College Housing in Boston


As a prospective student, you need to make a number of decisions about housing. Following are some general ideas.

Living in a dorm

Living on campus has many advantages. It ensures a good quality and secure environment with easy access to college facilities and social events. You are surrounded by other students, and it is much easier to make connections. That is why many colleges require Freshmen or, in some schools, even all students to live on campus.

Dorm rooms come in many different flavors and lifestyles. These include all-male, all-female and co-ed buildings, and rooms configured as suites, singles, doubles, triples and quads. Additionally, floors designated as wellness (focused on healthy lifestyles), community service and quiet study (24-hour quiet) are sometimes available. Some college-owned dorms are also organized around special interest themes such as language, culture or academic programs. Most colleges make a good attempt to match Freshman roommates and often use a lottery system to make sure everybody has a fair chance at the best locations in the school.

Living at home

The main advantage of living at home while going to college is financial. Room and board at a college can be as high as $14,000 and living at home is generally much less expensive. Of course, this is only an option if you live near your college. The disadvantage is that you may miss out on college social life. Many Community Colleges do not have dorms so commuting from home is a viable choice.

Renting a room or apartment

Single furnished rooms are generally readily available near colleges and are a cost-effective solution. They are generally close (walking distance) to your college. Renting a room in a residential home setting offers the advantage of added safety. Renting an apartment or a house has the advantage of privacy and the ability to share and sublet the apartment. This option is often used by graduate students.  

Sharing an apartment or house

Sharing an apartment or house on or off-campus can be a good option for many students. Having fellow students close-by can be a lot of fun, and the ability to share some of the common areas in a house can be fun and practical. Of course,  the choice of roommates is very important. 

Living in Boston

When you should begin your search for off-campus housing will depend on when you need to move. Some students live in Boston during the summer and therefore need housing for the entire year. Other students leave Boston for the summer and need housing from September to May. Keep in mind that many tenants must give their landlords 30 to 60 days notice before vacating an apartment in "rolling" situations. September vacancies will begin being listed as early as January or February.

Locating a room, apartment or place to share is difficult if you are not in the Boston area. Unless it is absolutely impossible, you should plan to visit Boston a month or more before starting school here, allowing several days at that time to search for housing. Late August and the first week in September are the most difficult times to look for housing in Boston because you are competing with many other students.

Most landlords will require you sign some type of lease before you move in. In Boston, the lease often runs from September 1 to August 31. Therefore, if you need an apartment starting in May, you are likely to be taking over a lease from a previous tenant. This practice is referred to as subletting. Sometimes subletting is in violation of the terms of the lease. Check with the landlord, and review the prior tenant's lease before subletting. Some people sublet an apartment for the summer only and plan to return in September, so make sure you know before subletting an apartment whether you have an option to renew the lease in the fall.

 Where to live in Boston

The Boston area is diverse and has 21 distinct neighborhoods, so you need some understanding of the different areas to make sense of the apartment listings. In general, as you get further from the center of Boston, housing costs decrease. Using a Boston map, you can get an idea of what is available in the various sections of the city. A brief description of some general advantages and disadvantages of the major areas are listed below.


Advantages - Disadvantages


Vibrant, walkable neighborhood with many students and young professionals

+ Access to public transportation
+ Average rents
+ Good Access to shopping and entertainment
+ Many students and young professionals
- Quality of housing
- Resident parking only

Back Bay

Attractive upscale neighborhood with unlimited possibilities for shopping and entertainment.

+ Access to public transportation
+ Good quality of housing
+ Easy access to social life and shopping
- Higher rent
- Availability of rental apartments
- Lack of parking

 Beacon Hill

Charming and historic neighborhood with cobblestone streets and high-end boutiques and restaurants.

+ Access to public transportation
+ Safety
+ Quality of housing
+ Quiet
+ Proximity to downtown
- High rents
- Lack of Parking
- Smaller sized apartments


Brookline is an attractive and mixed neighborhood with families, students, and professionals.

+ Access to public transportation
+ Quality of housing
+ Family/community atmosphere
- Higher Rents
- Overnight Parking

 Cambridge One of the centers of student activity in the Boston area with universities like MIT, Harvard, and Lesley.

+ Access to Public Transportation
+ Many entertainment options
+ Average rents
+ College Community atmosphere
- Sometimes lower quality of housing
East Boston

Mostly residential/commercial area with good bargains for student apartments not far from the center.

+ Lower rents
+ Access to public transportation
- Quality of housing


Mostly residential neighborhood near the city.

+ Lower rents
+ Suburban residential environment
- Lower quality of housing
- Public Transportation


Home of the Red Socks stadium and full of restaurants, music clubs, and shopping. 

+ average rents
+ access to public transportation
+ Proximity to shopping and entertainment
- Lack of parking
- Quality of housing

Jamaica Plain

Attractive residential and commercial neighborhood with a growing professional and student scene only half and hour from the city.

+ Lower rents
+ Residential environment
+ Access to public transportation
+ Community atmosphere
- Safety in Somer locations
- Distance to city


Closest residential suburb near Boston with its own center with shops, boutiques, restaurants, and theaters.

+ Quality of housing
+ Suburban environment
+ Safety
- Higher Rents
- Public transportation
- Distance from city

North End

Charming neighborhood with many Italian shops and restaurants attracting locals and tourists alike.

+ Access to public transportation
+ Proximity to Boston attractions
- Many Tourist
- Noisy nightlife in some areas
- Lack of parking
- Availability of rentals


Suburb near Boston conveniently connected via the Red Line train. 

+ Lower rents
+ Suburban residential environment
+ Public Transportation to city
- Distance to city (10-12 miles)


+ Lower rents
+ Access to public transportation
- Safety in some locations
- Quality of housing


Residential community near the city and Cambridge. 

+ Lower rents
+ Access to public transportation
+ Residential environment
- Quality of housing
- Public transportation in some areas

South End

Upscale neighborhood in the center of the city with many options in restaurants and shopping.

+ Access to public transportation
+ Many high-quality apartments
- Higher Rents
- Lack of parking


Quiet residential neighborhood about twenty bus minutes from the center of Boston.

+ Quality of housing
+ Residential environment
+ Slightly lower rents
- Limited overnight parking
- Limited public transportation


Where can I find listings?

Websites and/or realtors can help you find available apartments. When reading postings, it is important to note that you will find two types of listings. One is an apartment or room being offered by a building owner (landlord). The other is a listing placed by a realtor (real estate agent). If you can deal directly with a landlord, you will probably save money.  The following websites are good starting points for your apartment search. 
        Local website with apartments for rent and homes for sale.
No-fee apartments listed by brokers and by owner. It also has a section on sublets and people looking for roommates. It is updated daily.
This site lists apartment rentals of all types, as well as people seeking roommates. It also has a listing of numerous agencies in the Boston area with links to their web pages.