Are you starting to get excited about that great off-campus apartment you’ll be moving into in a few weeks? If you have decided to move off-campus, here are four important things to understand about your new living situation.
1. Monthly Rent Payments vs. Semester Dorm Fees
Renting an off-campus apartment or a roommate share is often cheaper than the price of a dorm room, and the rent is paid monthly, rather than as a lump sum in the beginning of the semester. You need to become a good enough money manager so that you will have that rent money ready and available on the first of each month. In addition, when you balance the dorm vs. apartment cost equation, do not forget that dorm price is all inclusive. If you love to crank your air conditioning really cold, and take long hot showers, the dorm is great because you don’t have to worry about running up your utility costs. In your apartment, the meter starts running as soon as you turn the lights on. For a full dorm vs. rental cost comparison talk to friends who have apartments and ask what their monthly utilities are. Luckily, you’ll probably split the bills with your roommates, so the costs may not be that high.
2. Campus Security vs. Apartment Security
With campus security, residential advisors, and passcodes or keys required to enter, dorm life is often viewed as more secure than apartment living. If you have overly concerned parents constantly worrying about your safety, then they might sleep better knowing you have your college campus looking out for you. However, there are some home security products that could be installed in your off-campus apartment to make it more secure, and some college towns have apartments in gated communities with secured parking and passcodes to enter the buildings. So depending on the apartment you choose, you could have equal or even better security than a dorm could offer you.
For more information about securing your apartment read Apartment Security 101 for the First Time Renter.
3. Dorm Furniture vs. Apartment Furniture
We all know what dorm furniture is like; an extra-long twin bed that comes with a beaten-up mattress, a dresser and a desk. An off-campus apartment comes with no furniture and you need to build in your budget at least some money for the basics. Buying furniture does not have to be expensive; you can find great deals at thrift stores, yard sales, estate sales and from friends and family looking to get rid of their stuff. However, you do need to build in your back-to-the-campus schedule time to get that furniture and figure out how to transport it to your apartment. Remember, your apartment doesn’t have to look like a page out of a catalog. If you enjoy decorating, then an apartment gives you the freedom to experiment. If decorating is not one of your passions, you can check out furniture rental companies like Cort.com that offer special packages for students. You can always put your own spin on your place by adding inexpensive accessories. Your off-campus apartment will give you your first chance to create a space that feels truly unique to you and shows your personality.
4. Restrictions vs. Freedom
The security elements of dorm life are also there to regulate campus rules. They require you to follow quiet hours, restrict the number of people you have in your room, limit overnight guests and tone down partying.
In an apartment, the freedom is yours. You can have as many people, of any gender, in your home and have the freedom to do as you please. However, with freedom comes responsibility. Just because you live in an apartment doesn’t mean you are free from being respectful. Noise complaints from neighbors could involve reprimands from your landlord or even the police. You are also responsible for any damage in your apartment.
For many, a key advantage of an apartment is that it allows you the freedom to choose your roommates, rather than being assigned one. Some people have made lasting friendships with their dorm mates, but surely you have heard some horror stories. Living with a friend can be great fun, and much more comfortable than an assigned match. Just keep in mind that finding a roommate that is right for you is as important as finding an apartment that is right for you. You won’t have anyone to mediate if things get rocky, so get key conflict areas talked over right at the start.
Parts of this post were originally published in July 2013.