There are a lot of major shifts going on when you first begin your enrollment as a 1L law student. You are going to have to meet lots of new people, buy textbooks, prepare yourself for classes, and you will probably have to relocate.
A large portion of incoming law students arrive at their law school from different cities, states, and even countries. Finding housing can generate a fair amount of stress, as most law students want to save as much money as possible but still live in a comfortable environment.
During law school, law students should aim to live in housing that is inexpensive, close in proximity to the law school, and if at all possible without roommates. Most often, the best option is to live off-campus in an apartment, but there are plenty of other options that you should consider.
But how do you find inexpensive housing, and what kind of factors should you consider when looking for law school housing? There are a lot of variables depending on what your law school’s on-campus options are and where your law school is located. This article will give you a better idea of what to consider in finding suitable housing for law school.
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Living at home in law school
Living at home in law school is absolutely one of the best options that a student can have if you have the option. Law school is ridiculously expensive, and the obvious advantage is that you will save a boatload of money on housing. Of course, most people do not want to live at their parents’ house in their mid-twenties and hey I understand that.
This option certainly is not for everyone. But if you are attending a law school in your hometown and you and your parents can stand living with each other for a few years, then you can avoid a lot of debt.
Living on campus
Some law students do live on campus but it varies depending on the individual school’s graduate student housing policy and how expensive it is compared to off-campus housing options.
Living on-campus is a viable option for many law students and I myself considered living on-campus my 1L year. So why didn’t I? I opted for off-campus housing because on-campus was extremely expensive and it had a horrible reputation for being poorly managed. The fact that my on-campus housing options were poor certainly is not a condemnation of on-campus housing more generally.
Most large universities will have a graduate student housing option but remember it is graduate student housing not law student housing. You will typically be sharing the building with students from a variety of graduate schools. This is not a problem for most people as graduate students generally tend to be older and more mature, but it is something worth mentioning.
The main benefits of on-campus housing are a lack of a commute, and you can usually pay your rent with financial aid. The biggest drawback is that as I mentioned previously, on-campus housing tends to be more expensive and the maintenance is often not where it should be. Graduate housing is also often limited, and you could be placed on a waitlist or even a lottery depending on what the demand is.
Renting an apartment
Most law students (and graduates in general) rent private apartments. This is what I have done my three years in law school and I would recommend it to anyone. The obvious advantages are that you have the option to live in different areas and you can select a place based on your price range and personal preferences.
I lived in a condo in Northern Virginia for my first two years in law school and then I moved to Washington D.C for my last year. Apartment living gives you a lot of flexibility and it also gives you the opportunity to save money.
My recommendation for living in an apartment during law school is to go as small as possible, don’t get a roommate, and consider renting a furnished apartment.
What do I mean by as small as possible? Most large cities are going to have a wide variety of apartments available. Funny joke, I did not know what a “studio apartment” was until I moved to Washington D.C. I relocated from a small North Carolina town that did not have apartments that small.
Well the price difference between an average studio and a one-bedroom was shocking, a studio typically went for $1,500 whereas a one-bedroom went for $2,100! That price difference was far too massive for my law student budget so I stuck with a studio.
Nobody wants to live in a 400 square foot studio for three years, but I strongly advise that you save as much as possible on housing.
Should you have a roommate in law school?
I strongly recommend that if you can afford not to have a roommate that you do not get a roommate. Yes, you might save some money with a roommate but there are risks with rooming with someone, even if they are your best friend.
My recommendation is biased of course, I will admit that. I have had absolutely terrible roommates in undergrad that soured my opinion on ever having them again. But there are some real risks living with someone you don’t know during your 1L year of law school, which happens to also be the most important.
The advantages of living alone are that you have a place of solitude and peace to go back to at the end of a long day and you don’t have to worry about bad roommates. The advantages of having a roommate are that your rent will likely be cheaper, and you might prefer to live with someone your 1L year as you get to know the area.
If you are going to get a roommate than there are a few things you should consider so you can have the best experience. Roommates that are messy, loud, play videogames in the living room all the time, or drink heavily on the weekends will impede your all-important study time. This is why it is so important to screen roommates before you decide on one.
I suggest that any roommate you consider is a fellow law student or at least a graduate student. You are pretty safe in assuming that a fellow 1L is going to also be spending most of their time cracking the books, but remember you still have to screen them.
Your law school will probably have a Facebook group for 1Ls, and within that group there will likely be tons of notices about students looking for roommates. This can be a great opportunity for you to find and screen someone. I definitely would prefer it if you did this face to face, but in the age of COVID, I understand if you have to meet a potential roommate over Zoom.
Should you get a furnished apartment for law school?
I rented a furnished apartment during my first two years of law school and I would recommend it to anyone that is moving from out of town. They tend to be a little more expensive but I felt that it was worth it for me because it made my moves so much cheaper and easier to do. My furnished apartment literally came with everything except for the clothes on my back and food.
I understand that a furnished apartment is not for everyone and it will certainly depend on whether you already have furniture and kitchen utensils. If you already have these things than a furnished apartment would probably be a waste of money.
But if you are moving out of your family home or a furnished apartment, then it might make sense to rent a furnished apartment for law school.
I hope this article has helped you in deciding where to live in law school. Remember that even if you don’t like your apartment, you always have 2L or 3L year to move somewhere else!