When you are trying to establish yourself as a student in a location far from home it can bring up a lot of feelings. Maybe you’re excited about the new experiences and freedom that being a college or university student can offer. Perhaps you are feeling some sadness at leaving home for the first time.
Heading away to college can be fun, but it might also be nerve-wracking, but knowing ahead of time that you have a great student housing options lined up may help calm some of your nerves. Deciding where to live might seem challenging, there are a lot of options. There are pros and cons to any housing option, but you need to decide for yourself what the best fit will be.
As you are figuring out where to live, you will want to keep an open mind in order to choose the best place. Try and look at the big picture. Below are 5 house hunting tips to keep in mind when you’re thinking about student or intern housing. These may help you narrow down your options and leave you with a great place to live.
1. Location and Safety
The very first thing to decide when choosing your student housing is where you want to live. Perhaps the size of your campus means that living in the dorms is the most convenient option. But if your classes are spread out over a larger area, living off-campus might be equally convenient. Plus apartments offer extra freedoms and amenities many dorms don’t provide.
Decide which neighborhoods in town are the safest. You can do this by checking police reports or even the National Sex Offender registry before you sign a lease. A clean report won’t guarantee your safety but it can certainly indicate whether you should anticipate a problem or you shouldn’t walk alone at night.
Especially if you are choosing an off-campus location you will need to decide how you will get to your classes. If you will have a vehicle, be sure to check whether parking is available or included in the rent. It may be worth paying a small fee to have a parking space or dedicated you at home so you don’t need to pay to park on campus.
If you don’t plan on driving to school, you will want to make sure your housing is near public transportation so you can easily get around town. Many towns offer student discounts on public transportation, some even have your student ID serve as a bus pass. Being able to make it to class and area stores to meet your needs should be your top consideration.
Look at the surroundings nearby and whether that suits your needs. If an apartment complex is located near a grocery store, or nightlife will that work for you? Perhaps you would prefer a more residential neighborhood. There is no right answer for everyone, you will have to decide what is important to you.
When you choose to live on campus, the dorms are typically staffed with security at night to help keep residents and the area safe. Many dorms have secure entries and limit the number of visitors at any one time. An off-campus apartment might not offer those same benefits but choosing to live off-campus is not necessarily unsafe.
Whether you choose a building with a secure entry or even find a staffed building with a doorman, your safety is important. Look for well-lit stairwells and whether larger buildings have security cameras throughout the property. Your safety might also depend on the unit if you prefer not living on the ground floor ask your manager if that is possible.
As you look around the facility on your tour you might want to ask the manager the last time the locks were changed or if you are allowed to request new locks when you take possession of the apartment. Making sure your unit has a deadbolt or chain lock can also help prevent unwanted visitors from entering in.
One of the upsides to dorm living is that the essential furniture items, like a bed and desk, are provided to you. Depending on how far away from home you will be attending school, having a fully furnished place to live might be a huge benefit.
Moving to a new town and then having to buy a mattress or cheap furniture might be a big hassle and an extra expense you’re not prepared for. Not to mention you will need to pay for delivery for the furniture or have a way to haul it yourself. Dorms or fully-furnished student housing options also let you skip building your furniture yourself.
You might pay a little more in rest for a fully furnished apartment but the convenience of not having to move furniture across the country or tracking down furniture might be worth it to you. Then again, you may prefer a mattress that no one else has slept on before. The choice is yours to make!
Also consider whether you will want to sell, store or move your furniture after you’ve graduated and will no longer be living in the area. If that seems like a big undertaking, renting an empty apartment is likely not the best choice for you at this time.
It’s important to know your needs as it pertains to your living space. Many dorms don’t have kitchens or if they do they are likely a communal kitchen available to a whole floor. If you opt for a meal plan this may not be a big deal to you, you may love having someone else doing your dishes, but if you love to cook or bake you may prefer an apartment.
A dorm room is rather compact so opting for an apartment will offer much more square footage. Not only will you have a kitchen and a living room but also a bathroom you don’t need to share, or at least only with your roommates and not an entire floor. If you are someone who will benefit from being able to spread out and study away from your bed, an apartment it for you!
If you are a pet owner that may also help you decide whether or not a living space is for you. Many dorms do not allow pets of any kind. Be sure to check with the rules and regulations of your housing choice to make sure you won’t incur any fines. You may need to provide the apartment manager with vaccinations records or an extra deposit prior to moving in.
Perhaps your apartment offers other amenities, for instance, a fitness center or a private basketball court to make them more appealing. While having a pool you can use may sound like a great idea as you’re looking, if you are going to be too busy studying to take advantage of amenities they may not be worth an extra fee.
Some dorms and student housing options come with an added benefit of a cleaning service, otherwise, when you are on your own it will be your responsibility to keep your living space clean and tidy. If you are not someone who enjoys cleaning you may prefer a housing option that will clean for you.
One other important factor to keep in mind is whether a dorm or apartment has air conditioning. In older buildings, they may not, so if you are not comfortable with heat and humidity you may want to look for another place to live or determine if you can have a window unit put in.
4. Roommates or No?
One big advantage living off-campus has is that you are in complete control of who you are going to be living with. You can also choose to not share your space at all if that is a better fit for your personality. But living along also leaves you solely responsible for the rent and cleaning.
Also, while you can choose your roommate in an apartment you cannot choose your neighbors. There’s no guarantee that you will get along with them or they will be considerate. Clomping around and noisy music may irritate you. While in a dorm there are probably quiet hour rules in place, an apartment doesn’t offer that option.
Being in control of your roommate can be useful and offer you a chance to determine the house rules on your own and not the rules a dorm has in place already. Whether or not you opt to go with a randomly assigned roommate or someone you’ve known for years it can be an adjustment when you begin living with someone new.
Remember after you’ve signed a lease it can be expensive to break that contract so choose your living mates carefully. Or opt for a short term lease option if you feel that might be the better choice for you or if you are set to graduate soon and want the chance to move on easily.
5. Good Maintenance
Students are notoriously rough on their housing. From crowded parties to not caring so much who is going to clean up there is a real risk of damaging your accommodations. Ask about a damage deposit prior to moving in and be advised of the checklist you will follow when you move out.
Because dormitories are used to the regular turn over they may not care as much about posters being hung on walls or stains on the carpeting. But you want to be certain that wherever you live is well maintained. If you see visible mold or mildew while you are touring, that can be a safe indicator that you should keep searching elsewhere.
It’s important as a student to know who to contact in case you encounter a problem. If the heat goes out in the middle of the night or a window breaks, having the knowledge and phone number of who to call before a problem occurs will be helpful for your time living on your own.
Finding excellent student housing might take a while but since it’s the place where you will live it’s worth taking some time to find the perfect option for you. No matter where you decide there will probably be some things you love about your new home and some things you’d like to change. That’s okay!
As long as you’ve taken into consideration your safety, the location of your new home, how it will be furnished and how it will be maintained in your decision you will definitely find the right place. Move-in day will be there before you know it, so focus on the positives and enjoy your new home and time as a student.