Start now, not later
One of the best tips I got out of Jumpstart my first year at UBC, was to apply to upper year housing as soon as the first week of classes. I remember thinking: “hey, what’s the rush? I barely just got here”, so I brushed it off. Annoyingly, the reminder came time and time again from my upper year friends to “make sure I got on the waitlist as soon as possible”, and a few months later, I was glad I listened.
Now, as an orientation and transition leader, I have gotten the privilege of speaking to many students, and one topic that came up frequently, especially in the light of COVID, was the housing application and whether or not to send an application when everything is so uncertain.
If you’re anything like me, you enjoyed the idea of classes being online when they were first announced in March 2020, but as we are running out of quarantine hobbies… maybe not so much anymore. Bottom line is, most of us feel cheated out of the university experience. With the COVID vaccine giving us a glimmer of hope about having in-person classes sooner rather than later, living on-campus is a great way to salvage what we have left, connect with more students, and make memories we’ll carry with us once our university years are over.
Before you apply
The UBC housing application is different from the general admission application and should be filled separately. Before applying to UBC Housing, you should decide which on-campus option works best for you, and which application type you would like to submit. Year-round housing runs from May-April, and is a great option if you are planning on staying here for the summer. Winter session runs from September to April and would work best if you are just staying in Vancouver for the school year. The good news is, you can submit two different applications with a one time application fee if you apply to both within 14 days of your payment.
If you are a first-year student, you have a guarantee of getting a housing spot in designated first year residences, however, you must apply at the same time as your general admission application. For upper years, the waitlist for UBC year-round housing can take up to 1.5 years. With many people coming back to campus recently, it’s safe to say that the earlier you apply, the more likely you are to get a spot on campus. This being said, it’s important for you to do your research prior to applying, to ensure that your offer matches your preferences.
The application itself
Once you have decided which application type works best for you, look up the different residences and their characteristics so you can rank them by order of preference. You will be prompted to rank residences when filling your online housing application, so it is important for you to do your research and talk to other students to see which residence might fit you best. Be mindful that different residences have different fees, so don’t pick a studio in one of the more expensive residences if you know you might not be able to afford it. The benefit of applying a year early, is that you have a chance to budget accordingly and plan out your expenses in advance.
When I was filling my year-round housing application, I remember drooling over the sea views of accommodations in the most expensive residences while making my residence list. After meeting with my enrolment services advisor, I quickly realized that this was not the most-budget friendly approach: it was smarter to only put down residences I knew I would be able to afford without going significantly broke (even as a student). You will only be placed on the waitlist of the residences you choose as your preferences, and these choices will impact the type of offer (and fees) you get. Thankfully, I was able to find a dream residence within my budget and loved it so much, I would not change my current spot in residence for any other one. If you have questions about budgeting and finances, do not hesitate to contact your enrolment services advisor and they will help you plan accordingly. Don’t worry, it’s not imperative for you to have a complete idea of your dream residence in order to submit your application because you will have the opportunity to change your residence choices after the application has been submitted.
If you prefer to live with you friends in a unit, there’s also a section under “Roommate requests” on the housing application where you can indicate that!
Once you’ve applied
After your application has been submitted, lay back and relax; most housing offers come in March via email. You can check the housing website frequently to monitor your waitlist numbers. If you get an offer, you will be required to pay a deposit in order to accept your offer and most offers are time-sensitive. Therefore, make sure to save up the amount of money required for your chosen residences’ deposit and have it ready. You can always email UBC housing if you have any questions at email@example.com.
Other available options
If you’re not able to get an offer on campus, there are many ways you can go about finding a place to stay including off-campus accommodations and sublets. For off-campus options, you will have to do your own research using online platforms such as UBC housing Facebook groups. However, it’s important to stay safe from scammers while you are doing so. General guidelines to identify and stay away from scams can be found here: You might also find the guiding questions on this page helpful, as they will help you make sure you’ll live comfortably while studying.
If you’re planning on renting a house, take into account budget, commuting time and roommates. You don’t want to commit to a place that’s outside your budget or hours away from campus. Once again, be safe by visiting the premises and confirming responsibilities with the landlord and your roommates prior to moving in. Some places might not be fully furnished, so make sure to save up for appliances if that’s the case.
Another option you might want to consider, is subletting from a student who already has a housing contract using the UBC housing forum (or UBC Facebook groups). Last summer, I was able to secure a sublet for the whole summer in one of the nicest residences for a fraction of the cost I would have paid as a contract holder. In the summer, many students with year-round housing contracts don’t stay in Vancouver, leading to many available sublet options!
Disclaimer: this article is based on my personal experiences, so please contact UBC housing with any questions you might have!
Resources and Links:
UBC Housing Application: https://vancouver.housing.ubc.ca/
Enrolment Services Advisors: https://students.ubc.ca/about-student-services/enrolment-services-advisors
Off-campus Housing Guidelines: https://vancouver.housing.ubc.ca/other-housing/off-campus-housing/
UBC Housing Contact Information: https://vancouver.housing.ubc.ca/contact-us/