I apologize for the delay in getting this installment out to you. My excuse is the 1800 mile cross country trek I made from Denver to New Jersey. With this post I will finish up my suggestions to incoming graduates by focusing on the practical side of graduate school: living arrangements, transportation, and jobs.
I should issue a warning before we go any further; living in New Jersey is expensive. Depending where you come from the sticker shock of a place to live in this state will quite possibly give you a heart attack. That is unless you are coming from a metropolitan area and are used to paying 700 a month for a 250 square foot closet that is referred to as a room. There are several ways around the hefty price tags of monthly rent in the garden state.
If your heart is set on living in Newark and being walking distance from campus, there are several options. The first is student housing. If I remember correctly Newark does have some apartments put aside for graduate students and if you have a family. There is also this site to help with finding a place. Another option is to look to craiglist and other web sites that match people looking for rooms to rent with people who have said rooms. This keeps you within the borders of Newark, close to the school, and about twenty minutes from Manhattan. Living in Newark or the surrounding area will provide a lively nightlife, is a hop, skip, and jump from NY, and tend to have a variety of personalities and cultures only found in a city. On the downside, you are going to pay much more to live in these areas.
The second option, which is the one I went with, is to live outside the metro area completely. The rent tends to be much cheaper in addition to other amenities such as groceries, booze, and gas. This is a great option for the graduate looking to save money on the rent and put some distance between themselves and the hustle of city life. Some of the best ways to find these places is to look towards craiglist as well as local papers’ online classified ads. Living outside the city becomes similar to sliding scale: the further from the city you live the lower your rent will be. The downside to living so far from Newark is the drive in. My commute will be about a 110 miles roundtrip. You will also lose out on the unique personalities of city life. It’s not that the drive is that long; it depends on where you live and how much traffic you hit (avoid the parkway, 78, and other major highways between 7am -930am and 4pm-630pm and you should be fine) you can make it in 30 minutes to an hour (these numbers are based on my disregard for speed limits and avoiding cops).
Your needs for a dependable transportation increase the further you are from a Metro Area. Outside of the cities, public transportation is virtually nonexistent. There might be a bus or train that has a stop relatively close to you, but it will be on a timetable of once every 2 years at 530 am. To live in NJ, even in the cities, a car is a necessity. The type of car you get, well that depends on the driving you will do. If you just need something to get around town and for that monthly trip to the shore (I recommend Wildwood or Long Beach Island), there are tons of “dealerships” that sell beater cars that can handle decent mileage (10-20 miles a week) before the duct tape holding the engine together falls off. If you need something that can handle more mileage and last a few years I would go to a real dealership. Thanks to the economy, smaller towns dealerships are having a hard time selling their vehicles and they are more willing to make a deal. One other thing, A/C and heat are a must. The summers here are hot and humid and winter is a bone chilling cold.
Another option is the NJ Transit. They have several locations and most make a stop at one or both of the stations in Newark. Unfortunately the closest station is Broad Street and that leaves you with several blocks before you are on campus. A Student discount for NJ Transit is 195 dollars a month or roughly 2340 a year and 4680 for the two years you will be attending Rutgers Newark. They also have student discount single passes that vary in price, depending on what your origination station is. The forms for a student discount can filled out by the Admissions Department and faxed over to NJ Transit.
This brings us to employment. What you do depends really on what you want to do; luckily the class schedule allows us the opportunity to hold down 9-5 jobs if necessary. Personally I’ve been pursuing two forms of employment.
The first is substitute teaching. This is a great way to make money and earn experience in the classroom, something I believe is valuable for those of us who want to teach, but were unable to get TA’s. The benefits are you get to choose what days you want to work, so you can fit it around your schedule. There is teaching shortage so the work is plentiful, and once you have your license you can teach anywhere in the state, which means you can work in districts close to your home. The downside is that the pay is not uniformed. One district may pay 75 dollars a day while another is 102. The only way to find out is to contact the different districts and find out how to get on their substitute list and what they pay. Also, like any type of temp job, there is no guarantee that you will get called. The process is pretty straight forward. You contact the district that will be your home district and have them send you an application packet. With that package you will also receive the information to set up a fingerprint/background check with an outsourced company. The whole process is relatively cheap: 125 application fee, 72 dollar fingerprinting, and a 7 dollar processing fee. Once you have your license you go to the different districts and get your name put on their sub lists. If all goes well they call and you have work.
The other education tract for employment is tutoring at community colleges. Most colleges have writing centers or something similar that focuses on helping students develop their writing skills. This isn’t a job that will make you wealthy, 10-12 an hour tends to be the norm, but it is more flexible then a 9-5 job, giving you the ability to work around your class schedules. The best way is to contact the community colleges you would like to work at and set up an appointment with the head of the writing center. Rutgers also has a Writing Center and from personal experience I know that they are looking for tutors. You can contact Marne Benson to discuss options.
This ends my little primer guide to preparing for your first semester at graduate school. This is by no means comprehensive, but I wanted to highlight some of the tactics I am using. As always questions, concerns, hate mail can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org