Life After the Dorms: 5 Tips for Finding the Perfect Apartment

This is it. Dorm room keys and your last box of macaroni and cheese in hand, you stare into the empty abyss you used to call “home” your freshman year. Memories of your first year of college will always be with you, but it’s time to move on — such as where you will live next year.

Looking for a place to live after your freshman year can be stressful, but once you’re settled into your new place, you’ll be ready to take on your next year of college. Here are a few things to keep in mind while looking for a place outside of the dorms.

Consider living on campus again

If your college has on-campus housing for sophomores and upperclassmen, explore the idea. Maybe you’re not ready to be completely on your own with all of the added responsibility that comes with renting off campus.

On-campus housing gets you out of the dorms but allows you stay in the center of campus life. On-campus apartments often already come furnished, saving you the money you would have spent on that new couch, bed or dresser. The on-campus apartments offered on my college campus come with maid service (included in your rent) that cleans the bathrooms, floors and kitchen counters. Ultimately, it can be more convenient than living off campus, especially if you don’t have a car to drive you to and from school.

Proximity to campus

If you’re set on living off campus (like I was after my freshman year), make sure to take into account how far or close you want to be from campus.

If you don’t have a car or bike to get to school, and it’s too far to walk, living close by might not be a bad idea. Some cities even offer free bus rides to students which comes in handy. But on those mornings when you find yourself running late for your 8 a.m. English class, taking the bus probably won’t be your first choice given that bus times aren’t always the most reliable. If you’ll be walking to campus, take the weather into consideration. Do you really want to walk that far in the rain, snow or scorching heat? Probably not.

Apartment vs. house

Renting an apartment or house after freshman year is popular among college students. Make sure to keep the following in mind when apartment or house hunting.

  • Houses are bigger than apartments. While this may seem obvious, it also means more to clean, a larger rent and higher utilities.
  • Now that you’re out of the dorms, you’re going to be paying for utilities that often include water, sewer, garbage, gas and electricity.
  • Landlords often require a cleaning deposit. Make sure you can pay that amount upfront in addition to your first month’s rent. Also, remember to leave your apartment or house clean when you go to move out so you can be sure to get your deposit back.
  • Check your future home for the essentials: a refrigerator, microwave, oven, etc. If your apartment or house doesn’t come equipped with all of these, be prepared to fork over some cash to purchase these appliances on your own.
  • Don’t forget that you’ll need an internet connection. Of course, wifi is the best option. Find a company that serves in your area and is the biggest bang for your buck.
  • Can’t go without watching your favorite television show? Cable is something else to consider. Since many television shows can now be streamed online, I often resort to that. Unless you’re big on watching hours and hours of television, I would recommend getting a basic cable package.
Subletting in the summer

If you signed a year-long lease and you’re not planning on staying over the summer, make sure you make arrangements as far as either paying rent for those months you’re not there or getting a summer sub-letter (if your landlord allows it).

If you do decide to sublet, figure out if you want to rent to a friend or not. Sometimes it’s a good idea to know the person you’re renting too, but it also might put a strain on your friendship. Either way, have your bases covered when it comes to subletting and get the word out as soon as possible that you’re looking for a sub-letter.

Last year I contacted many friends and asked if they knew of anyone looking for a place to stay over the summer. Just when I thought all hope was lost, my roommate had a friend who knew someone looking for a place. If you’re set on getting a sub-letter, definitely make sure to look for one as soon as possible.

Picking your roommates

By the time you start looking for a place to live after the dorms, chances are you’ve already found your future roommates. In the small case you haven’t, living with people who share some basic interests as you can be beneficial so as to avoid conflict in the future.

Toward the end of my freshman year, I stressed about finding a place to live as a sophomore. Just a month before the summer before my sophomore year, everything seemed to fall into place. I currently live with five other girls in a large house close to campus. I lived in the same house my sophomore year — though, with a couple different girls. While it may seem daunting and a bit of a hassle to find that perfect place, it will all be worth it when you finally get to call your new house a home.

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Kassi Luja

Kassi Luja

Kassi Luja is a junior at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo pursuing a degree in journalism with a concentration in news-editorial. At school, she can often be found in the Mustang Daily newsroom where she works as a copy editor. Outside of school, she enjoys reading, listening to music and spending time with family and friends.
Kassi Luja

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