Category: Admissions (page 1 of 9)

Hello Heller! Brielle Ruscitti’s Acceptance Story

Brielle Ruscitti, MS GHPM/MA SID'24 Headshot

Brielle Ruscitti, MS GHPM/MA SID’24

Throughout my undergraduate career, I planned to go to medical school. I studied biology, shadowed doctors, participated in research but when it came time to study for the MCAT, I hit a wall. Through my undergrad, I realized that becoming a physician wasn’t the path for me and that my passions lay other places. I had developed a passion for fostering social change, worked with global health non-profits and had completed international development research projects. I had my own version of a quarter life crisis and scrapped my medical school plans.  After some thinking, graduate school was my new plan, and I was specifically looking at social impact MBA programs, which indirectly lead me to Brandeis. I knew I wanted to be on the East Coast and through the classic Google search, I stumbled upon Brandeis, starting reading about Heller and, not too long after, started my application.

At the time, I had recently graduated and was working as a third grade teacher, trying to make plans for the next year. I remember trying to plan ahead when I would make the move to Boston, if I were to be accepted, but was concerned I was planning for something that wasn’t guaranteed. I’m sure you can imagine that I was counting the days to when my admissions letter was going to be released, and I quite literally did: I estimated that it would come on Valentine’s Day, a Monday, and with the two hour time change, my letter should come by three pm… I told myself that was the best case scenario.  Three o’clock passed and I hadn’t received an email. After repeatedly checking my inbox, I headed out to my afternoon duty to help with student pick up and other end of the day activities.  At this point, I assumed that I would hear later and casually checked my email heading back to my classroom. That’s when I saw it: “There has been an update to your portal” and my admissions decision had been released.  Since running isn’t allowed in the hallways, I walked as fast as I could to my computer to check my portal and anxiously checked my letter and read that I had been admitted. I told my co-teacher first, because she was right there.  All I said was “Oh! I got in!” She laughed, shook her head and congratulated me. I laughed and quickly called my partner to share the news and messaged a few other family members.

My immediate feeling after reading my letter was relief. I felt like I knew what I would be doing, where I would be going, and that I could start planning for my future. My partner and I planned to move to the East Coast together and my acceptance cemented our plan – 30 hour road trip, here we come! After I processed what happened, I realized I could start finalizing plans and getting excited. I was excited for my future, the program and my Brandeis experience.

I had applied to other programs in the area, but knew that the Heller school was my top choice. The dual degree program design and field practicum would give me the opportunity study, gain experience, and fine tune my passion and knowledge before starting my career.  We are now about a month into school, and I know I made the right decision. While it is just the start of my time at Heller, I am excited for all that is to come!

What Are the Application Requirements?

Working in admissions, you start to develop answers to common questions. “What’s the cut-off GPA?” “Is my background a good fit for this program?” “Is the GRE required?” But the most common question, the one I get the most, is “What are the application requirements?”

Now, you might be thinking that I’m going to spend this blog post laying out the different programs’ application requirements and what you should be preparing when you’re getting ready to apply. Maybe even some tips and tricks for how to strengthen those application requirements, or how to stay organized when you’re applying. But you’d be wrong! You can always find application requirements on our website, but today, I’m going to flip the script and ask you to think about what your application requirements are.

Huh?

Okay, here’s what I mean. When I was applying to graduate school, I applied to eleven programs (for those of you out there wondering, that’s way too many). Looking back, I’m still not sure why I put myself through that, but I think most of it came down to two things: first, I was terrified that no school would accept me, and I didn’t really have a plan for what I would do if I didn’t go to graduate school at that time, and second, I had no real idea what I was looking for. Yes, I knew I wanted a master’s in English Literature, yes, there were some areas that I was interested in living, but other than that, I really had no clue.

