Grad student housing "insider info" for Ann Arbor?
March 3, 2009 2:04 PM   Subscribe

I will be starting graduate school at University of Michigan in the fall. I'm looking for insider-info with regard to housing. I'm trying to decide between an ICC graduate student co-op, sharing a house with an older adult through HomeShare, or just doing the random roommate thing through off-campus housing or craigslist. Any stories/ideas are welcome.

So the goal is to be successful in my program. I won't be successful if I'm miserably alone, running out of money d/t high rent, or having to deal with commuting 60min each way. So... I want to meet people, live within my stipend, and walk to campus. To complicate things, I'm a little non-traditional in that I'm 30 years old. Cake-and-eat-it-too, I guess.

I like people, beer, music, books, etc, but I'm also very serious about getting the education that I came for.

Any ideas? Any experiences with ICC co-ops, especially grad student experiences? Any experiences with the HomeShare program? All input is appreciated.
posted by everythings_interrelated to Education (14 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Not a UM student, but given what I've seen on my own Big 10 campus, the very last thing you want to do as a grad student is to live in University residences. Blech. Dorms, but somehow even sadder. As a fellow 30ish grad student, I can't imagine going back to that kind of life. The only folks I know who've done it, and been okay with it, either came straight out of undergrad or were international students. Either way, they got out ASAP.

I found my first grad school roommate through a department bulletin board. We didn't meet until she moved in, but we talked a few times. And it worked out fantastically for us. Even if it hadn't, by the end of that first year we both knew enough folks that we could've found something better. Check not only craigslist, but also look at the UM site, which is likely to have a housing classified section, as well as Facebook classifieds (assuming you can join the UM network just yet).

In a university town, there will be plenty of other older, serious grad students looking for roommates. I also recommend finding a roommate who isn't in your program. That way you won't feel smothered by their constant presence (in classes! the grad lounge! your kitchen!). It's also a great way to expand your social horizons in what can often be an insular world.

Finally, for most college towns this is high season for getting August rentals. In fact, it's even getting a big late. Try to go visit, find a house that's within walking distance but not in the undergrad ghetto, and start looking for potential roomies ASAP.
posted by amelioration at 2:24 PM on March 3, 2009

I can't seem to find it, but this question has been asked here before (including by me last year):

Sorry I don't have time for a more extensive answer, but GL!
posted by singerdj at 2:32 PM on March 3, 2009

Welcome to Michigan! If you're like most grad students, you're going to want to live either in the Kerrytown area (north of central campus) or the Old West Side (west of downtown). The farthest I'd go north is just across the Huron river from central campus, and even then you're looking at a 20 minute walk to campus or downtown. This may not sound like a lot, but when it gets cold it isn't too fun. Co-ops are primarily for undergrads and, frankly, the lifestyle is different enough that I'd be surprised if it worked well. Check the rooms section of Craigslist and you should find plenty of shared houses, which is probably what you want for meeting people that aren't in your program. There is also a UM housing website, but CL is probably better by now for what you want. Ann Arbor is on the expensive side, especially for a town its size, so take that into account in your expectations. Except in the sciences, most grad students didn't come straight out of undergrad, so being 30 is hardly non-traditional in this town, so don't worry about that. Feel free to ask more specific questions, if you want.
posted by Schismatic at 2:59 PM on March 3, 2009 [1 favorite]

I lived in a non-ICC co-op in Ann Arbor in the late 80's early 90's - I don't know if they still exist, but it's worth looking into. You will get a much more mature group of people than you will find in the ICC co-ops - which were, as I recall, large, dirty and full of partying hippies.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 3:56 PM on March 3, 2009

Seconding amelioration & schismatic! Kerrytown & Old west side are best. Cute neighborhoods and architecture, easy walk to campus & restaurants etc. (I'm assuming you'll be based on the main campus.) North of the river there are a few apartment complexes, but it's largely med students, and the walk is faaaar. The other alternative is south of campus, in the triangle between State and Packard. (or on the other side of Packard, but there are fewer rentals there). There are a reasonable of undergrads in that triangle too, so you might not want to rent sight unseen, but there are definitely deals to be had. I lived in a share hous and later a 2 bedroom apartment in different parts of that neighborhood. Not as awesome as Kerrytown, but cheaper. t least it was 10 years ago.

Don't live on or near South U. Drunk 19-year-old-city.
posted by kestrel251 at 3:59 PM on March 3, 2009

I'm a UM alum and I concur that the ICC co-ops are very undergrad oriented. In my experience, they are basically frats for hippies, with the same amount of dirtiness and partying. Fun to hang out at, but I never felt the urge to live in one.
posted by fancypants at 4:00 PM on March 3, 2009

Thirding Kerrytown and the Old West Side. The walk from either may not be as short as it is from many of the undergrad neighborhoods, but you're better off that way. It's not an unreasonable distance to walk to campus. You can always try it out and get a bike if it seems too far. The city is very bike-friendly. Also, you'll be very close to the downtown restaurants/bars in either of those neighborhoods.

