Life in the Big Apple: Best NYC Neighborhoods for Students

The best NYC neighborhoods for students offer walkability, public transportation, and affordable entertainment. Here are a few things to consider.

portrait of Sharon Wilfong
by Sharon Wilfong

Published on May 18, 2022 · Updated on May 26, 2022

Edited by Amelia Buckley
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Life in the Big Apple: Best NYC Neighborhoods for Students
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New York City is home to some of the country's top universities, including Columbia and the City University of New York (CUNY). But the state's colleges aren't the only reason to study in New York. The five boroughs of NYC, which include the Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens, Manhattan, and Staten Island, offer art, entertainment, culture, and outdoor adventures.

As of May 2022, the average rent for a one-bedroom in these NYC neighborhoods runs around $3,650 per month. Between rent, utilities, food, and transportation costs, the overall cost of living for students is more affordable with roommates.

How Should I Choose a Neighborhood in NYC?

Students may pick a neighborhood because of its restaurants, nightlife, entertainment, or museums. Other considerations may include local libraries and outdoor spaces for studying. However, living too far from campus can be stressful, so students should know how long it takes to get there.

Learners should prioritize figuring out how they will get around the city while living in certain areas. Some NYC neighborhoods offer better walkability and public transportation than others. The subway is the quickest way to get around NYC, plus there are also buses and commuter trains.

In addition, students should research neighborhood crime rates to ensure safety. While learners may want to live close to campus, where they can find affordable rent will ultimately impact their decision as well.

Location

Location affects the cost of rent, transportation choices, and safety. Manhattan is the heart of NYC and the most densely populated area, while Staten Island is more suburban. Making a list of your housing priorities as well as a list of pros and cons for a specific neighborhood can help you determine where you want to live.

First, locate your college campus, grab an NYC borough map, and explore the surrounding neighborhoods. NYC universities typically offer off-campus housing resources to make apartment hunting easier.

Cost

Fordham Heights, the Bronx; New Springville, Staten Island; and Washington Heights, Manhattan are some of the most affordable NYC neighborhoods. The most expensive neighborhoods for students are Greenpoint, Brooklyn; Morningside Heights, Manhattan; and Astoria, Queens. But rent isn't the only expense to think about when figuring out how much a neighborhood will cost.

Students can reduce their costs by living close to campus in a walkable neighborhood. Living near a grocery store will also reduce transportation costs. Having at least one other person to share expenses with, like utilities and groceries, can also lower monthly expenses. Also, consider that living on-campus offers benefits such as reduced rent, meal plans, no commute, and a built-in social life.

Safety

Staten Island, Queens, and Brooklyn offer some of the safest neighborhoods in NYC. According to the New York Police Department (NYPD), in March 2022, NYC crime rates were 36.5% higher than they were in March 2021. However, overall crime rates in the city are over 80% lower than they were in 1990.

Students can check how safe their neighborhood is with online tools like the NYPD's CompStat 2.0 tool. Likewise, safety measures such as carrying pepper spray or taking a self-defense class can help students feel more comfortable.

Hobbies and Interests

When choosing a neighborhood, students should also factor in their personal interests and hobbies. Neighborhoods within the five boroughs of NYC can vary widely. There's outdoor recreation in Central Park, Manhattan with hundreds of acres to explore, and the Bronx River Forest is home to New York City's only freshwater river.

New York City is famous for its arts and culture. In addition to famous sites like Manhattan's MoMA and Harlem's music scene, Queens is home to the New York Hall of Science. Staten Island attracts visitors to Historic Richmond Town, a living history museum.

For food lovers, diverse neighborhoods like Chinatown and Little Italy in Manhattan have some of the best restaurants in the city. According to WalkScore, there's never more than a 10- to 15-minute walk to a subway station when you're in Manhattan or Brooklyn. Little Italy and Chinatown are among the 11 neighborhoods that received a 100% walk score.