I share all of this as a cautionary tale: don’t be like me! Before you start applying to graduate schools, take a minute to think about what your requirements are. If you’re not sure, here are some things that it might be helpful to consider:

  • Do I have the opportunity to teach or work as a research assistant? If you intend to go into academia or research, this should be a really important question for you. Participating in research and teaching while in graduate school is a great way to start an academic career and build experience. Notice, however, that I also said “opportunity”: at Heller, although many of our students do work as research assistants and teaching assistants, it’s not considered part of your funding and thus, you’re not obligated to do it. If you know you don’t intend to stay in academia or teaching, I would recommend being cautious of schools that do require it: your time might be better spent in an internship or part-time job building skills that translate more directly to your future career.
  • Are there clubs, organizations, or leadership activities that interest and excite me? I won’t lie to you, this is probably a bigger factor in undergraduate programs, but you still shouldn’t discount it when you’re applying to graduate school. Especially if you’ll be coming from out-of-state or don’t have a support group already in the area, joining extracurriculars is a good way to network and make new friends outside of your program. Leadership experience (even if it’s for a club or organization) can also be helpful once you’ve graduated to put on your resume or as an example to draw upon during interviews. Heller and Brandeis clubs and working groups include Black Graduate Student Association, Brandeis Graduate Outdoors Club, Brandeis University Africa Forum, Disability Working Group, Gender Working Group, Graduate Student Association, Heller Myanmar/Burma Advocacy Group, Heller Startup Challenge, Heller Student Association, Impact Investing and ESG Working Group, Net Impact (Heller Chapter), Open Air Journal and the Racial Equity Working Group.
  • What kinds of access will I have to professors and other outside resources? This question is going to be different for every person. Some students do best in close-knit environments where they get a lot of individualized attention, while others are happy to keep their head down and never go to office hours. Personally, I think that Heller’s faculty to student ratio provides for a really close community and there are a lot of benefits to that (the faculty and research staff to student ratio is roughly 1:6!), but some students might be happier in larger programs where the faculty/student ratio is higher.

These may not be important factors for you. You may care more about working with a specific professor, with not having to write a thesis at the end of your program, living in a certain area or in a big city, taking classes online, a great campus gym… the list goes on and on. But whatever your priorities are, make sure that you’re not only focusing on what schools might let you in: think carefully about what you want the next years to look like.

 

 

What is the Quantitative and Analytical Statement?

First of all, let me start by saying that if you’re a master’s program applicant reading this post and panicking, thinking, “What the heck is a Quantitative and Analytical Statement?”, worry not. This post is just for the PhD applicants out there.

If you’ve applied to the the PhD program before and are reapplying again this year, you might have noticed that there’s a new portion to our application, the Quantitative and Analytical Statement. Today, I’m going to walk you through why we’ve added this component, what information you should include, and how you can use the statement to your advantage on our application.

Why did we add this component? If you applied for the Fall 2021 or Fall 2022 entry term, it’s likely that you noticed that we’ve made the GRE optional for the last two years due to COVID-19. Students had the choice to submit GRE scores if they had already taken them, but if you weren’t able to sit for the test, you weren’t required to report them. For some students, not being able to take the GRE greatly helped their application, but for others, not taking it had a disadvantage: students who had been out of school for years and not working in an academic or research setting had no way to demonstrate that they had the requisite quantitative skills to make them successful in a research based program. Similarly, faculty members reviewing the application were left in the dark as to some students’ current quantitative ability: for example, would it be better to take an applicant who had great grades in their quantitative classes more than fifteen years ago, or an applicant with average grades three years ago? Who would be better equipped to take our required quantitative courses? And thus… the Quantitative and Analytical Statement was born

What information should I include? Although many of our students and faculty do perform a great deal of qualitative research, many of our courses teach students the skills to conduct quantitative and mixed methods research. In your first semester, for example, you’ll take both Introduction to Stata Programming and Data Management (which covers creating simple datasets and accessing existing ones, modifying and managing data, and performing simple statistical analysis), Research Methods (which is designed to prepare students in the Heller PhD program to be able to understand and interpret empirical research and to design their own studies), and Applied Regression Analysis (which teaches students about assumptions underlying the regression model, how to test for violations, and corrections that can be made when violations are found).  So in your Quantitative and Analytical Statement, you have the chance to demonstrate that you have the background to succeed in those classes. So how do you do this? I’d like to think our website lays it out pretty succinctly, so I’ll quote here: “In the Quantitative and Analytical Statement, applicants should detail why they believe they would be successful in a research-based program; i.e., quantitative classes you have taken, research experience you hold, peer-reviewed research papers you have authored or collaborated on, statistical software you are familiar with and the projects you have utilized statistical software for, etc. Experience with qualitative data analysis and software may be noted but should not be the focus of the statement.” In short, in the average of your GRE scores, your Quantitative and Analytical statement is an opportunity to demonstrate that you have the ability to succeed in our program that might not otherwise be demonstrated or highlighted in your application.

