few days viewing various properties. For me, it coincided with my class registration, so I would have needed to be there anyway. But it was extremely valuable to get a feel for which neighborhoods were safe and which ones were definitely not ok. I ruled out several apartments that had been at the top of my list because I got really bad vibes from the neighborhood. I ended up with a small but nice apartment that I'm moving into on Saturday. Especially if you're moving to an urban area, I really recommend going there in person rather than trying to do things online. Have coffee with potential roommates, too.

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