Moving to Chicago? These Are the Best Neighborhoods for Students

Chicago is home to 77 neighborhoods. Learn more about how students find the perfect spot.

portrait of Genevieve Carlton, Ph.D.
by Genevieve Carlton, Ph.D.

Published August 8, 2022

Edited by Amelia Buckley
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Moving to Chicago? These Are the Best Neighborhoods for Students
Image Credit: Reinier Snijders / EyeEm / Getty Images


Chicago is a great city for college students. With affordable neighborhoods, cultural attractions, and great food, Chicago ranks high among the best places to study in the U.S. Chicago is a big place, so if you're heading to the Windy City for college, you should consider which neighborhood is right for you.

Chicago boasts 77 unique community areas, with many of the best colleges in Illinois dotted throughout the metropolis. These include Chicago community colleges and online schools.

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Ready to start your journey?

When considering Chicago neighborhoods, students should weigh factors like location, transportation, and cost. Many students can save money by leaving their car at home — Chicago ranks as one of the best cities for students without cars.

On top of practical considerations, think about the neighborhood feel and features. Our guide can help you narrow down your search and pick the perfect Chicago neighborhood for you.

How Should I Choose a Neighborhood in Chicago?

What factors should you weigh when choosing between Chicago neighborhoods? It's a good idea to consider the distance to your school, the rental market, and neighborhood features. You can also look at public transportation, walkability, and safety.

In addition to researching the following factors, put together a pros and cons list for different neighborhoods to find the best fit for your unique circumstances. Finally, check whether your college offers off-campus housing resources for students.

Location

Location matters when choosing a neighborhood. First, consider your school's location. Many students choose to live close to their school, to cut down on commute time and connect with other students.

Second, look at public transportation in the neighborhood. Is it easy to get to school? Can you travel to your top destinations for food, recreation, and entertainment?

Cost

The cost of housing in Chicago varies widely by location. In the Loop, you'll be lucky to find a studio apartment for under $2,000, but you can find one-bedroom apartments for half that in the Far North Side. Students should consider whether it is more affordable to live on campus or off campus.

In addition to rent, consider the costs of public transportation or a car, if the neighborhood requires driving.

Safety

Chicago is a relatively safe place to live. Like all major cities, some neighborhoods experience higher violent crime rates than others. The areas around Chicago's major colleges and universities, which house many students, tend to be safer.

You can learn more about prospective neighborhoods by researching crime statistics. The Chicago Police Department offers a tool to see violent crime by neighborhood.

As in any area, students can follow safety practices to decrease their personal risk.

Hobbies and Interests

Are you looking for open spaces and parks? Consider living near Chicago's 18-mile long Lake Michigan lakefront area. Do you want a walkable neighborhood? Check out Lincoln Park, the Loop, and Wicker Park. If you love great cuisine, head to Logan Square, Little Italy, or Chinatown.

Consider your hobbies and interests when choosing a neighborhood. Finding a neighborhood that fits your personal interests can mean a better experience living in Chicago.

Best Chicago Neighborhoods for Students

Pilsen

Average Rent (One-Bedroom): $982
Nearby Colleges:

  • University of Illinois at Chicago

Known for its colorful art scene and nightlife, Pilsen is a historically Mexican neighborhood. A neighborhood with music, great restaurants, and art galleries, Pilsen is also one of the more affordable places to live in Chicago.

Located on the Pink Line, Pilsen offers easy access to downtown. When you're not on campus, check out Pilsen's street art, boutiques, and bodegas. Or head to the National Museum of Mexican Art to soak in some culture.


The Loop

Average Rent (One-Bedroom): $2,520
Nearby Colleges:

  • Harold Washington College
  • Keller Graduate School of Management
  • DePaul University, Loop Campus
  • Columbia College of Art and Design

It's one of Chicago's most expensive neighborhoods, but the Loop has everything. Close to multiple colleges, including downtown branches of universities, the Loop is also home to the Chicago River, the Lake Michigan waterfront, and an amazing collection of parks.

Stroll through Millennium Park and check out the Cloud Gate sculpture, or head to Grant Park to see Buckingham Fountain. Then, catch the L anywhere in the city, because every line runs through the Loop.


University Village

Average Rent (One-Bedroom): $2,592
Nearby Colleges:

  • University of Illinois at Chicago

Also known as Little Italy, University Village has long roots with the Italian-American community. Home to the University of Illinois at Chicago, this Windy City neighborhood is full of students.

Stroll down Taylor Street and visit the local delis or head to the Jane Addams Hull-House Museum for a slice of Chicago history. Located just west of the Loop on the Blue Line, University Village is also a great jumping-off point to explore other parts of the city.


Rogers Park

Average Rent (One-Bedroom): $1,301
Nearby Colleges:

  • Loyola University Chicago
  • Northwestern University

On Chicago's Far North Side, you'll find the diverse neighborhood of Rogers Park. With affordable rents and lakefront views, Rogers Park is a great home base for students.