How can I use this to my advantage? Glad you asked. First, it works to your advantage because now you have a choice. If you have the ability to sit for GREs, you can now choose whether you want to submit them after you see your scores. If you have high GRE scores, particularly in the Quantitative section, I would really encourage you to submit your GRE scores. If, however, for whatever reason (you’re not able to take the test, you’re not a good test taker), you don’t get the scores you had hoped for in the Quantitative section, this QAS gives you the opportunity to highlight the parts of their application that would make them a good candidate. We already review your application holistically, but the QAS lets you lay out the case for your success. Let’s talk about an example: if you know that you don’t have strong  GRE scores but still believe that you could succeed in the program, your QAS could talk about the high grades in the quantitative classes like statistics or economics you took in your master’s program. You could talk about your five years of work experience in a research lab, and the research projects using and analyzing national data sets that you’ve worked on while at that position. You could talk about how you used Stata in your previous position, or your experience interning for a politician that required you to summarizing the methodology of findings from previous studies and synthesizing and communicating the results of data analysis .  And just like that, your application would demonstrate that despite the weakness of your GRE scores, you are perfectly capable of succeeding in a quantitative research program.

I hope that helps answer some of your questions about this requirement, and we look forward to reviewing your application.!

The Fall 2023 Application is Open!

We’re excited to announce that the Heller application for Fall 2023 entry is now open! Today, I’ve compiled some frequently asked questions from students and included a list of resources

FAQS

What is required for the application?

The application is designed to be accessible and is comprised of the following elements:

  • The Heller online application, including biographic information, education history, and work history
  • Statement of purpose
  • Resume or CV
  • Three Letters of Recommendation (two for Social Impact MBA applicants)
  • PhD and SID/WGS joint program only: Writing Sample
  • International students only: TOEFL, IELTS, or Duolingo English Test results, unless you qualify for an English Proficiency Waiver
  • The MPP, MBA, and PhD programs have extended their test-optional policy through the Fall 2023 admission cycle due to the COVID-19 pandemic. PhD applicants who do not submit GRE scores must submit a quantitative statement. You can find more information on the quantitative statement on the PhD Application Requirements web page under “Standardized Test Scores”.

You can view a full list of requirements for each program on our “How to Apply” page. 

What are the deadlines for the application?

You can find deadlines for each program on our “Application Deadlines” page.

How can I start an application?

I would recommend starting by reviewing the “How to Apply” page for your program of interest before beginning an application.

What are you looking for in an application?

The best way to find out what each program is looking for is by connecting with one of our admissions representatives, but you can also read our blog series, “Which Program is Right for Me?”

Resource List

What to Bring to Orientation

Can you believe it’s already August? It may be hard to believe, but orientation is just around the corner; in less than three weeks, we’ll be welcoming Heller’s incoming class to campus. If you’re one of those incoming students, this post is for you. Heller does a good job of providing for our students during orientation: students will receive a grab-and-go breakfast and lunch both days, a water bottle, and a small tote bag, but take it from me, there are still a few things that you should bring.

1. A face mask. As of right now, Brandeis is still requiring masks at indoor gatherings of over twenty people, and orientation definitely fits that category. We’ll have face masks to hand out to students as they arrive, but if you want to wear your own mask, you should definitely bring it!

2. A portable charger/phone cable. Orientation can be long and you might be on your phone a lot, taking pictures, jotting down notes, or exchanging phone numbers or email addresses. Trust me, having a portable battery will make you the most popular person in the room.

3. Granola bars/small snacks. Heller will be providing breakfast and lunch both days of orientation, and plans to give all incoming students a free water bottle, but as I said above, orientation sessions can be long, and having a small snack on hand may be something you’ll want!

4. A sweater or light jacket. Orientation sessions take place all over the Heller building, and you’ll often find that temperatures of different rooms can really vary! Even though it should still be pretty warm outside, I recommend bringing something light to layer over your clothes if you end up in one of the chillier rooms!

5. Comfortable shoes. I know that we all want to make a first impression, but if there was ever a day to leave your high-heeled shoes at home, orientation is that day! You’ll likely do a fair bit of walking around as you move from room to room, going up and down stairs, and rushing around as you try to find the room you’re supposed to be in, and you’ll want to do it in comfortable shoes.

