Tips for College Students Searching for Their First Apartment

As the summer nears its end, many freshman college students and their parents will soon undergo a rite of passage everyone makes at one point in their life—moving away from home.

This can be a challenging time for students and parents alike. Freshman students probably have never before had the type of freedom they will experience once they go off to college. Living on your own also means that you have to cook for yourself, make sure you attend classes and study, have (relatively) clean clothes to wear every day and meet a whole new set of people. 

Some students will live in on-campus residence halls while others may choose to live in an apartment off campus. Many universities require first-year students to live on campus to make the transition easier, but not all universities have that requirement.

Steve Crawford, American Campus Communities senior vice president of management services, offers the following tips for students who choose to live off campus either as freshmen or later in their college careers: 

  1. Find a property that is close to campus. That’s especially important for freshman students, who are still finding their way.
  2. Choose a student housing property, which offers programs tailored for college students instead of just a “box” in which to live.
  3. Ask how the model apartment you are shown differs from the one you will rent.
  4. Take a left-turn on the property tour to make sure the rest of the property is not significantly different from the parts shown to you by the leasing consultant.
  5. Drive around the property and visit it at night. You want to make sure it is the type of environment in which you will feel comfortable living.
  6. Read the lease because it is a binding document and represents a long-term commitment.
  7. Ask what is included in your monthly rent (e.g. cable, utilities, etc.) and make sure to plan for any costs that are not included.
  8. Create a budget that includes rent, books, tuition, food, transportation (e.g. bus pass, parking tag), as well as one that tracks how you will spend your time. Allow time for traveling to campus, attending classes, studying, etc.
  9. Make the trip to campus from the property to see how much time the trip takes and whether you can walk/bike to campus or need to drive or take the bus.

Once students do sign a lease and move in to their apartment, Crawford said, they should look for ways to become engaged with the campus and with other students. On campus and off-campus student housing properties typically offer residence life programs that are designed to provide opportunities for students to get involved with the university and to make new friends.

Developing those early connections to the campus community is critical, he said. Students who don’t make those connections often feel adrift and are more likely to drop out.

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Categories: College, College Career Advice