Living in New York

Living in New York

Concerns about Safety and Security

Popular misconceptions of New York City are that it is a dangerous city. In reality, New York has among the lowest crime rates among major metropolitan cities in the United States.  As in any large metropolitan area, however, common sense and awareness can help you avoid problems and difficulties. Students are advised to visit the TC Prepardness and the CDC sites for the latest COVID-19 guidance. 

It is advisable to take certain precautions when you arrive and during your stay in New York:

Arrival Safety Tips

  • You may wish to plan your trip so that you arrive in New York during business hours (9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.). This will make it much easier for you to receive assistance should you need it.
  • Use good judgment. Do not leave your luggage or personal property unattended or with strangers, however courteous.
  • Take "yellow" taxis from official taxi stands and use official, authorized means of transportation. Do not let strangers take your bags or escort you to taxi / car services.

Travel and Street Safety Tips

  • If taking the subway at night, stay in designated 'yellow' waiting areas near the subway entrance or toll booths.  Likewise, ride in the subway car near the middle of the train, which is closer to the conductor.
  • Walk in well-lit and well-trafficked areas; crimes are more likely to take place in darkly-lit or isolated places.
  • Do not flash large amounts of cash; take traveler's checks and keep your money in different locations when traveling.
  • Beware of 'con' games in which strangers solicit you for help or assistance with promises to repay you.
  • If you plan to ride a bike, buy a good lock and use it even at any time you plan to be away from your bike.

 Campus Safety Tips

  • Do not leave your laptop computer, electronic device(s) or other valuable items unattended in the library, dormitory, or other places - even for short periods of time.
  • Lock your dorm room when leaving.
  • Report any missing personal property to the TC Office of Public Safety.
  • Carry and show your TC ID card at all times around the TC campus.
  • Keep valuable official documents, such as your passport and I-20/DS-2019, in a safe place in your dorm room - do not carry official documents with you unless you have to. 
  • Do not reveal personal information, such as your name, address, and date of birth and/or Social Security number or other personal identifying information to strangers

    Teachers College encourages students to download the TC Safe app on their device--an app that integrates TC’s wellness, safety, and security systems in one common mobile dashboard.   More information regarding the TC Safe app can be found on the Office of Public Safety website here

Scam Safety Alerts

Teachers College has received various reports of scams that have targeted students, faculty, and staff. 

Below are some resources to help students protect themselves from scams.  Remember, government officials such as Immigration and Custom Enforcement (ICE) officials will never offer immigration services in exchange for payment using the internet or phone.  Nor will they use a third-party to solicit or collect a fee. 

Teachers College Office of Public Safety works closely with the New York City Police Department to maintain public safety and security in the TC neighborhood. If you have any concerns during your stay, please report them to the OISS and to the Office of Public Safety.

Housing Options

Housing in New York City is extremely expensive - perhaps as a high as anywhere else in the world. On-campus housing is the least expensive and most convenient alternative. However, because TC has only a limited housing supply, acceptance to Teachers College does not guarantee that you will be given on-campus housing. This section addresses these frequently asked questions about housing:

    Where can I live on-campus while I am a Teachers College student?
    How can I find an off-campus apartment?
Where can I live on-campus while I am a Teachers College student?

Teachers College owns residence halls in the Columbia University neighborhood, but not in sufficient numbers to provide housing for all students who would like to live in the area. College-owned housing is assigned through the Office of Residential Services. Because housing space is limited and decisions must be made quickly, it is important to apply early. 

A signed contract and a security deposit equivalent to one month's rent are usually required for housing. Deposits are refunded with interest when you leave the residence without damage. Rent is billed on a semester-by-semester basis through your student accounts.

On-campus housing options, prices and eligibility requirements are described in the Office of Residential Services website and can be found here.

Send it as early as possible, as housing is limited and in very high demand.

International House.  Another option for Teachers College students is living at International House (I-House). I-House, only a ten minute walk from Teachers College, is a private residence hall for international and domestic students attending educational institutions in New York City. It accommodates over 750 single students, approximately 450 from other countries and 300 from the United States. Most rooms do not have cooking facilities. A meal plan is offered at additional cost. Information may be obtained by writing directly to:

International House
500 Riverside Drive
New York, NY 10027, USA

Phone: (212) 316-8434
Fax: (212) 316-1827
How can I find an off-campus apartment?

Off-Campus Housing Assistance (OCHA) lists non-Columbia owned apartments and rooms.  

In New York, apartments are sometimes difficult to find, and rents are high. In most cases, you will be asked to pay one month's rent in advance and a security deposit before moving in. An additional fee is paid to a rental agent, if one is used. Many students try to find roommates to share apartments. 

If you are a new incoming student, we also encourage you to refer to the International Student’s Survival Guide that will be emailed to you once your Form I-20 or DS-2019 has been generated. 

Are there places I can stay while I'm looking for an apartment?

If you experience any challenges in finding housing options, we encourage you to contact the Office of Residential Services for further assistance. 

