Archive for the 'Housing' Category
When it comes to the task of finding where to live during the next school year, many students can become overwhelmed at the prospects. After all, it’s a huge decision, and in many ways can make or break a school year (socially speaking). I’ve known people who lived in pretty awful apartments and houses because they didn’t do the research or take the time to decide what the best course to take was. As a result, their years ended up being significantly less-enjoyable than they had hoped for. However, we here at College and Finance have come up with 10 Commandments for persons looking for housing in an effort to help more students avoid the fate of the terrible living arrangement.
1. Thou shalt do thy research – Research is the most important thing that goes into any housing decision. Simply researching where the place is on campus and what bars are closest is not nearly good enough. You should be investigating how much payments will be, when they will be due, what bills you will be responsible for, and so on. Research multiple places to give yourself an idea of a fair price, and to give yourself back-up plans. Too many people get their heart set on the first place they see and may end up paying a significant amount more than what is generally considered fair.
2. Thou shalt not forget to discuss roommate situations – There are a variety of roommate scenarios one can have. Some people share bedrooms, while other’s just share living spaces. You can have anywhere from one to eight or more roommates/housemates. It’s important to know what the roommate situation will be before you decide on a house or apartment. If nothing else, it is important for determining the price that each person will have to pay monthly. Additionally, it’s good for getting an idea about the situation (will it be a good or bad living situation, what challenges might you face, etc). I’d recommend shying away from living with any person you hate, or any person which could make situations difficult (IE, living with a boyfriend or girlfriend in college is a huge gamble; what if you break up? Trust me, I’ve seen it happen multiple times, it never ends well). Learning who you’re going to be living with is just as important as knowing where it will be.
3. Thou shalt know the difference between renting and leasing– This is a basic thing that many, many people get confused about. The difference between renting and leasing is a huge one. A lease is signed for a set amount of time. For college students, leases generally run a full year (some students may run into issues during holidays and summers, so consider if you want to pay for a place you won’t be living in). There is a fixed monthly amount that must be paid, and it cannot be changed for the duration of the lease. Renting is on a month to month basis. While it provides more flexibility, the amount paid is often subject to change. That being said, the landlord could all of a sudden decide to charge a significant amount more the next month, which could leave some college students in a difficult housing situation. From my experience, many landlords will utilize lease contracts because the student feels more secure, and there is a more guaranteed source of money (from the landlord’s perspective).
4. Thou shalt understand internet and cable bills – Living in the dorms is great because you pay all your money to one source and don’t have to worry about a variety of companies. Alas, with renting a house or apartment, you may not have such luxuries. Landlords may take care of everything from electric to water in the rental fees, but you may still get stuck with an internet and cable bill. Research the companies that are available in the area, and stay on top of the bill itself. Don’t get behind, because there’s nothing worse than a college student without internet.
5. Thou shalt pick a place not too far from class – Location is paramount in many living situations. After all, you have to know how long it will take you to get to class in the morning. Knowing what alternate means of transportation are available is also quite useful. For example, if it is between two places and one is slightly cheaper, but requires a bus ride, while the other is more expensive, but within walking distance from class then you may want to take time to consider the options. If the amount of time it takes to get to class walking from the one place is the same as taking a bus from the other (and it’s a university bus or free for some other reason), then it might be smart to go for the cheaper place.
6. Thou shalt not pay for rent when you are living at home – I mentioned this before, but it is something that too many students overlook. Depending on the terms of your lease, there may be considerable overlap of you owing money to your landlord, while not even being in school. One of the best ways to combat this is to start early looking for someone to sub-lease your apartment/house to over the months you won’t be there (typically the summer months). The worst thing you can do is put it off, because then you’ll be stuck scrambling at the end of the school year trying to find someone to live in your apartment so you aren’t simply wasting money.
7. Thou shalt keep a variety of options open – Research should yield results, which would leave you with a wide variety of options. Having options is always a good thing. You never know when things may change, and a place that was originally a second choice becomes a number one. Options can also provide leverage if negotiating rent is a possibility. If you find two places in very similar condition, and one is just slightly more desirable than another, but the prices have a huge difference, you can use your knowledge to get a better price.