Best NYC Neighborhoods for Students

Bushwick, Brooklyn

Average Rent (One-Bedroom, May 2022): $2,525

Nearby Colleges:

  • Pratt Institute
  • Mercy College
  • St. Joseph's College New York
  • Brooklyn College

Bushwick, Brooklyn is known for industrial living spaces and venues, live music, galleries, street art, and fashion. The neighborhood has a strong Latino influence, and employment in Bushwick increased by 37% from 2008-2017. Rent in Bushwick increased nearly twice as fast as the rest of the city from 2000-2016, but roommates and other cost-saving measures can make it more affordable.

Nearby New York Public Library branches provide library cards giving residents free access to books, movies, and museums. Public transportation access includes the subway, bus routes, and trains.


Morningside Heights, Manhattan

Average Rent (One-Bedroom): $2,350-4,300

Nearby Colleges:

  • Columbia College
  • Barnard College

Morningside Heights, Manhattan is one of the safest neighborhoods in NYC. It's a great place for students, with plenty of restaurants, farmer's markets, grocery stores, bookstores, and retail shopping. Columbia University's main gate is the center of the neighborhood, located at 116th Street and Broadway.

For easy transportation, students can access a subway stop and many bus lines on Broadway. Plus, Columbia students can get shuttle services throughout the neighborhood at night during the school year.


Fordham Heights, The Bronx

Average Rent (One-Bedroom, May 2022): $1,625

Nearby Colleges:

  • Fordham University
  • Bronx Community College
  • City University of New York (CUNY) in the Heights

Fordham Heights and Belmont surround Fordham University's 85-acre campus at 441 East Fordham Road. This diverse New York neighborhood features outdoor spaces like the New York Botanical Gardens, Poe Park, and the Bronx Zoo. Fordham Road is the longest shopping strip in the Bronx and crosses NYC's original Little Italy.

Transportation options include the 4, B, and D subway lines, several bus routes, and commuter trains.


Astoria, Queens

Average Rent (One-Bedroom, May 2022): $2,238

Nearby Colleges:

  • Queens College, CUNY
  • LaGuardia Community College
  • Vaughn College
  • Hunter College
  • Columbia University

Astoria, Queens is a hub of ethnic cultures and cuisine. It's home to Socrates Sculpture Park, the Museum of the Moving Image, and the Noguchi Museum. Astoria is in northwestern Queens, bordering Long Island City and Woodside. Its location offers easy access to the MoMA PS1 museum and Woodside's historic cemeteries and pubs.

From Astoria, it's a quick commute to Midtown Manhattan on the N, R, W, or M subway lines. Astoria is also one of the city's safer neighborhoods, with 0.9519 Crimes per 1,000 residents as of May 2022.


Washington Heights, Manhattan

Average Rent (One-Bedroom, May 2022): $1,975

Nearby Colleges:

  • Boricua College
  • Barnard College

Washington Heights is a popular neighborhood located in northern Manhattan, starting at 155 St. and extending to 193rd St. This neighborhood is a mecca for young professionals and students on a budget. Broadway and W. 181st St. are close by, providing many restaurants and places for shopping and entertainment.

WalkScore rates Washington Heights' transit at 100 and walkability at 96, making it the 47th most walkable neighborhood in New York. This New York neighborhood is also relatively safe, with 1.1498 Crimes per 1,000 residents as of May 2022.


Greenpoint, Brooklyn

Average Rent (One-Bedroom, May 2022): $3,999

Nearby Colleges:

  • New York City College of Technology
  • Long Island University, Brooklyn
  • St. Francis College
  • SUNY Empire State College, Brooklyn Campus
  • St. Joseph's College New York

Greenpoint, Brooklyn is a maritime industrial neighborhood with a vibrant fashion, live music, and art scene. It's close to several of the best colleges in NYC, making it an ideal location for many students. The neighborhood also boasts a developing waterfront and a peaceful atmosphere compared to other NYC neighborhoods.