There you have it! Make sure you have these on you as you head out the door and you’ll be set up for a successful orientation!

 

 

I’m Admitted, Now What? Housing Part Three: Neighborhoods to Consider

This time of year, it seems like I have a conversation about housing at least once a day. The truth is, the Boston rental market is one of the most competitive in the nation, due in large part to the vast numbers of students who live in Boston (more than 150,000 students, two-thirds of whom don’t live in university provided housing). When you’re looking for housing in Boston, it can seem like you’re competing with every single one of those 100,000 students, and if you’re not from the Boston area, knowing which areas to look in can be extremely frustrating or confusing. This blog post is my attempt to help: these are the neighborhoods that I would recommend checking out if you’re moving from out of state (although keep in mind that this is by no means an exhaustive list and is just based on my experiences and conversations with students).

If you don’t have a car:

Waltham. Starting off with the obvious here, Waltham is a popular choice for many students who attend Brandeis. Because it’s outside of the city limits, it’s more affordable than what you would find in the main Boston area, and it’s also relatively easy to find roommates among your fellow Heller students or even other Brandeis graduate students. There are plenty of buses and Brandeis shuttles to help you get around the area and to your classes.

Somerville/Cambridge. Porter Station in Somerville is on the same commuter line as Brandeis, making this a really convenient area for students without a car. Harvard Square, in Cambridge, is connected to Brandeis by a university sponsored shuttle, giving you a really affordable option to get to campus. The neighborhoods of Union Square, Davis Square, Winter Hill, Spring Hill, Magoun Square, Powder House and South Medford are all within walking or biking distance from either Porter Square or Harvard Square. These areas (especially Union Square and Davis Square) are all pretty desirable areas since there are great restaurants, shopping, and activities, so expect to pay a little more than you would in Waltham.

North Concord/Concord/Acton. Okay, I’ll admit: these are not the most popular places for graduate students at Brandeis to live because they’re further out from the city and don’t have as many apartment buildings, but I’m here to advocate for them as an option. These towns are also connected to Brandeis by the commuter rail and have a lot to offer in terms of culture. Because they’re atypical places for students to live, you can sometimes find really surprising deals.

If you do have a car:

Jamaica Plain/Hyde Park/West Roxbury/Roslindale. This cluster of neighborhoods south west of the city is a really popular place for graduate students and young adults to live in Boston. The Jamaica Plain are has definitely gotten more expensive over the years, but the neighborhoods surrounding the area are still affordable and give you the same access to the city as you would have if you lived in Jamaica Plain. Although not linked to Waltham by a major highway, it’s very easy to get to these areas, with commutes around 30 minutes.

Allston/Brighton. These neighborhoods, located just east of the city, are really popular places for students of all ages to live. You can definitely find some more affordable housing in this area, especially if you live with roommates, and you’ll be more in the center of Boston nightlife. These neighborhoods are right off of 90, so you can get to Brandeis in under 20 minutes with no traffic.

Arlington/Medford/Malden. Again, these are probably not the most popular neighborhoods for Brandeis students to live in, given that they are further out than the other options I’ve listed here. However, I would not ignore these places as an option: you can take Highway 2 to 95, which will take you right to Brandeis, so it’s actually very easy to travel from these areas to Brandeis, and you can usually get to these areas in under 30 minutes. They’re also relatively close to Somerville and Cambridge, which are great areas for dining, shopping, and entertainment, while having a lot of restaurants of their own, not to mention the natural beauty of Mystic Lake and Middlesex Fells.

Like I said before, this is no means an exhaustive list, and there are tons of neighborhoods and housing around Boston. But if you’re finding yourself lost as to where to start, take the time to explore some of these options and see if they might be right for you!

Quiz: Which one of our programs is right for you?

What color are you? (Purple) If you were a pizza topping, what would it be? (Olives) What gemstone fits your personality? (Emerald) As a kid, I was absolutely obsessed with taking personality quizzes. From Buzzfeed to Seventeen magazine, there wasn’t a quiz that I wouldn’t take. Well, the time has come for me to make my own quiz to help you decide which of Heller’s programs is the best fit for you. Like any responsible quizmaker, let me get a quick disclaimer out of the way: this quiz is just for fun, so don’t take your results too seriously. Okay, now that that’s out of the way, grab a pen and paper to write down your answers. At the end, the letter you chose the most will give you your results. Ready? Here we go!

