Many students have a hard time trying to decide between living off-campus or living in a school dorm. Some students cannot wait to experience dorm life while others are 100 percent sure that they want to get an apartment or rent a large house with friends. Of course, where you decide to live will dictate how you need to pack and what you need to bring.
Tips for Dorm Living
Most college dorms are quite small, so you will need to be thoughtful when packing and creative while organizing. Always check with the Housing Department on campus to find out if there are restrictions regarding space heaters, televisions, stereos, etc. You will also be required to be familiar with and obey all rules regarding smoking, drinking, noise, pets, and guests.
Not all dorm rooms are the same, but most come furnished with a bed, dresser, desk, and chair. You might have a private closet or you may have to share it with your roommate. If you know your roommate then you can decide who will bring a coffeemaker, mini-fridge, plates, mirrors, fan, etc. Things you do not want to bring include candles, incense, toasters, hot plates, and microwaves. Anything that draws a lot of energy will not be welcomed. Also, extension cords are typically not permitted, but surge protectors are fine.
Tips for First Apartment Living
Living off-campus is something most college students at least consider during their collegiate experience, and those who take the plunge rarely regret it. There are so many reasons to move off campus this fall and so many benefits to maintaining an off-campus residence. We’re here to share a few of those with you.
Did you love sharing that dorm hall bathroom? Why was it that when you wanted to study, your college-assigned roommate was always ready to party?
Moving out of your dorm and into an apartment of your own gives you the opportunity to either live alone or choose the people who live with you. And it affords you the privacy you need.
Want to binge-watch Netflix instead of studying? You can do that without anyone judging you. Want to have friends over without having to check them in with your Resident Assistant? This is your place. You approve who comes and goes.
Just like you get to determine who comes and goes, you get to determine what the rules are. If you are on your own, there won’t be any mandatory house or hall meetings called by your Resident Advisor.
There aren’t any stipulations about when you can have visitors or if you can light a candle in your bedroom. If you want to cook ramen at 3 a.m. even though you aren’t a very good cook, you may. You make the choices. Light that candle. Cook that ramen. (Just make sure you have a fire extinguisher close by.)
Moving off-campus and maintaining a home of your own gives you life experiences that you couldn’t get living in a dorm or Greek house. Things like paying the rent and utility bills on time are important life skills that you don’t experience living on campus as these expenses are rolled into the cost of dorm life.
An unexpected bonus of moving off-campus and keeping up with the rent and bills is that you will be building a positive credit history and score while you are enjoying the other benefits of your off-campus housing. And when you begin your post-collegiate career, that good credit report will help you more than you think.
I’m Convinced. Now What?
There seems to be so much to do when it comes to finding an off-campus house and it can get overwhelming. Here are some things to consider to help make the process easier.
How Much Can You Afford?
As much as you might love that apartment complex on the lake where all the professionals live, it might be out of your price range right now. Review the costs of moving in comparison to what’s in your bank account and then determine what in your area will meet your needs.
You might also consider moving off-campus with a roommate. Adding another person – or two – to your apartment will reduce your portion of the rent. Bonus tip: Pro-rate the rent for whoever takes the smaller bedroom.
Don’t Forget the Random Expenses
If you’ve always lived at home or in a dorm, there may be expenses involved in setting up a place of your own that you don’t expect.
There will be deposits for all of your utilities – water, electricity, garbage – and many apartment complexes will require deposits equal to the first and last month’s rent. If you plan to have a pet and the complex allows them, there will be an additional deposit for the pet.
Location, Location, Location
Now that you have reviewed what you can afford if you want a roommate (and who that will be), and you have a budget, you can begin looking for your perfect place.
Maybe that place by the lake really is right for you. But how far is it from campus? Do you have reliable transportation? Can you get to class or work without any problems? Is your dream apartment in a safe location? Do some research on the crime statistics in that area as well so you make sure that it isn’t just pretty, but safe as well.
Don’t Forget these Final Steps
You’ve got the place and the roommate, and you’re ready for the next adventure. Here are a few tips to make sure it turns into a fabulous experience and that your life doesn’t turn into the “Neighbors” trailer.
Know Your Rights
Get copies of all of your lease agreement information and keep it handy. If you have a roommate, make certain the two of you negotiated the terms of the lease and it meets your mutual understandings.
Be friendly with your landlord but understand you aren’t friends. If you have a verbal agreement about something regarding your living space, follow that discussion up with an email to document the agreement in writing.
Get Renter’s Insurance
If something happens to the building you’re living in and you don’t have Renter’s Insurance, you have no coverage for your possessions. It typically costs very little to obtain coverage for the possessions in your rental unit and it’s important. You wouldn’t want to have to buy an entirely new pool table, would you?
Make the Place Your Own
Are you a sci-fi geek? Do you own 100 shot glasses? What is your obsession? Put it on display. This is your time to find your own style and show it off. Embrace who you are and let your new space reflect that.
Moving off-campus can be an exciting new adventure with untold benefits when approached from the proper perspective. Follow these tips and you’ll be setting up your shot glass collection in your new space in no time.