Going off to college is one of the major milestones in every young adult’s life. It is the time where you get to experience what being an independent individual is really like. Especially nowadays that it has become more common for students to move to a different city, or a different country altogether, that is miles away from your family and the house you grew up in. As thrilling as the experience might be, most people find it rather stressful.
Not only do you have to find a place to live, but you also have to feed yourself, do your laundry, and budget, whatever money you have to last you until your parents send you the next check or you find a part-time job. Being hit with the realities of adulthood can be shocking at first, however, you need to think of it as the beginning of the next phase of your life. The process of finding accommodation alone can teach you some great life lessons. Many details go into deciding how to choose your new “home” for the next four years or longer. It is not just about saving money, you would also have to be more thorough in your search for housing to make the right decision.
Many students prefer to live on-campus just because it is more accessible and believed to be safer. Unfortunately, you won’t always have the choice since you will usually find on-campus dorms to be fully occupied or have an endless waiting list. Looking for an off-campus dorm can be daunting, but with some helpful tips, you will be able to be done with it in no time. Use the below guide to find out what you should and shouldn’t do when choosing an off-campus dorm.
Do: Research the Neighborhood You are Considering
When you have limited funds, you might be tempted to go with the cheapest place you find, regardless of how sketchy the neighborhood looks. You will even convince yourself that because it is so different from the place you grew up in, it will be a “thrilling” adventure which is what college is all about, right? Wrong! If you think about it, there must be at least some truth to the plethora of terrifying movies about horrible accidents taking place in student dorms. Part of being a responsible adult is taking care of yourself and not going through with every whimsical idea that crosses your mind, no matter how much your friends are trying to talk you into it.
Be smart and do some research online, look for articles mentioning the neighborhood you are targeting, and then take a walk around and meet some of your neighbors-to-be. Also, make sure that the place you pick is close enough to campus since you will have days where you have a few minutes to make it to your midterms. When you thoroughly research your house location, you can be much more confident about the decision you make and have the peace of mind you need to focus on your studies. Moreover, if you are not going to do it for yourself, at least do it for your parents so they do not stay up all night worrying about you.
Don’t: Miss Out on Getting to Know Your Potential Roommates
Living off-campus will probably mean that you can end up with random roommates who might not be going to the same school as you. One of the best things about having your own living space is having somewhere you can relax and hang out after a long day of classes; however, this does not mean that you get to act like your roommate(s) does not exist. It is not easy to live with strangers and have them around all the time, but that is exactly why you should try and get to know the person/people you are going to live with.
There will be some tough days where you get homesick and feel like you could use a friendly conversation over a late-night pizza just like you used to do with your siblings back home. True, you might not end up being best friends with your roommate after all, however, finding like-minded people can completely alter your cohabitation dynamics. Drop your usual shy nature and ask important questions to get to know your potential roommate more. Ask about their lifestyle, when they prefer to study, or if they stay up late and host frequent parties.
You should also check to see the cleaning system they are willing to commit to so you can decide if it is going to work for you or not. Learning about your roommate can either encourage you to go ahead and sign the lease or send you running the other way. So do not underestimate the importance of finding a roommate(s) that you can easily get along with and trust.
Do: Think Thoroughly About the Price
When it comes to student housing, price is one of the most common deal-breakers. Understandably, you will want to find a place that is somehow of the same standard you have been used to your whole life. However, this way of thinking is not practical. When living on a student budget, you will need to forgo the idea of a comfy bed and memory foam mattress and start to be more realistic. Even if you firmly believe that you can afford a place right now, think ahead into the future when you have to stick to paying monthly rent year-round for the duration of your studies.
Unlike living on-campus, you will have to factor in electricity, heating, water and internet expenses, etc. So your monthly costs can add up rather quickly. If you are considering student lodging in Idaho, the folks over at Sunrisevillageapts.com reveal that you must try to choose an off-campus dorm that does not compromise quality for less rent. This is because most affordable off-campus options offer a lower rent price. After all, they lack quality facilities and adequate cleanliness. Of course, you can always move out if money gets tight, but moving places is a hassle that you can avoid by picking the right apartment in the first place.