Students with Children

Teachers College appreciates the fact that many of its students have family members, including children. The Office of Residential Services has limited family housing available, and TC provides information and services for parents with school-age children. 


Tips and Advice

When preparing to bring any dependent minor children, please keep in mind the following tips and advice:

  • If you have preschool or school-age children, be sure to bring their birth certificates (with an official English translation), and medical/immunization records with you to the U.S., as they are required for school enrollment.
  • The school year for elementary and high school is usually similar to Teachers College school year. Classes can begin in September and can end in May or June.  There is usually a winter vacation for approximately one month between mid-December and mid-January.

Childcare Resources:

New York Public schools

NYC Department of Education Website 

Prekindergarten: Acceptance is based on standardized admissions profiles.   Applications are not accepted by mail.

Kindergarten:  The admission’s period is school based. Families must submit an application to the school even if it is their zoned school.  Bring the child’s birth certificate or passport and proof of U.S. address. Check the website for acceptable documents. Children receding in their school zone will be given priority.

Elementary School: Grades 1-8. Register at the zoned school. You must bring the child with you. There is also a list of documents. Check the website for acceptable documents. If you are planning to move to New York City you do not need to apply for non-residence enrollment, you can register the child when you have proof of a U.S. address. 

Middle School: Grades 6-8. Most schools range from grade 1 to grade 8. But there are some schools where the child will need to change to a different school after grade 5. The enrollment for middle school is similar to the enrollment for elementary school.  

High School: Grade 9-12. New students must register at the Borough Enrollment Office of the borough in which they reside.  The student has the option to apply for specialized high schools in which there is a specialized high school admissions test.  The student is not eligible for this test until they are a New York resident. There are videos and publications that can help students and parents choose a high school. There are also summer workshops. 

Gifted and Talented:  All grades. Testing takes place in the beginning of the calendar year for following school year (September).  Children from all boroughs are welcome to apply. Note that you have to be a New York resident to apply.  For more information you can download the handbook and check the school calendars.  You can also contact Gifted and Talented Admissions via the New York City Department of Education at (718)-935-2009.

Charter Schools:  All grades. Charter schools are open to all students in New York City. They are governed by non-profit organizations that may also design the educational programs of the charter schools.  Charter schools were founded to provide high-quality school choices. If applications exceed available seats, an admissions lottery takes place to decide acceptance.

Public School Resources:
•    For application deadlines and registration requirements for all grades and schools, please visit   
•    To search for schools in your area visit the New York City Department of Education 
•    You can research Clara Hemphill’s books: New York City’s Best Public Elementary Schools, New York City’s Best Public Middle Schools, New York City’s Best Public High Schools. 


New York Private Schools

Private schools are independent.  They each have their own educational philosophy in which they are free to follow.  Private schools choose their students through an application process. They are non-profit organizations and get their funding through tuition, fees and contributions. Private schools can either be religious or non-religious.  The member organization, New York State Association of Independent School’s (NYSAIS) can provide more information.

NYSAIS does not recommend schools.  You can choose between public schools, religious schools, proprietary schools, home instruction, and independent schools (either day or boarding).

The First step is to do your research and narrow down your school options.  You can do your research online, attend the school’s open house, walk around the school’s neighborhood, talk to people that attend or work at the school and ask other parents questions.  Standard questions to ask include but are not limited to:

  • Location
  • Facilities
  • Philosophy
  • Achievement
  • Faculty
  • Community
  • Atmosphere
  • Parent Involvement
  • Standards
  • Support

Each private school has its own application process, deadlines, test requirements, financial aid, and age cut off dates.  Private schools generally state their tuition.  Private school tuition can range from $15,000 to $30,000 and can sometimes cost even more.  

Many school deadlines are in January or February for the next academic year. Standardized admissions tests are generally used. It is always good to abide by their deadlines and to communicate with the school of your choice. 

Private schools will choose whether they want to accept an applicant or not.  Many different factors are considered for a private school application.  New York private schools are often very competitive and it can be difficult to gain acceptance, so it is always good to apply to multiple schools.

Private School Resources:
•    To see reviews on certain private schools you can visit Private School Review 
•    For more information for parents you can visit The Parents League of New York  
•    For a guide to independent private schools you can visit the National Association of Independent Schools 
•    New York State Association of Independent Schools 
•    You can research Victoria Goldman’s book: The Manhattan Family Guide to Private Schools and Selective Public Schools
•    For Catholic education you can visit Catholic Schools in the Archdiocese of New York 

New York Weather

The climate in New York is moderate and has four seasonal changes. The temperature exceeds 90F (30C) in July and August and falls to 10F (-12C) in January and February. It is hot and humid in the summer (June to late September) and cold and damp in the winter (late October to March). Rainfall is intermittent throughout the year, and it frequently snows between November and March.

Students need to have a variety of clothing, from heavy boots and a warm coat, to light cotton shirts and open shoes. When you pack, remember that you will be carrying your luggage, so pack lightly. Also, it may be cheaper to buy certain items after you arrive in New York than to ship them or bring them with you.

Back to skip to quick links