Guest Blog Contest entry by Emily Weber
During my freshman year, I was a part of the honors program at my school. This meant that I was required to live in the honors residence hall, which would have been fun except for the fact that it was one of the few buildings left that hadn’t been torn down and remodeled into modern, comfy suites.
Sure, the “sense of community” was more alive in my building than in the suites, but sometimes “community” meant having to listen to the people next door playing Dungeons & Dragons until 3 a.m.
So a couple of girls in my hallway and I decided to move off-campus sophomore year. We figured a house or an apartment would be roomier, quieter, and (hopefully) cheaper than living in the run-down residence hall. For the most part, the apartment experience has lived up to our hopes. I just wish I had known about a few other things…
1. Dealing with the electric company is a nightmare. Yes, the first time I called the local electric company office to request service, I felt very responsible and grown-up. But the 2,000 times after that weren’t so fun. During the first month I lived in my apartment, I had to wait for hours on hold only to be transferred from department to department because bills were being mailed to the wrong place or I was locked out of my online bill-pay account.
Tip: If your rental office/landlord will handle utilities for you, it’s worth a little extra money. Really.
2. In an apartment, you can hear your neighbors just as much as you can in a residence hall. In fact, because everyone else in my building seems to live under the impression that this isn’t true, I sometimes hear them even more than I did in the residence hall. Blaring music, amps, video games…you name it, I can hear it.
Tip: If you’re a light sleeper, invest in some noise-canceling headphones.
3. The rental office is usually good about maintenance requests. However, if they fail to fix something the first time (like a front doorknob that devours your key in its jaws without opening the door), they’re slower about coming back to fix the same thing again. Also, there are a few things that aren’t their responsibility to fix (clogged toilets, for example).
Tip: Invest in a good toolbox and a person who knows how to use the stuff inside. Better yet, learn it yourself!
4. What you save in rent, you often make up for with other fees. Not every rental office is like mine, of course, but I have to pay $2.00 for every bag of trash I leave for the trash company. I have to dig quarters out of pockets and sofas to use the laundromat across the street. I have to pay fees if utility bills are sent to the rental office or if there’s trash around my door. It seems like I have more checks to write than I did last year, and this is supposed to be the “cheaper” housing arrangement.
Tip: Read through your lease carefully before you sign it, and remember the fees it lists. You’ll probably end up paying some.
5. You may have the coolest house or apartment in town, but if you’re far from campus, nobody will want to come to your place. My apartment is a 10-minute walk from my old residence hall (it’s still about two yards from the edge of campus, though). But if it’s cold or raining, nobody wants to trudge all the way to my place. This is obviously different for each campus, but I’ve found that people in my town like to stay close to their residence hall, unless there’s a good reason to go for a long(ish) walk. So I hang out in my old building almost as much as I did when I was a resident there!
Tip: Throw a party or invite your friends over at the beginning of the year so everybody knows where you live. Offer to walk with people back to your place if you’re on campus so they don’t have to walk alone, especially at night.
All in all, though, living off-campus is worth it. I have my own bedroom and bathroom, a decent kitchen, and a fridge bigger than a recycling bin. Just be sure you know what you’re getting into before you sign on the dotted line.