8. Thou shalt start hunting early, instead of late – I touched on this previously, but if you want to get your dream residence, you’d better start early. I can’t even begin to describe the amount of people who have gotten stuck in bad living situations because of laziness or fickleness. Researching and visiting places early can give you quite the edge over persons who aren’t as diligent. By starting early, you get a wider selection, more parity in pricing, and longer to consider the possibilities.
9. Thou shalt not leave the apartment/house dirty or damaged when moving out – College students like to have parties, and generally aren’t the best when it comes to cleaning (well, from my experience, guys are significantly worse about cleaning than girls). Once you move into your house or apartment, do the very best you can to keep it exactly the way you left it. Too many students think they can get away with leaving things damaged or broken. Depending on the landlord (and to a degree how much they like you or despise you), it can become quite costly. The same goes for cleaning up when you move out. Terms of leases differ, but a vast majority require a certain standard of cleanliness in order to move out. I’ve heard stories of people failing to clean their apartments and later getting charged for it. Don’t let yourself become one of those stories.
10. Thou shalt learn from mistakes – Housing hunting is certainly challenging. However, I feel it is a very important part of college life. The whole idea about college is that it’s the last step before getting ready for the “real world.” In the real world, you have to deal with real estate issues. Think of housing hunting as college real estate. It’s not as big a commitment as investing in international real estate, but it’s still a pretty big investment. After all, you’re going to have to live in the place for the next academic year, you might as well like the place, like the people you’re living with (if any), and still have enough money left over that you can eat and maybe even go out once in a while.
July 08 2008 | College Advice and Housing | 1 Comment »
I was doing some research for another article when I came across a post on eyeRmonkey called 9 Survival Tips for College Freshman. It’s full of great advice for any first year student. I’ve decided to expand on those points and add some of my own insight.
1. The first week defines the rest of the year – When it comes to dorm/hall dynamics, this is probably true. I wonder encourage any freshman to try to follow the advice in the article: talk to as many people as possible, and try to do things as a group. The fact is, though, that not everyone has the personality type that lends itself to this kind of behavior. And that’s fine. If that’s not really your style, don’t worry. You’re not going to ruin your freshman year by being a little shy during the first week. Plenty of more-reserved people go off to college and have a great time.
So, if you can follow the advice in the article, go ahead and do it. If that’s not you, it’s not a big deal.
Most importantly, keep in mind that the first week really doesn’t define the year. Plenty of students are scared and sad (and shocked) during the first week of school. By the third week, they’re having a great time.
2. Organize Study Groups – Study groups can be very helpful, if you really take advantage of them and work productively. I’ve found them especially helpful in showing me what I still need to learn for tests, papers, and assignments. There should be a caveat with this tip, however. A lot of people, including myself, do not work productively in groups. We use study groups to procrastinate with our friends instead of doing our work. It’s fun, but it’s not the best idea when you have a big test or paper.
3. Study for Tests – This should be obvious. If you’re not studying for any of your tests, what are you doing in college?
I would like to add that it’s very helpful to start studying early for your tests. In fact, you’ll retain a lot more information if you review your notes each day after class and take some time at the end of each week to go over what you learned. When test time comes around, this helpful tip is going to save you a lot of time and a lot of stress.
4. Get Involved – This is essential. Getting involved in something—anything, really—will definitely increase the quality of your college experience and ease the transition into college life. The easiest way to get involved is to do something you already enjoy or are passionate about. If you love sports, join an intramural team (or even two). If you’re passionate about conservation or the environment, join a group that advocates recycling or environmental protection. Even at a small school, there will probably be a group for whatever you want to do. And if there isn’t one, start it.
5. Always Check Your Work – This is an easy and important way to improve the quality of your work AND boost your GPA. You should be doing this on all your assignments: quizzes, tests, papers, research, etc. I should add that this is especially important for writing-intensive courses, where an error-free paper can inspire confidence in your work in the mind of the professor. This confidence can mean the difference between an A and a B at the end of the term. On the other hand, a few typographical errors or missed words can distract from an otherwise solid piece of writing.
It may help to have a friend, classmate, or faculty mentor read over your work before you turn it in. Sometimes a fresh set of eyes can make a huge difference. It also helps to give yourself some time (a matter of days, if possible) between when you finish a draft and when you read over it again. You’ll have more patience for the process, and you’ll be able to catch errors that you would’ve missed before when the work was so fresh in your mind.
