For many college students, signing an apartment lease may be their first glimpse into the real adult world. I remember the first time someone asked me where I was planning to live the following year. It was around October, and all I thought was, oh, I have to do that now? Little did I know, the apartment building I ultimately signed a lease at would be sold in the next few weeks, and those following few weeks would be spent stressed, frustrated, and full of phone calls to my parents in tears. Now having finished all I needed to do to secure an apartment for next year, I’ve learned from my mistakes and I know it doesn’t have to be so stressful.
The most important aspect of apartment hunting is starting as soon as possible--preferably in the early fall (if you’re looking for an August-May lease). If you’re reading this and you’re already behind, you don’t have to worry too much. As long as you don’t wait until August, you will find a place to live. However, a lot of people are looking for the same types of apartments, and the apartments that hit everything on your list may not still be available.
The second most important aspect is setting your priorities. The list of apartments in your area may be overwhelming, but if you get a good idea of what you are looking for, you can eliminate options pretty quickly. The first thing you should factor in is budget. There’s probably not a good chance you can get financial aid from an off-campus apartment building, so it’s better to just immediately eliminate the options that might tempt you to break the bank.
Another important factor is distance. If you don’t have a car, you might want to live within walking distance of campus. Many apartments will offer shuttles, but in my opinion, they don’t work well for students who are very involved on campus. Having to head back home at 5 p.m. every day limits your participation in organizations and jobs. Knock out all of the apartments that are too much of a commute.
After you do this, your list of potential apartments should be more manageable. You can eliminate more based on the amenities you can’t live without. Maybe you just have to have a washer dryer unit in your apartment or you can’t live without access to a pool. When you’re through with this, your list will likely be pretty small. Now, it’s time to tour.
Schedule appointments to see your remaining apartments, and make sure you keep track of dates and times. While you are there, make sure you ask every question you can think of. After you visit all of them, you should start applying to your top few options. This can be a tricky process. In my experience, it was difficult to get good customer service from most of the apartment complexes. A lot of them are run by college students who are not actually in-the-know about how the process is working. It may be up to you to get your questions answered by being as persistent as possible until you reach someone who actually knows the answer. Remember that many apartment complexes near campus fill up no matter what, so they may not bother chasing you down to finish your application.
Happy apartment hunting! And remember, no matter where you end up, just a few hours spent on Pinterest can give you the inspiration to fix it up!