Currently I live in Upstate NY, near Albany. I've lived here my whole life and I've never considered it anything special. There's nothing tying me down to the place, I'm pretty bored with it and I want to move to a city. Initially I considered NYC, then Boston and I've finally settled on Seattle. NYC is very expensive though I have friends there, Boston was a good middle-ground but then I decided maybe the west coast was better, so Seattle.
It's been a year since I attended school, I was enrolled in a community college. I'm working on getting the money together for the move and if it works out I'll have enough time to transfer to a community college in Seattle and get an apartment. If that doesn't work out I'll stay in Upstate NY for another year and then transfer to the University of Washington. I'll attend school and live off of my financial aid though I may get a small job. I've looked into the requirements for becoming a resident and I'm unwilling to work the necessary 30 hours a week while attending school to become a resident and receive in-state tuition. The difference between in-state and out-of-state is significant but I'd like to concentrate on school after putting it off and working for so long.
My first question is which community college to attend? Right now I'm considering North Seattle and Seattle Central. I'm not sure about my major yet besides that it will definitely be a science, either biology or physics most likely. I don't know much about either school academically, all I know are their locations and that North Seattle has a God awful website whereas Seattle Central's website is much more informative. North Seattle is also situated closer to UW and one of the apartments I was looking at is also in that area. Seattle Central is in Capitol Hill, a neighborhood I'll probably be visiting often and one of the other apartments I'm looking at is nearby. I'm leaning towards Seattle Central right now because of the website but if North Seattle is better academically I'd go with them.
My second question is, how should I go about finding an apartment? What I'm doing right now is using Craigslist and Apartmentratings.com to find something good and then looking to see if the apartment complex has a website. Sometimes though the apartments aren't rated or the ratings are mixed. I'm not sure how to figure out what apartment might be good and what might be bad. Eventually I do intend to make a trip to Seattle to look at these places in person but how do I decide if I'll have a good or bad experience in a particular apartment? Many of the apartments on Craigslist are independent and aren't really affiliated with a big company and they don't have fancy websites or ratings to go off of. Are these viable options?
My third question is about neighborhoods. Which neighborhoods should I be looking at? The apartments I've liked so far are in Wedgewood, Central and Beltown. My mother is really worried about safety. She doesn't like the idea of me living in Central only because she's found a wiki with uncited information saying it was unsafe. I also intend to keep my car, at least initially, and Wedgewood seems more spread out than central Seattle though on the other hand central Seattle is an area I'd be in a lot anyway and it would be cool to live there.
Going back to apartments, my budget is around 800 a month for rent. I'm looking for studio apartments. I researched what it would cost to live in student housing at UW and it's very expensive, a complete rip-off if I decided to live in the student apartments (I don't think I could live in a residence hall). If my rent was 800 the utilities and other monthly expenses would bring my monthly expenditure to about the same as a UW apartment, maybe a little bit more, but the place would be much nicer. I've found Wedgewood Estates up north in Wedgewood, Legacy at Pratt Park in Central which is near Pratt Park, of course, and I also found Archstone Belltown in Beltown. Wedgewood is north of the U District, the rent is cheap (less than 700), it looks nice enough from the pictures and it's very well reviewed. It's far from the center of Seattle, though. I think while I'd go to school in the U District eventually most of my time I'd like to spend further south. Legacy at Pratt Park is 815 a month, the apartment building is less than a year old, and it's close to the middle of Seattle and Capitol Hill. The studio apartments are also very nice with a very modern look, W/D units in the apartment and there's underground parking available. There aren't any reviews for it, though and I'm not sure of the area. Archstone Belltown I don't know much about, I just found it. It doesn't appear to have W/D in the apartment which is important to me and I'm not very familiar with the Beltown neighborhood.
So H/A, what have you got for me? The apartments I've found already are nice but do you have any tips for finding more? Maybe I'm being too picky and a few are slipping through the cracks? Any information you have on the community colleges in the area would also be helpful, in addition to whatever knowledge you can impart about the neighborhoods I've mentioned or ones that you like yourselves.