Nearby transportation options include subway line G, three bus lines, and two commuter trains. Greenpoint is also one of the safest neighborhoods, with 0.9415 Crimes per 1,000 residents as of May 2022.


New Springville, Staten Island

Average Rent (One-Bedroom, May 2020): $1,550

Nearby Colleges:

  • CUNY College of Staten Island
  • College of Staten Island
  • St. John's University
  • Wagner College

New Springville, Staten Island is near the center of the borough and close to the Staten Island Mall. The neighborhood has a suburban feel, and most people own homes. While New Springville might not be as fast-paced as other NYC hot spots, learners can find some of the lowest rental rates in this neighborhood.

Living in New Springville, Staten Island may require a car because the subway system doesn't connect to the region, but there are several bus lines. And the crime rate is one of the lowest in the city.

Which NYC Neighborhood Is Right for Me?

Best Neighborhood For… Neighborhood Why?
The Subway Rider Washington Heights, Manhattan
  • Subway lines: 1, A
  • Transit score of 100
  • Walk score of 96
The Foodie Astoria, Queens
  • Home to diverse food and culture scene
  • Famous for Italian, Greek, and Egyptian food options
The Outdoor Enthusiast Fordham Heights, Bronx
  • Easy access to Central Park, Poe Park, and the New York Botanical Gardens
  • Home to Yankee Stadium
The Art Lover Greenpoint, Brooklyn
The Budget-Conscious Student Morningside Heights, Manhattan
  • Highly walkable neighborhood
  • Abundant grocery stores make local shopping easy and convenient
  • Student-centric neighborhood caters to a younger population
The Night Owl Bushwick, Brooklyn
  • Large population of college students and young professionals
  • Unique live music venues
  • Trendy bars and eateries
The Early Riser New Springville, Staten Island
  • A longer commute to NYC
  • Suburban-urban feel
  • Good place for families

Frequently Asked Questions About NYC Neighborhoods

true Where do most NYC students live?

Morningside Heights has one of the largest populations of students in New York City, with Columbia University at its center. This Manhattan neighborhood has everything a student needs to get by, from public libraries and restaurants to farmer's markets. Plus, there's a thriving bar scene.

Fordham Heights, the Bronx is popular among Fordham and CUNY students. Many learners also love Bushwick, Brooklyn, for its live music and arts scene. Students who prefer a more mellow living environment tend to live in Staten Island or Greenpoint, Brooklyn.

true How expensive is it to live in NYC?

A one-bedroom rental in New York City is around $3,525 per month on average, but rent prices can vary dramatically depending on the neighborhood. Add food, utilities, transportation, and entertainment, and it could cost over $5,000 per month to live in NYC. But there are ways to bring your cost of living down as a student.

To save money, students can find a neighborhood that falls on the low end of the rental average and consider living with a roommate. They can also live close to campus in a highly walkable area with a nearby grocery store or farmer's market. In addition, students can use their New York Public Library card to access free entertainment like music, movies, and admission to museums.

true What is the cheapest neighborhood in NYC?

Staten Island, the Bronx, and Manhattan offer some of the cheapest areas for students to live in NYC. You can find a one-bedroom apartment in New Springville, Staten Island, for $1,550 a month. However, Staten Island is the only borough that doesn't connect to the city via the subway, making the commute longer.

By comparison, the average for a one-bedroom apartment in Fordham Heights, the Bronx, is around $1,625 per month. Transportation is also more convenient with the B, D, and 4 subway lines, various bus lines, and commuter trains to get around. Similarly, a one-bedroom rental costs an average of $1,975 in Washington Heights, Manhattan, and almost everything you need is within walking distance.

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

As a student, you should start looking for housing six weeks to a month before you start classes. Finding off-campus housing that fits your financial, academic, and personal needs can be a challenge. Consider picking up an NYC borough map and creating a pros and cons list of different areas with your potential roommates.

If you wait too long, you may find that securing housing gets competitive, especially during the school year. But the good news is that most NYC colleges provide off-campus housing resources. And you may decide to live on campus once you've done some research.

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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