Stanford GSAPP
Graduate Students in Applied Physics and Physics

Stanford Graduate Housing FAQ

We have compiled some of the most commonly-asked questions about graduate housing at Stanford. Since living in the Bay Area, particularly in Palo Alto, is extremely expensive, the majority of graduate students live on-campus, so most of the information below is pertinent to on-campus housing.

Q: How can I see the various options for housing, their rates, and the amenities they provide?

A: You can check out the different on-campus housing options on the Stanford R&DE website. A guide to the lottery for incoming graduate students is here. Each residence links to a page with pictures and a description of the amenities. All on-campus housing comes with access to a computer cluster with a printer/scanner, a laundry room with free washer/dryer machines, high-speed internet, and utilities included. All Stanford students are entitled to use any of the Stanford gyms. Residences may differ in terms of access to amenities such as lounges, conference rooms, music rooms, game rooms, etc.

Q: How far are the different residences from campus?

A: On-campus residences are considered "on-campus" but vary in their distance from Varian/PAB. You can check them out on Google Maps, but we estimate a 25-minute walk/10 minute bike ride from Rains/EV or a 15-minute walk/5 minute bike ride from Lyman. Lyman is also in between campus and SLAC.

Q: What if I have a car?

A: Students living on-campus are eligible to purchase an on-campus parking permit that entitles you to park at the designated spaces for your residence. There are also spaces on campus that do not require permits overnight or on weekends. You can look up information about parking from Stanford Parking and Transportation Services.

Q: How long will I have priority in the on-campus housing lottery?

A: As an incoming PhD student, you will have high priority. This means that you are guaranteed some form of on-campus housing. After your first year, you will have five years of medium priority, provided you remain enrolled in good standing.

Q: What happens after my first year?

A: After your first year, you will have medium housing priority. This entitles you to "renew in place", meaning you can choose to keep your current apartment and bypass the lottery. You may also choose to give up your lease and re-enter the lottery, but since you will be placed below all of the newly incoming students, this typically does not result in a very good housing assignment. If you choose to re-enter the lottery but receive an assignment that is less desirable than your current apartment, you still must forfeit your current apartment. A better way to switch apartments if you are unhappy with your current assignment is to join the waitlist for a new place (see below).

Q: What if I don't like the place I am assigned?

A: Students can choose to enter the second-round lottery if they wish to be reassigned. However, since most spaces have already been assigned by that point, you are unlikely to improve your assignment. After you have moved in, you can also elect to join the waitlist for any other on-campus residence. You may then be contacted in the middle of the quarter if a spot opens up. You typically will receive a short (~7 day) period in which to move out of your old apartment and into the new residence if you choose to accept the new assignment. Depending on the demand for spaces in the middle of the academic year, waitlists can range from weeks long to several months. If you choose to terminate your contract entirely after assignment (even before move-in), you typically will have to pay a termination fee that increases as the quarter progresses. This fee may be waived for the 2020/2021 term due to COVID19 circumstances; check the lottery guide for more details.

Q: How do I increase my chances of getting a place I want more?

A: Apply by the first-round deadline in order to ensure that you are considered for the most possible housing slots. When ranking your selections, you should make sure to list every single place you are willing to live in all its permutations (eg, Rains 2-bedroom and Rains 4-bedroom need to be ranked separately). Typically first-year PhD students have high enough priority that they will get one of their top choices.

Q: Where do other students typically live?

A: Stanford Physics PhD students live in a variety of places both on and off campus. Particularly popular are Rains, Escondido Village, and Lyman Graduate Residences. Note that Munger predominantly houses law school students, while Schwab typically houses MBA students.

Q: What social events are available for graduate students?

A: The Graduate Student Programming Board and Graduate Student Council host several social events per week for graduate students, including free meals and snacks, movie and board game nights, and other recreation activities. Each graduate residence also has several Community Associates (CAs) who put on events for people living in that residence. These include free meals, craft nights, wine tastings, off-campus outings, and more. While GSPB/GSC events are open to all graduate students, the "neighborhood" events are specific to residents of each particular building/set of buildings. You will notice a "House Dues" fee on your student bill that reflects this. Some residences have events several times per week, while others may only hold 6-8 total throughout the quarter. Several residences have lounges that can be booked by residents for private use. There is also the Graduate Community Center in between Escondido Village and Rains, which has study spaces, conference rooms, and a bar/grill with perfectly mediocre beer and food.

Q: When do housing contracts start?

A: In the lottery, you will be given an option to select your move-in date. Typically PhD students without children will receive the option of three Fridays in late August/early September. Your rent will be prorated based on the move-in date you select. It is completely up to you which day you move in. International students may be asked to select an earlier date in order to make time for international student orientation.

Traditionally the last move-in date available is the last Friday before Orientation begins, but in previous years there have been some on-campus welcome events for incoming students in the week or two prior to Orientation. (GSAPP typically starts its Orientation social events the week before Orientation.) All of this is subject to change based on COVID-19 circumstances. Watch out for information from your department's admin and look up NGSO (New Graduate Student Orientation) for evolving information.

Q: How do I pay rent for on-campus housing?

A: If you live in a Stanford-controlled property, you will have the option to have your rent automatically deducted from your paycheck. There will be an option in Axess for Payroll Deduction. For PhD students, they typically recommend selecting "Housing and Fees" but not Tuition, since your PhD program will typically pay your tuition separately. Your rent and other fees will be automatically deducted from your paycheck. If you are on fellowship, you can still use payroll deduction, although the situation might be slightly more complicated depending on whether the fellowship pays you directly (eg NDSEG) or pays Stanford to give you money (eg NSF). If payroll deduction does not cover your entire rent payment, you can submit payments through Axess. Rent is paid from your post-tax income.

Q: How can I find a roommate?

A: You can choose to enter the housing lottery with a roommate (including a roommate of a different gender from your own, as long as both of you consent to gender neutral housing on the form) or be randomly assigned. The housing office will give you a questionnaire asking about your cleanliness, social, and sleep habits and match you with other students seeking roommates (either already in housing or also entering the lottery). Due to R&DE's privacy policy, they will not disclose to you any information whatsoever about your roommate prior to arrival, so you unfortunately cannot coordinate beforehand to discuss living together. Your roommate will be another Stanford graduate student, but could be from another school/program.

Q: What do I do if I am moving to campus with a long-term partner?

A: Couples (married or in a "committed domestic partnership") are eligible for couples housing, with or without children. Only one of the partners needs to be a Stanford student. There is very little "proof" required of a couple being together. Anecdotally, it is not substantially cheaper for a couple to live together off-campus than on-campus.

Q: What if I have or want a pet?

A: Most residences allow students to have an emotional support animal provided the roommates agree to living with the animal. Some residences allow for pets. You can check out the housing handbook for the terms of this arrangement.