College is full of firsts, including your first time on your own, possibly your first job or internship, and your first roommates and apartment.
The cumulative impact of so many milestones can be a little overwhelming — especially when you’re in the middle of apartment hunting and nothing seems to be working out — but there are plenty of tools to help you make that next step.
Obviously, it won’t help to be too choosy if you need to find a place by a certain time and you’re constrained to a particular budget, but there are still some things you’ll want to think about before you commit to a place.
Think about transportation: Is this room or apartment near a bus stop, or does it have a place to park your car without your constantly having to worry about getting parking tickets (a common occurrence if you’re going to be living in the city)?
Also, you should do a little work to determine if the neighborhood is safe, and think about everyday life there: Is there a grocery store nearby? What’s the nightlife like and what else is there to do in that neighborhood? How far are you from work, school, and friends?.
The sooner you can start searching, the more likely you’ll be able to find a good place you can afford and you won’t have to settle for something less than ideal.
In the end, life is all about adapting and finding the silver lining in every situation. Just about everyone lives in at least one run-down or too-small apartment at some point in his or her life. You shouldn’t have to sacrifice your personal safety and mental health to save a few bucks on rent each month, but it’s also important to remember that you aren’t stuck in a place for your entire life.
As you meet new people and move forward in your education and career you’ll have more opportunities to improve your living situation.
Consider the following five essentials when you start looking for an apartment.
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1. Social media
Finding the right apartment, just like finding a suitable job, often depends on knowing the right people and having an in. As a college student, you almost certainly need to split the cost of rent among roommates. Living with roommates is typically a fact of life that almost everyone has to accept and make the best of.
If you can, it’s usually better to know your roommates ahead of time. Your college’s and class’s Facebook groups are great places to connect with other students and let people know you’re looking for a place. You should also check bulletin boards around the campus because people will often post flyers when they’re looking for a roommate.
2. Ask someone at your school for help
You’re probably paying thousands of dollars to attend your school, so you might as well get as much out of it as you can. There’s bound to be someone on campus whose job it is to help students find employment and housing, and since you’re basically paying them anyway, take advantage of their help.
Someone in housing should know some of the realtors and landlords who have rented to students in the past, and they can put you in contact with them. If you’re worried about paying rent, it’s also a good idea to go into the student financial office and see what kind of tips or loan options the people there can give you.
Craigslist is a great resource for finding up-to-date rentals and listings. You get to talk to someone immediately and directly, and it’s usually your best bet if you’re just looking for a single room rather than a completely empty apartment.
Just be sure to stay safe and avoid Craigslist scams. When you’re going to check out an apartment that you found on there, don’t go alone and tell people where you’re going, who you’re seeing, who’s going with you, and when you’re going to be done. This is a good practice when you’re visiting any apartment, whether or not you found out about it online.
Craigslist transactions are largely honest and safe, but it’s always better to go about it with caution just to be sure.
4. The tried and true ways
Even in the digital age, it can still help to open up a local newspaper and check out the classified ads. Most likely, you won’t find the perfect apartment for the right price in the first place you look.
The paper is a good resource, but the best plan of action is to follow this more traditional method of apartment hunting and search online as well. It might take some time, and you’ll have to apply for a few before one actually works out, but don’t give up trying and keep looking in new places.
5. Rental listing websites
There are a number of websites which, unlike Craigslist or the classified ads in the paper, are completely dedicated to helping people rent apartments. Use them to search listings by location and price.
It helps to look at a few of these websites, since there isn’t one with every single listing and there could be a lot of competition for a particular apartment. Pay attention to the list date so that you don’t waste time replying to old, outdated listings.
When you’re on the hunt for an apartment, it’s also good to remember that you don’t have to do it alone. A lot of other students are in the same situation you are, and every college campus has resources and staff around to help you.
Whether you’re looking for an apartment, a new roommate, or even something else like a job, don’t hesitate to ask for help, talk to people, and use more than one tool to get the job done.