UCLA students typically choose to move off the Hill after their second year, but as a first year the financial attractiveness and independence of the apartments is calling my name, despite the convenience and meal swipes of the Hill swaying me towards staying for another year.
So, I asked the upperclassmen and other seasoned apartment-dwellers for advice.
Factors to Consider:
If you are proficient in the art of meal-prepping, maybe you won’t encounter this issue, but moving off the Hill involves the loss of convenient meal swipes. The cost of groceries is much cheaper than the residential meal plans, and having access to a kitchen may motivate you to meal-prep, but it can be hard to budget for food and find time to cook. However, meal-prepping does save a lot of time versus having to walk back to the Hill or spend time at on-campus restaurants. From a nutritional perspective, when you cook your own food and lack access to unlimited food, it’s easier to regulate what to eat.
Though apartments come with the luxury of more space, it also means more upkeep, especially without regularly cleaned communal or private dorm bathrooms. Establishing a chore chart does wonders to secure a harmonious, cleanly living situation. Some apartments are also much better maintained than others, as opposed to the standard dorms on the Hill.
The potential of saving thousands of dollars motivates most people to move off the Hill. Depending on the complex, living in an apartment can cut the cost of living on the Hill in half, even after factoring in groceries and utilities.
- Social Life
Generally, people recommend living on the Hill for the vibrant social life not completely replicated in the apartments. Personally, I live in a socially deprived plaza, so I did not have the same experiences as I may have if I lived in a classic residence hall. A dip in the social scene can be made up by joining clubs, and not having the regulations of on-campus housing can translate to being able to throw parties more freely. On the other hand, the relative quietness of the apartments could serve to benefit as a place conducive to studying and peace of mind.
Types of Apartments
- University Apartments/North of Wilshire Blvd. (UAs)
Upperclassmen receive priority for University Apartments, so second-years may have trouble snagging one. However, living in the fully-furnished UAs is mostly hassle-free. You are set as long as you are paying your housing fees each quarter, which cover all utilities except food, and contacting housing for maintenance if you encounter a problem. Although it is a longer walk to campus from UAs than from the Hill, it is closer to the Hill than apartments south of Wilshire if you wish to study or get swiped on the Hill. The main downside is that you have to move out at the end of the year and complete the apartment search again, and if you find yourself bound by on-campus housing restrictions, you may want to turn your attention to independent apartments mainly located south of Wilshire Blvd. There’s also many independent apartments north of Wilshire that can be good alternative options.
- Independent Apartments/South of Wilshire Blvd.
In general, the farther away from campus, the quieter and cheaper the apartment complex. Although the complexes south of Wilshire Blvd are physically further away from campus, accessibility to the Blue Bus may result in less overall travel time by walking. Because of its distance from campus, those who live south of Wilshire do tend to stay on campus the entire day, which can be either advantageous or disadvantageous depending on your perspective. Also, independent apartments do not require you to move out at the end of the year, but you would have to find a sub-letter if you are not going to be in the apartment over the summer. Independent apartments do entail added hurdles, such as finding an apartment in the first place, signing a lease, paying a deposit, signing up for utilities, and contacting a manager in the case of problems, but independent apartments may better satisfy a longing for independence.
Although commuting does get rid of housing costs entirely, it comes with having to wake up extra early to account for travel time, especially for LA rush hour traffic. Also, commuting interferes with spontaneity, as commuters must make arrangements to ensure they have a ride back home. However, since commuting adds many factors that cannot be controlled, it requires commuters to be able to adapt quickly. Perhaps most coveted of all is the ability for commuters to take a step back from the university environment and destress in the comfort of their homes.
How to start your apartment search?
Asking seniors if you can take over their lease when they graduate makes the apartment search much easier. You can also search UCLA apartment/roommates/subletting pages on Facebook. The people you reside with can make or break your living experience, so being transparent about your living styles is extremely crucial. If you get along with your roommates, you could even organize a system to cook for one another. However, be very careful about living with your best friends. I have heard countless stories of small annoying habits that eventually build up and ruin friendships, especially when there are a lot more chores, tasks, and space, translating to more chances of disagreement.
How do you know when you’re ready?
- Be real with yourself
Nobody knows you like you know yourself. Before making the huge transition to move off the Hill, be real with yourself about if you are going to set time aside for meal-prepping, catching the bus, and juggling the added responsibilities of the apartments.
- Talk to others about their experiences moving off the Hill.
Speaking to others will allow you to gain different perspectives and contextualize their living situations.
- Weigh the pros and cons and assess your priorities.
Both living on and off the Hill come with pros and cons, but depending on your priorities, one may be more suitable to your needs. Ask yourself: what do you hope to gain from your living experience?