Ha, just found this old thread. I did decide to move into an apartment very close to campus, and it was the best decision ever. I found a really nice little place with a big grassy enclosed courtyard. We're on the ground floor, and it has washer-dryer facilities. It's also feels really safe and well-maintained.
I have to drive down to my old office once per week (basically the reverse of the commute that I would have been doing every day, had we stayed in our old house) and that just really proves to me that I made the right choice. Rush hour commuting sucks! I don't mind it so much once per week, but it would seriously impact my quality of life if I was doing it every day.
Other good things:
--I love seeing the maintenance guys mowing the lawn and stuff. Gawd, how I hate doing yard work, and how I love that someone else does it here. I have my potted plants, and that is more than enough for me to maintain (and even that is touch and go sometimes). I love that I can shoot an email to the apartment manager if something breaks, and a guy is over fixing it (for free) the next day.
--I love living in a pedestrian-friendly urban environment. It really makes me happy. And DS and I both have so many friends in a three-block radius. His daycare is a 10 minute walk down the street. There's also a lot of parks and coffeeshops and stuff super close. This weekend my boyfriend and I rode our bikes downtown for South by Southwest (a big music event) and it was so much fun being able to do that.
--I do sort of miss having a yard for DS, but the courtyard is a pretty close substitute. He seems happy with it.
--I like that the space is smaller and easier to keep clean.
--I feel safer in an apartment than I do in a house. As a single woman, something about being surrounded by people makes me sleep easier at night. I'm not aware of every creak and noise like I was in the house. All the windows are really secure and visible, and there's no sliding door, so it seems safe. I would definitely notice if someone was breaking in.
Thanks for all the advice -- it definitely helped!