Which classes sound the most interesting to you?

a) Diversity, Inclusion and Equity in Social Policy; Policy Advocacy, Protest, and Community Organizing;  LGBTQ+ Justice: A History of Pride, Prejudice, and Policy in the United States

b) Social Justice, Management and Policy; Managing the Triple Bottom Line; Leadership and Organizational Behavior

c) Principles of Ecology for Development Practitioners; Environmental Justice and the Human Effects of Climate Change; Gender and Development in the Context of Neoliberalism and Globalization

d) Development, Aid and Coexistence; Kingian Nonviolence and Reconciliation; Women, Peacemaking, and Peacebuilding

e) Intersectionality and Bioethics; Microeconomics in Global Health; Management of Health Care Organizations

f) Foundations of Social Theory: From the Early Twentieth Century to Critical Race Theory; Economic Theory and Social Policy

Which of these words most appeals to you?

a) Strategy

b) Influence

c) Growth

d) Balance

e) Health

f) Research

Which job(s) would you most like to have?

a) Director of Communications for a local politician; Program Manager for a non-profit that benefits LGBTQ+ youth; Town Administrator for your hometown

b) CEO of a sustainable athletic line; Senior Analyst for an impact investing non-profit; Sustainability Consultant for a for-profit company

c) Director of Development and Operations for an NGO; U.S. Foreign Service Officer;  International Trade Advisor for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

d)  Associate Reporting Officer for the United Nations; First Secretary for an Embassy; the Communications and Operations Manager for an international NGO

e) CDC Public Health Advisor; Program Analyst for the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services; Immunization Technical Consultant for an International Vaccine Access Center of a hospital

f)  Scientist for a research institute at a college; Director for a Center for Policy Research; Director of research for a thinktank

How would your friends describe you?

a) Analytical, practical, driven

b) Entrepreneurial, innovative, energetic

c) Creative, adaptable, passionate

d) Patient, empathetic, good listener

e) Problem solver, responsible, systematic

f) Thoughtful, dedicated, methodical

What reading would you find most interesting?

a) The New Jim Crow, by Michelle Alexander

b) Changing Business from the Inside Out, by Timothy J Mohin

c) Ten Reasons Not to Measure Impact –and What to do Instead, by Mary Kay Gugerty and Dean Karlan.

d) BIASED, Uncovering the Hidden Prejudice That Shapes What We See, Think, and Do, by Jennifer L. Eberhardt, PhD.

e) When Things Go Wrong: How Health Care Organizations Deal With Major Failures, by Walshe & Shortell,

f)  Qui Bono? – Explaining – or Defending – Winners and Losers in the Competition for Educational Achievement, by llen et al .

 

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Mostly As: Master of Public Policy

Mostly Bs: Social Impact MBA

Mostly Cs: MA in Sustainable International Development

Mostly Ds: MA in Conflict Resolution and Coexistence

Mostly Es: MS in Global Health Policy and Management

Mostly Fs: PhD in Social Policy

I’m Admitted, Now What?: Preparing for your Program

Students come to Heller from all walks of life:  in one Heller classroom, you could find a forty-two year old father of two sitting next to a twenty-five year old who has just returned from her time in the Peace Corps, and sitting next to her could be a thirty-six year old Nigerian doctor who has brought her husband to the United States with her. The funny thing is, is that if you were to talk to each of these imaginary students in the months before their program began, I bet they would all tell you that they feel really unprepared for graduate school. The father of two may be worried about how he’ll balance being a parent and being a student, or worry that he’s been out of school for too long; the twenty-five year old may be concerned that she lacks the life experience of her classmates and doesn’t have the financial stability to be successful in graduate school; the thirty-six year old might fret about different academic standards in a new country or that she’s never taken a statistics class.

All of this is to say that if you’re worried about entering graduate school, you’re definitely not alone. The good news is that at Heller, you have a lot of support to make this transition, and today I’ll be talking about two of our stand-out programs: The Summer Institute and the Summer Career Academy.

