Where should you live? What are your options? What are the differences between the options? Where you live is a major part of college life, but, how to start?
Here is some valuable advice garnered from several rounds of apartment hunting.
1. Rank your priorities: What do you value most – your privacy, distance to school, living environment, cost? Some people prefer living on campus because of the distance; however, on-campus housing may not always provide a kitchen or cooking area. Do you want to cook your own food, or purchase a meal plan from the school?
On-campus housing can often be more expensive. Some students move out after their freshman year, when they are more comfortable with the school and area.
Because the cost of on-campus housing is often too expensive, students choose to live off-campus sometime after freshman year. Many also want to cook, which they can’t do if they continued to live on campus.
2. Refer to housing guides, online reviews: Most colleges, if not the community, provide online housing guides for students. After ranking your priorities, identify at least 10 apartments or locations where you want to live.
If you decide to live on campus, also select a few different options to compare. The housing guides usually have the basic information already listed out for you. Read carefully, especially about what you will have to pay for. Are utilities included in your rent? If not, how much would that be?
Search for online apartment reviews for the locations you chose. If possible, connect with current students and ask for their opinions. There should be student or university groups on social media where you can easily find people to ask for opinions.
Don’t learn the hard way, being attracted to cheap rent may lead to a lot of problems and hidden fee.
3. Bring a friend with you to see the location: After you've identified some potential locations, set up an appointment to see the apartment or building. Bring a friend or two you trust with you. They can offer you their honest opinions, including whether the price is too high, the rooms are too small and so forth.
4. Read your lease carefully: The last part of arranging for housing near campus is signing the lease. Read the terms carefully, and know the answers to some key questions. How long is the contract for? What is the fee for paying rent late? What is the pet policy? Some contracts specify that there are no pets allowed, including small ones like goldfish.
If you have questions regarding your contract, seek advice from your college. Many U.S. colleges have housing and legal dispute departments. They are experts on housing contracts, and can give you the best advice regarding signing a new contract or lease.
Apartment hunting can be daunting, especially for students. It's a good thing so much information is available online – you can connect with other students and ask for advice easily.
US News & World Report