Living in Atlanta is awesome, but like any big city it has its sketchy areas.
As a general rule, the best and safest housing for students is found North of I-20 and East of I-75/I-85; but there are many exceptions to this (e.g., East Atlanta Village, Westside) so ask an AstroPAL for advice if you're not sure.
Recently, a lot of grad students have lived in Decatur, Sandy Springs, and Lindbergh. Be careful if living Downtown, because Downtown is 99% offices and clears out after ~6pm.
Where to look for housing is also going to depend on whether you have a car, how far from the city you're willing to live, and if you're willing to live with roommates.
Here are our housing tips regardless of what group you hail from:
If you don't have a car...
You'll want to look for housing near a MARTA Station, since trains are much more reliable than buses in the city.
We recommend living no more than a mile away from the station so that you don't have to walk long distances in the rain.
If you're lucky enough to find an apartment with a direct bus route to GSU, take it, but a route with a bus transfer may not be worth the hassle. (The schedules are unreliable, and buses have been known to ignore you & drive right past the bus stop.
You'll also want to find an apartment with an in-house laundry unit, because lugging all your laundry around town isn't that much fun.
Lugging groceries around isn't fun either, so make sure you live near a grocery store (we have Publix and Kroger down here, y'all).
They sell some handy grocery carts on Amazon for about $20, and they can be a big help no matter how close you are to a store.
If you don't mind living OTP (outside the perimeter - that is, outside of I-285) there may be some cheaper housing near the MARTA stations.
Just note that the commute could be a hassle if you're planning on going out on the weekends (MARTA only runs until 1 AM).
If you're bringing a car or planning to buy one in ATL...
The world is your oyster -- you can drive to campus or drive to a MARTA station with free parking. This allows you to look for housing in any area, but for convenience being close to the highway is recommended. Rush hour is from 8am-10am and 3pm-7pm, and you WILL hit traffic on all highways in and out of the city. Parking lots for OTP train stations tend to fill up during rush hour, so you'll have to arrive early.
Apartment Complexes vs. Individual Landlords
There are pros and cons to both gated communities and apartments that are owned by an individual, so choosing one will depend on your priorities.
Apartment complexes offer amenities such as a pool, a gym, laundry facilities, quick maintenance, and covered parking.
These apartments are also often easier to come by in terms of availability and will sometimes have move-in specials.
However, some have application fees, pet fees, and most will raise your rent every year.
They may also require proof of income and/or renter's insurance (~$100-200/year).
Promove can help you find one of these for free.
Apartments owned by an individual can be cheaper and more flexible, since you are dealing with a person and not a company.
Most do not require an application fee, proof of income, or renter's insurance, and your rent will usually remain the same until you decide to move out.
However, maintenance can be tricky to arrange if your landlord owns several properties, and amenities like covered parking and laundry units may not be available.
Your best bet for finding this type of apartment is through Craigslist or Zillow.
You won't get paid until the end of September, so when you move, you should have a security deposit + 1st and last month's rent in the bank.
Fees are ~$1000 per semester and they need to be paid by the Friday before school starts or you'll be charged a late fee.
They can be paid in installments, but you have to sign up at the beginning of the semester.
To sign up, go to the Panther Pay website, click on the link for "secure website", click on the tab for Payment Plan, select "Enroll Now", and follow instructions for the payment plan signup: link
You will also need to pay for health insurance or waive the university insurance if you are already covered.
Waivers should be done as soon possible.
If you choose university insurance, it is paid by semester (Fall, Spring/Summer).
Unlike fees, this must be paid all at once, before a due date.
The cost in 2015-2016 is $1525 ($857 in the Fall period and $1,168 in the Spring/Summer period).
Dental and vision are not included, but dental and vision plans are being offered for the first time this year.
More details forthcoming.
The university offers subsidized MARTA monthly passes for university students, which can be purchased at Auxiliary and Support Services in the Student Center.
Cards are $61/month if purchased before the 15th of the previous month or $68 after the 15th. [Example - Purchase a September monthly pass by reloading your student card before August 15.]
Trains run from about 5 AM to 1 AM on weekdays.
Daily parking garages on campus are pay-per-entry. The normal price is $4.50 per entry, but you can load money on a pre-paid card for $3.50 per entry OR get on the waiting list for a semester pass (unlimited entries) for $215.
Free parking is available at GSU Stadium and a GSU shuttle runs to campus every 10 minutes, but beware: without a pass, you will be ticketed, and there is no parking on days of sporting events.
Visit Auxiliary and Support Services (2nd floor, University Hall) to obtain parking permits for access to all campus decks and lots.
About Cars in GA
Car insurance obviously depends on many factors, but may range from about $50 to $150 per month. Be sure to get quotes from multiple providers!
To transfer your license plate/tags to Georgia, you must:
1) Have a GA driver's license
2) Go to your tag office (not always the same as the licensing office) to get new plates. Be sure you have the necessary documentation. Link
The cost of this procedure is usually ~$200, but depends on the car.
MARTA: For seeing when the next train or bus will arrive. Real-time map, too.
Uber or Lyft: Usually faster, cheaper, and more reliable than taxis. Payment happens automatically through app. No card, no money, no hassle.
Mint: Syncs with bank and credit cards to manage finances, set budgets, etc.