The University of Notre Dame's 11,000 students make up a not-insignificant portion of the renters in the city of South Bend. As a result, you want to try and avoid looking for an apartment in August, September, December or January, because this is when most new students are flocking in. Looking in June and July however, will likely be favorable to newcomers.
Remember that almost every landlord is going to check the references that you provide him or her with. This means that you need to focus on providing references that you know will help reflect positively on the qualities they want to see in a renter. If you had a landlord you lived with for several years, a steady job, or a professor that worked with you one-on-one a great deal in University, any of them might make a great reference.
South Bend has a very affordable public transportation system operated by Transpo. The busses they operate can get you almost anywhere in the city. Despite this however, most people still choose to drive themselves throughout the area, with the exception of the students who use transit to get to the University.
Notre Dame University is a legendary and very scenic campus. In addition, watching the Fighting Irish compete is a popular local pastime. The city is thick with bars that are usually well stocked with college students on any given night. The Linebacker Lounge is particularly popular on game day with those who would rather celebrate in a pub instead of at the stadium.