Transitioning from a college dorm to an apartment may seem easy, especially if you’ve been lucky enough to enjoy suite-style living, but there are plenty of hurdles (and costs!) along the way.
First, and most importantly, you need learn to budget for the rent money. Dorms typically charge by the semester, so you’re pre-paid for at least a few months. Apartments, on the other hand, collect rent monthly, meaning that you have to be on top of your bills, and your roommates’ (to avoid late fees, and eviction). In a dorm, if a roommate doesn’t pay, she won’t be assigned a room. However, once someone is on a lease, every member of the lease is expected to pay the full rent. If one roommate doesn’t pay, you won’t be off the hook, and can end up in a pretty rough situation if a portion of the rent isn’t paid.
In an apartment, there’s no RA. This may be obvious, but when conflicts arise, you can’t run down the hall to ask an authority figure to fix them. You’ll be responsible to create and follow your own house rules, and if they’re broken, find a way to deal with the situation accordingly. Do you have a no smoking rule but your roomie won’t stop lighting up? No one is going to yell at her, write her up, or take an disciplinary action, you have to solve this between yourselves, which is often more difficult than it sounds.
Similarly, when you’re locked out or something breaks, there’s not always an easy solution. Perhaps the super doesn’t live on site, or he’s off for the weekend. You’re expected to be a responsible renter in an apartment, and while dorm managers may have been on your side, private apartment staff often is not. If you can, leave an extra key with a neighbor or a close by friend, just to make sure you’re not homeless for a night.
Most dorms have a cleaning crew for at least shared areas, whereas apartment hallways and mailrooms are often the only places a cleaning crew touches. Living in an apartment for the first time often means cleaning a toilet for the first time, or splitting unpleasant chores, like unclogging the sink. Independence can be less than glamorous! In my first apartment, my roommates and I split a Groupon for a cleaning service. Yes, it was indulgent, but the cost wasn’t too high and it helped alleviate tension regarding shower mold removal.
Overall, living in an apartments awards a more independent and adult lifestyle than a dorm, but unexpected challenges and changes will arise within the first few months of your apartment living. Especially if you’re still a student, the limbo between apartment life, a student budget (no set salary!), and negotiating class schedules with dish duty can get tricky. Just expect some of the rougher waters ahead and you’ll enjoy your apartment life to the fullest!