As for beer, I recommend you try Ashley's on State Street. It's right on campus, but the crowd is usually full of grad students. They have something like 70 beers on tap and 70 in bottles, microbrews from all over. Definitely worth a look for any beer-lover.
posted by Team of Scientists at 4:52 PM on March 3, 2009

I also lived in a non-ICC co-op in the early 80s - older, more mature crowd. I don't have any additional suggestions for how to find such these days - you might look at the food co-op and at Whole Paycheck's bulletin boards. Kerrytown and the Old West Side are both nice. You might also look at what's sometimes called lower Burns Park - west side of Packard south of main campus area - fewer undergrads, pleasant and not too far out.

Check out Arbor Brewing and Grizzly Peak for local brews.
posted by leslies at 5:06 PM on March 3, 2009

large, dirty and full of partying hippies... you say this like it's a bad thing.

I loved, loved, loved the ICC in the early 90's. But for your situation, a non-ICC co-op would be the way to go. The undergrad scene could get tiresome if you're not an undergrad.

Sunward is one non-ICC co-op. There are others. Mefi mail me if you want me to get you in touch with someone who lives in one.
posted by selfmedicating at 7:20 PM on March 3, 2009

I lived in an ICC co-op in the mid-90's for my entire undergrad, primarily for financial reasons. At the time, there was just no cheaper way to live. All your utilities, all your food, perks you can't afford like pool and cable, a beautiful old house plus a decent room to sleep in, all for less than 350 bucks a month (15 years ago)! The thing about the ICC co-ops is that there are like 20 of them, and they are each very independent and have their own flavor. You absolutely must visit each house you consider staying in! Some are party houses, some are filthy, ours was clean and quiet most of the time. I stayed at Owen house - home of the Unabomber - which at the time had a handful of grad students among the 20+ residents. Occasionally a non-student too. At the time, the North Campus co-ops were much more heavily populated by grad students, like around 50%. You can ask at the main office; I'm sure that's a factoid they could answer. Once you join, you can influence the direction your house goes in. All parties (and every other decision) are voted on in house meetings. Sure, sometimes a keg party does pass the vote, and you spend a night in the library.

I don't know if it's the right option for you, but don't dismiss it out of hand: I couldn't have gotten through college without them.
posted by BinGregory at 7:51 PM on March 3, 2009

Best answer: The OP specifically stated they were looking at ICC graduate student co-ops. The ICC has three co-ops for graduate students. They are not full of partying hippies nor is there an undergrad scene in them. One of the graduate student co-ops is in the Central Campus area and two (actually located in adjoining buildings) are on North Campus. The North Campus one tends to attract graduate students in the music, art, architecture, and engineering programs, since that is where the academic departments are located. The OP did not specify their program of study; Kerrytown and the Old West Side might not be the best choice geographically if one's academic life is mostly taking place on North Campus.

The ICC graduate student co-ops have people from a wide range of ages. A 30 year-old would not be unusual or out of place. There's a fair bit of socializing going on but people are also very serious about their studies. One tip about the North Campus co-ops - get a large single if possible. The small single rooms are claustrophobically small. The general cleanliness, at least in North Campus co-ops, depends on who is living in your end of the hallway. Kitchens are scrupulously clean, following commercial kitchen hygiene standards. The culture is very different from the undergraduate co-ops, so extrapolating from one's experience with the undergraduate co-ops is extremely misleading.
posted by needled at 7:57 PM on March 3, 2009

I can't speak to U of M, but I lived in the co-ops at Berkeley as an undergrad and I have heard that it is a quite similar experience, both the co-op system and the university itself. For me, co-ops were a fantastic experience. Yes, there were filthy hippie party houses but there were also clean, quiet places filled with grad students and I spent time living in both types of places.

Some positives: you will meet interesting, down-to-earth, self-sufficient people (ie very few trustafarians or frat boys). It is absolutely the cheapest way to have an on-campus experience and not go deep into debt for it. I learned many things about how to work in close quarters with a large group of people who all have their own agendas, skills that I have carried throughout the rest of my life. I formed some very close friendships, something that can be very difficult to do at a very large university like U of M or Berkeley.

I partied pretty hard for my first two years with the filthy hippies (actually they were anarchists, artists, and punks), but then buckled down, studied hard and got into med school during my second two years. And best of all, though I had no financial support from family, I got out with *zero* educational debt. It's not for everyone, but certainly consider it if any of this sounds like something you'd be interested in.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 9:21 PM on March 3, 2009

Response by poster: Thanks to all. Exactly the sort of information I was after.
posted by everythings_interrelated at 10:53 AM on March 4, 2009

If your program is on Central Campus, check into the Ecumenical Center & International Residence:
posted by splendid animal at 3:54 PM on March 18, 2009

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