You will need to put what you learn in your accounting class to practice and construct a budget to account for all of your monthly expenses based on your income. Once you do that, it will be clear how much you can set aside for monthly rent, and then you can make the right decision. Do not be afraid to negotiate with the landlord and try to lower the asking price; it is prevalent for students on a budget to try and work out special deals. If anything, you will have some great practice in the art of negotiation, which will come in handy later on in life.
Don’t: Forget to Factor In Amenities
We have already established that you have to toughen up a little bit when moving away to go to college and let go of some of the luxuries that you are used to at home, however, this does not mean that you have to pick a deserted location without any access to nearby amenities. Convenient living conditions will make your life easier, so do make sure that you have access to a grocery store, a pharmacy, a hospital in case of emergencies, and even a park or some green space to enjoy some leisurely walks.
Moreover, don’t forget about a laundromat. Now that you will be doing your own laundry; you will be surprised at how often you will need to make a trip down there. Also, if you do not have a car, you will have to confirm that there are reliable transportation options available for your daily commute to campus. Most neighborhoods that offer student housing will probably have access to these common amenities, but you might get too excited about an apartment that you forget to check out these basic requirements.
Do: Save Up on Furniture and Appliances
Living in a dorm is not the same as living in your own house, it is meant to be temporary. There is no point in going all out and seeking brand new furniture and top-notch home appliances; instead, try to look for a decent second-hand and heavily discounted items. You can find some real gems that sellers want to get rid of because they are moving out or have upgraded on Facebook groups or eBay.
Unless you are shopping for pieces that can pose a hygiene hazard like pillows and bedding in general, you will find that it is more cost-efficient to look for used items. Think of it as part of the experience to live in a more minimalistic and humble way so you can learn how to appreciate the finer things in life that you worked hard for after you graduate.
Don’t: Underestimate the Importance of Renter’s Insurance
Just because you believe that your belongings are not that valuable, is not enough of a reason to skip the renter’s insurance. The monthly installment will be well worth it if it means your laptop, TV, and other items are protected against theft and damage. Check with your parents first as some of your personal property might be insured under their own coverage plan so you can save up some money on features that you won’t be needing.
Having renter’s insurance will also be very useful if you were held responsible for any damages in your rented apartment. You will find it much more cost-efficient than having to pay out of pocket to fix or replace any household items. Research local insurance agencies and meet up with an experienced agent to answer any questions that you have about your options. Do not sign or commit to anything unless you are sure that you are well aware of all the insurance plan conditions, and that you have found a well-priced one that you can comfortably afford while committing to the rent of the place you chose.
Do: Choose a Neutral Place
Do not get a place that has a very specific taste that can hardly appeal to the majority of people. You have to bear in mind that you may need to sublet the place during summer vacation and any time when you will be away for an extended period. You can benefit from the few months’ rent break and use the money to finance your beach getaway with your best friends. Your fellow students will be doing the same thing, so unless you want to make your job even harder, keep this in mind early on when you are still apartment-hunting.
Try to look for an agreeable location or a place with a neutral design to save time and effort when you are looking for subletters. If you can afford it, aim for a location that is close to popular city sights since subletters during the summertime are most likely to be tourists who will appreciate your perfect location.
Don’t: Stress About It
Finding a place to live is difficult, and doing it for the first time alone and away from home makes it that much harder. However, you do not have to stress about it, instead, embrace the experience and try to enjoy every minute of your new life. Remind yourself that you are not alone in this; all your colleagues are going through the same challenges, as did your older siblings and your parents before them.
Think of how lucky you are to be doing it at a time when information, guides, and lists are accessible at the palm of your hands. You get to read reviews about potential landlords and compare prices of different places from the comfort of your home long before you move. Getting acquainted with the city you are moving to and preparing ahead of time can make the process of choosing an off-campus dorm less stressful than it might seem to be.
Whether or not you are looking for an off-campus dorm by choice, consider the above points before making up your mind. You have to keep an open mind about it and allow yourself the time you need to reach the right decision. Seek advice from senior students on campus and ask them to give you some insider tips. With all this in mind, your quest for finding the perfect off-campus dorm will be successful.