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If the thought of choosing one of the on-campus concrete boxes as your humble (and we do mean humble here) abode for your first year of indentured servitude, er I mean, graduate school, you can always opt for a lovely off-campus box. Off-campus boxes come in many flavors, including aluminum siding, brick, and even wooden, with a variety of architectural styles for those of you who care about aesthetics. Our meager wages, uh I mean generous stipends, are indeed sufficient to support an off-campus housing habit of between $500 and $700 on average per month. And fortunately, since Boston is a somewhat modern city, the public transportation system is extensive (albeit tempermental at times)--if you can't get from A to B by the T (our "subway" system), there is probably a bus, boat, or bigger choo-choo that will take you there.

"Why would I want to live off campus?" you might be asking yourself right now. Students in our class live off campus for a variety of reasons, with the first and foremost being that they got robbed in the lottery system! (editorial note to those with no sense of humor-this was a joke). In all seriousness, though
many of us who live off campus simply decided that we didn't want to deal with the bureaucracy and uncertainty of the lottery system, and instead chose to deal with the uncertainty and stress of scouring Boston for a good cheap apartment. Another simple reason many of us chose off campus housing was that we had roommates or significant others who, for one reason or another, were not able to (i.e. did not qualify) or did not want to live in a cement box on campus. Some of us wanted to have a  
"special place" away from campus that we could escape to each evening. And some of us are sadists and just like to ride the T a lot so we chose the most distant apartments we could find.

Speaking of the T... If you think you're one of those nuts who might want to live off campus, you should probably search for apartments near the T or bus lines (for the preservation of your sanity). The red T line is probably your best bet, as the MIT T-stop itself is on the red line. A commute on the Red Line will probably range between 15 and 30 minutes, depending on how far out you live. The green line is a little
  more labor intensive, as the trains are smaller and more crowded, and switching from the green line to a bus or the red line is reguired. A commute on any of the green lines is about 40 minutes (on a good day!!). I claim to know nothing about the blue or the orange lines, as I don't know anyone who lives on them. Don't let the commute discourage you from living off campus, smile and remember that there are 1 million others running the rat race with you each day!:)

More T information...MIT subsidizes monthly T passes for students who live off campus. Regularly, the passes are $27/month for the T, whereas MIT graciously fronts $10 to bring the damage to only $17/month. For more information about monthly passes, as well as systems maps for the MBTA (the T people), check out www.mbta.com.

Talking about transportation brings up the issue of where to live. (See map of Boston and surrounding area now.) Many students choose to live in Cambridge or Somerville, which can both be relatively near the Bio buildings, and T/Bus lines. Rents in Cambridge can be a little more expensive ($600-$700+ on average); in Somerville, a little cheaper ($500-$600 on average). Porter and Davis Squares are on the red line (west of campus) and are both great places to start looking. Central Square, also on the red line is good, too, but be advised that some parts of Cenral are not places your mom would want you to live. All of these areas have plenty of shopping, movies, restaurants, and other fun things to do, as well as plenty of other students to make friends with.

  Those of us who chose to live across the Charles River think that Brookline is a great place to live, with lots of green spots (and restaurants, too). Rents in Brookline approximate those of Cambridge, but many think that the price is worth it for a more residential neighborhood (myself included). Be advised, though Brookline=Green Line,which can sometimes mean commuter nightmare. Also on the Green line are Brighton and

  Allston.Brighton and Allston are indeed cheaper and also have a higher concentration of college students (BU and BC are both along the T line that runs through Brighton and Allston).

Indeed, there are many other places in Boston to live, but frankly, I'm getting a little tired of typing right now, so I'll cut the virtual tour short. Just a few things to be advised of when looking for an apartment in Boston are listed here (there are actually lots more that I just can't think of right now).

*Rental Agents can help you find an apartment quick, but they often charge a finder's fee of one month's rent. Ouch. Damage. *When you find an apartment, you will often be asked to pay for first and last month's rent, and a security deposit initially. Moral: take your piggy bank apartment shopping with you (or use credit card checks.) *Be sure to inquire about heat (what type and is it included in the rent); often it isn't included in your rent fee and will cost you mega bucks more.*Landlords are notrequired to  
supply you with a refrigerator--when you look at a place, ask if the fridge is there to stay.

etc. etc. etc. I'm tired of typing now, so if you have any questions, just email me, Julie Claycomb, o.k. . Oh, last but not least, check out these websites for apartments and roommates...I found them helpful when I was searching for apartments.

--The Boston Globe
--Apartments, parking spaces (wow, is parking an issue in this city?!),roommates, etc.
--Another good apartments page
--Some more apartments

Note added in proof. For some of us moving to Boston was a little more complicated. We came with partners and had to find housing we could afford without bringing in additional roommates (3 can be a crowd). MIT has student family housing for students who are married, are in another type of committed relationship, or have children. It's cheap, pretty nice and hard to get so as soon as you know you are coming look up the web site and apply online for the lottery. (deadline May 1st)

I you end up like me, literally on the bottom of the student family housing list, the MIT website has information about off campus housing as well (use above web address and surf from there). This site explains the various neighborhoods in Boston and Cambridge in terms of cost of living, safety and convenience to MIT. It also provides a list of of real estate agents it endorses.  

If you don't get on campus housing and don't have a lot of money you may have to live farther out and deal with a longer commute. I've been living in Brighton (rush hour commute ~45 min) and I haven't gone crazy yet. In this case all the above information applies. Just remember that living off campus isn't the end of the world (some of us even like it).

So whatever your situation, don't panic about housing. Good luck in the lottery for on campus housing and if you end up living in Brighton or Brookline, I'll see you on the T!

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Last Updated February, 2000. Bio99@MIT