The Summer Institute

The Summer Institute is an online platform built by Heller faculty for incoming students to meet, prepare for courses, and share support resources. It’s free to enroll and is available starting June 15th to all incoming students who have accepted their offer of admission, made a deposit, and created a Brandeis email account. Through the Summer Institute,  students can take a Professional Writing Course with Heller instructor Evie Sessions, guide themselves through a self-paced learning opportunities tailored to your academic program,  meet your future classmates, take an Avoiding Plagiarism refresher tutorial, and get information on DEI initiatives at Heller like the near-peer mentorship program. From quantitative tutorials to learning how to cite something in APA formatting, the Summer Institute will give you the building blocks to get you ready for graduate level coursework.

Summer Career Academy

The Summer Career Academy is 4-week, self-directed, online career preparation program designed to give students the opportunity to jumpstart their career planning and preparation, to access career resources, and to learn more about themselves, resumes, and networking tools among other career essentials. Like the Summer Institute, it is available to all graduate students who have accepted their offer of admission, made their deposit, and created a Brandeis email account. Starting the week of July 25th, students will gain access great lessons on Career Development Center Resources, Self-Assessments, updating your resume, how to effectively network, and how to leverage LinkedIn.

I know the transition to graduate school can be really overwhelming, but taking on a few extra things now can help you build up your confidence and ensure that when fall does come around, you’ll be ready.

I’m Admitted, Now What?: Avoiding Housing Scams (for 2022!)

I’m following up on my recent post on finding housing while in graduate school with a special post about avoiding scams while looking for housing. According to a recent survey conducted by College Pads, approximately 15% of students encounter a rental scam when looking for housing— unfortunately, it’s much more common than you would think! Although some scams are easily weeded out with just a little bit of investigation, others can be quite convincing, so it’s important to do your homework and keep these tips in mind.

  1. If it’s too good to be true, it probably is. Before you fall in love with a 2,000 square foot studio apartment with sweeping views of the Charles for only $500 a month, ask yourself if the price lines up with the other apartments you’ve viewed. Although there are certainly good deals to be found, Boston real estate is notoriously expensive, and anything significantly less than the average for the area should be treated with caution. With roommates, you should expect to pay between $500 and $800 in rent in the Waltham area, and between $600 and $1,000 in Boston or Cambridge. If you’re looking to live alone, most studios in Boston start at around $1,600. Anything significantly lower than that should be treated with caution. You can check average rental rates on websites like rentbits.com.
  2. Do a grammar check. Once you start communicating with a landlord or realtor, pay special attention to the emails you receive. Poor spelling, incorrect grammar, excessive punctuation, or language that seems overly “robotic” should all be red flags that the listing may not be legitimate. If the signature of the realtor contains a company website, check that out too; company websites should also look legitimate and use correct grammar and punctuation.
  3. Make Google your best friend. Always, always, always, do a search on the person or company you’re dealing with. If a scammer is targeting you, chances are that it’s not the first time they’ve done this, and you can usually find negative reviews and comments online. Remember that people can pay for positive reviews and delete negative comments on their websites, so look for third-party review pages (like Yelp or GoogleReviews) and look past the first few comments. If there are multiple people complaining about their experience with the landlord or real estate company, treat that as a red flag.
  4. Know your rights. In Boston, landlords are not allowed to charge you an application fee, a credit check fee, or a fee to ‘hold’ the apartment. If they ask for any of these, that should be a huge warning sign. Once you sign a lease, you may be asked to pay first, last, and a security deposit on an apartment, but you should only do this once you’ve signed a lease or seen the apartment at the very least. You can find more information about your rights as a renter on the City of Boston’s website.
  5. See the apartment if at all possible. For students coming from across the country, or even internationally, this may not be an option, but if at all possible, try to see the apartment. If you’re not able to visit the apartment, see if one of your roommates or another close friend in the area can visit it on your behalf, and ask them to take a video of their walkthrough of the apartment so you can see it. This is slightly complicated by the current pandemic, but most landlords are now showing apartments; at the very least they can do a video walkthrough for you (ask to see the apartment from the outside to verify the address and ask them to state your name or the date so you can verify they’re not showing you an old or out-dated video).

In addition, here are some tell-tale signs that the person you are speaking with may not be legitimate:

  • refuses to speak to you on the phone
  • asks for your social security number or other personal information
  • says they are out of the country
  • asks you to pay a deposit before you see the apartment, or
  • asks you to wire money. Also avoid using PayPal’s “My Cash.” It does not protect you from scams.