In Rogers Park, you can find great Ethiopian, Indian, or Senegalese food. On warm days, check out the quiet beaches along Lake Michigan. The Glenwood Avenue Arts District offers murals and live music, or hop on the Red Line to explore nearby areas like Edgewater and Andersonville.


Lincoln Park

Average Rent (One-Bedroom): $2,010
Nearby Colleges:

  • DePaul University

Nestled between three L lines and the lakefront you'll find Lincoln Park. The picturesque neighborhood has beautiful brick architecture and a stunning lakefront park. At the namesake park, you'll find a botanical garden, athletic fields, and sandy beaches.

Lincoln Park also has a great restaurant scene, unique boutiques, and jaw-dropping views of the city. Plus, it's easy to travel south to the Loop or north to Wrigleyville from Lincoln Park.


Logan Square

Average Rent (One-Bedroom): $1,881
Nearby Colleges:

  • St. Augustine College
  • Wright College Humboldt Park

Around six miles northwest of downtown, you'll find Logan Square. With rambling parks and wide streets, Logan Square is a great place for brunch or a stroll.

Film lovers will enjoy the Chicago Underground Film Festival held in Logan Square. The neighborhood also has great bars, breweries, and music venues. Located on the Blue Line, it's also easy to get downtown from Logan Square.


River North

Average Rent (One-Bedroom): $2,643
Nearby Colleges:

  • Harold Washington College
  • Northwestern University Chicago

Once a neighborhood of warehouses, River North is now home to trendy clubs, art studios, and stunning architecture. Visit the Chicago Riverwalk for a summer stroll or check out the high-end restaurants in the winter.

Visit the Magnificent Mile for shopping and top it off with drinks at a former speakeasy. River North has higher rent prices, but you're in the center of the city with easy access to everything Chicago has to offer.

Which Chicago Neighborhood Is Right for Me?

Best Neighborhood For… Neighborhood Why?
The sports enthusiast University Village
  • University Village puts you close to major sports venues like Soldier Field and United Center.
  • You're also close to athletic facilities at the UIC campus.
The foodie River North
  • Bar food, steak houses, and Michelin-star restaurants all find a home in River North.
  • The central location makes it easy to explore Chicago's food scene.
The nature lover The Loop
  • Escape downtown at Grant Park or Millennium Park.
  • Students can easily head north on the Lakefront trail to visit Oak Beach.
  • Soak in the beautiful shoreline from downtown.
The art aficionado Pilsen
  • Colorful Pilsen offers exceptional street art.
  • Pilsen is also home to the Chicago Arts District.
The budget-conscious student Rogers Park
  • Rogers Park is by the beach and the Red Line, yet it's very affordable.
  • The neighborhood has easy access to downtown and colleges like Loyola and Northwestern.
The night owl Lincoln Park
  • With bars, comedy clubs, and late-night pub food, Lincoln Park covers your night owl bases.
  • Visit nearby Wrigleyville or Boystown for more nightlife.
The early-riser Logan Square
  • Early risers will love exploring The 606, an elevated trail.
  • Check out bakeries like Sugar Moon for an early morning treat.
  • Get into Chicago's brunch scene at Lula Cafe.

Frequently Asked Questions About Chicago Neighborhoods

Where do most Chicago students live?

Most Chicago students live near their university. This means there are large student populations in Hyde Park near the University of Chicago, on the West Side near the University of Illinois at Chicago, and in Lincoln Park near DePaul University.

However, Chicago is home to many other neighborhoods that are a great fit for students. The city's strong public transportation system makes it easy to commute to campus from a more affordable neighborhood like Pilsen or Rogers Park. Students who want a downtown feel can live in The Loop or River North.

How expensive is it to live in Chicago?

Like many other large cities, Chicago has a higher cost of living than most rural areas. However, compared to other major cities, Chicago can be surprisingly affordable. The average rent prices in Chicago can seem high at first glance — RentCafe reports an average price of $2,080 for a one-bedroom — but many neighborhoods offer studio and one-bedroom apartments for under $1,000.

The Chicago Business Journal reports that Chicago ranks as the 15th most affordable city in the U.S., making it a good option for college students who want an urban feel without a sky-high price tag.

When should I start looking for housing as a student in Chicago?

Start thinking about housing when researching Chicago colleges. On a campus visit, consider your options for on-campus and off-campus housing. Ask your college whether they offer off-campus housing resources for students. A campus visit is also a good time to check out neighborhoods near your college to get an idea of the housing market and feel of each area.

Zumper recommends starting to look for listings 4-8 weeks before you want to move. That will give you time to research rentals and potentially secure a place to live early. If you live outside the city, consider visiting 2-4 weeks before your move date for in-person apartment viewings.

BestColleges.com is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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