Unfortunately, if you have been scammed, it’s often difficult to get your money back, so if possible, pay with a check so your money can be traced and you can cancel the check if something goes wrong. The good news is that if you follow these tips and use good judgement, you’ll be able to weed out the vast majority of rental scams. Happy apartment hunting!

 

I’m Admitted, Now What?: Housing Part 1 (for 2022!)

For the latest in the “I’m Admitted, Now What?” series, I’d like to talk about some steps to take after you’ve made your decision and sent in your deposit. Some students may live close enough to Brandeis to commute, but for many, a new graduate program means a new city! I myself moved from Atlanta to Boston for graduate school, and I remember the mixture of excitement and nervousness that comes with taking this next big step. Here are some things that I learned along the way, along with some Brandeis-specific tips, that I hope will help you in your journey:

Location, location, location. Most Heller students choose to live in Waltham, because they prefer to be close to campus; it’s so convenient to be able to walk back to your home in between classes to grab a textbook, have a snack, or (let’s be honest) take a nap. Waltham is a great historic town right along the Charles River, and there are a ton of great restaurants along Moody Street (I love Moody’s Delicatessen for a quick lunch and Sweet Basil for a special-treat dinner). Waltham is also less than half an hour from Boston, so getting into the city is really easy, but rent in Waltham is generally a little more affordable than in Boston or Cambridge.

However, if you are looking to move to Boston or Cambridge because you want the experience of living closer to the city, I would recommend researching the Somerville, Allston/Brighton, or Jamaica Plain neighborhoods. Somerville is popular amongst Brandeis graduate students for its proximity to North Station, where you can board the commuter rail line that will take you right to campus, and the neighborhoods around Porter Square and Davis Square are especially fun, with lots of shopping, restaurants, and cute cafes. Allston and Brighton are common places for students to live in Boston for their great restaurants and nightlife options; for those without a car, it’s easy to take the MBTA to North Station. Jamaica Plain isn’t as good an option for Heller students without a car, but for those that do, this neighborhood is a great mix of students and young professionals and has plenty of great food along Centre Street. Just south of Jamaica Plain you’ll find Roslindale, which is another good option: although it’s a bit further from the city, it’s still only a twenty minute MBTA ride to Downtown Crossing and about a thirty minute drive from campus (it’s where I live myself!).

Mix and match. Unless you’re from the area or are moving with your family, you’ll most likely need to find roommates. There aren’t very many affordable studios or one bedroom apartments in Boston (usually starting around $1,600), so roommates are definitely recommended as a cost-saving measure. The Brandeis Graduate Facebook group has a lot of great information and apartment postings, and many students use it to find roommates. Brandeis also hosts a Grad Housing listserv where you can sign up to get emails about available apartments or students looking for roommates, so I would also recommend subscribing to that. Many Heller students choose to live together; having a built-in support group in your program can be really helpful to students new to the area. Living with other students in your program can lend itself to group study sessions, but having students outside your program can often add a new perspective, so don’t be afraid to mix and match with classmates both inside and outside your program!

Timing is everything. Many apartments in Boston have leases that start on September 1st, but I would recommend looking for leases that start on August 1st or August 15th, so you’re not rushing to set up utilities and get settled in during the first week of classes. Boston housing fills up fast, so I would recommend starting to look as soon as you are able; Brandeis’ Graduate Affairs Office has a great website with a lot of different resources for finding short-term and long-term housing. It can also be very competitive, so if you find a place that you like, be prepared to commit that day: have your documents ready, your checkbook on hand, and a co-signer lined up (if necessary).  During the COVID-19 pandemic, most realtors started offering virtual tours, which can make it easier to decide on an apartment even from far away (and an effective tool to weed out scams!). If you’re renting an unfurnished apartment, make sure you’re also budgeting enough time and money to find furniture; there’s an IKEA only thirty minutes away, and a Target less than fifteen minutes from Waltham, but there are also a lot of thrift stores along Moody Street and Main Street where you can dig up a lot of great finds for very low prices. I

I hope these tips are helpful as you start your housing search! I’ll be sharing more housing tips in the coming weeks, so make sure you subscribe by entering your email address in the sidebar to the right.

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