6. If you don’t like your roommate, switch – Agreed. If you don’t like your roommate, you are just going to be suffering every time you go back to the place that is your “home” on campus. It’s not worth it just to avoid appearing rude. Make the switch.
7. Go to sporting events – Like most things in life, you get out of sporting events what you put in. So grab a friend and bring along all the enthusiasm you can comfortably muster. You may be surprised at what a good time you can have. (Trust me, I know from very recent personal experience.) If your friends don’t want to go, offer to buy them pizza, and if bribery doesn’t work, you can always go by yourself. Games are great place to meet new people because the energy level is so high.
8. Figure out housing for the next year – Start early, and have a back up plan. A lot of my friends have made great housing plans only to see them fall through at the last minute. You can avoid a lot of stress by considering a back up plan, just in case your main housing plan doesn’t work.
9. Don’t buy books until you need them – I absolutely agree. If you follow this advice, you are going to save yourself hundreds of dollars. And if you care about money at all, you should always be buying used books when they are available. Shop online for the best prices (I would recommend Half.com and Amazon, though there are many other great sites) and avoid the university bookstore. On-campus bookstores are going to be charging more for the same books than any other vendor.
10. Relax - If you can only pick one piece of advice from this whole page, this is it. Just relax. The most miserable people in college are the ones taking everything (especially themselves) too seriously. Remember, there is a reason so many people say that college is the best years of your life. If you can relax and just go with the experience, you will find out why.
So there are my tips. If any of you reading this are freshmen, cherish this moment. It is such an exciting time. It won’t always be easy, and in fact for most of you it will sometimes be tough. But it is also great, and I, personally, wish I could be in your place.
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September 03 2007 | College Advice and College Fun and Housing | 1 Comment »
I recently had a decision to make about on campus living. I’d lived on campus for two years. The first year, I was just a student. The next year, I was an RA (Resident Advisor), which meant that my room and board were paid for as a part of my job. There will always be debate in families concerning students who have the option to either live on campus, off-campus, or stay at home. The decision varies from family to family, depending on preference. However, college finances should always be considered.
On Campus Living
The college experience changes from university to university. However, I know that most students really enjoy living on campus (for a variety of reasons that their parents may not like to hear). Unfortunately, living on campus is expensive! Dormitories (or Residence Halls), can be quite expensive and in most cases cost just as much, if not more than the tuition to the University. Not only that, but also many universities have meal plans that students must pay for in order to eat. Add in the cost of other necessities (such as toiletries) and living on campus can put a serious dent in anyone’s wallet. To many people, the experience of living on campus is priceless, and the friendships that form throughout the course of a year on campus are long lasting. There is also a certain stability available with on campus living (no angry landlords to deal with). Although the cost may be slightly higher, convenience and experience can be enough to drive people to live in the dorms.
Make sure you or you’re child take the time to analyze the housing options. Many campuses have different costs for different types of dorms. While having air conditioning and a ton of space is great, don’t be afraid to save money and go with the more affordable housing that lacks air conditioning and has students packed into rooms like prisoners. Consider where a majority of the student’s classes will be taken. If you or your child is at an extremely large university, whole departments can be on different sides of campus. If one is studying engineering, it wouldn’t make much sense to live close to the humanities buildings. Also, consider the learning environments. Many colleges have specific residence halls designated for certain types of majors, freshman, sophomores, etc. Living with people who have similar interests, backgrounds, or work ethics can be very beneficial. For more information, be sure to consult the housing web sites or booklets offered by your University.
Off Campus Living
Campus is great, but often times, come junior and senior year, students get tired of living with freshman and dealing with their RAs. They can also get tired of paying the expensive housing fees that many universities hand out. For this type of person, off campus living is a viable option. The truth is, that living off campus can save you or your child a significant amount of money. It has to be done right, but it can be done.
Again, doing research is paramount when considering off campus options. Consider proximity to campus. How will you get to class each day? Can you walk or take a bike? Can you take a bus? Will you need a car or a parking pass? How much will gas cost? These types of questions must all be considered. Next, consider roommates. The fact remains that, while everyone has the story of the hellish roommate, having one can greatly reduce costs. If rent is $500 a month for one, it’s only $250 a month for two. Using my college math skills, I determined that $250 is less than $500, so I would certainly be willing to put up with some dirty socks on the floor or some roommates troublesome girlfriend in order to save thousands of dollars yearly. Keep in mind, that when living off campus, bills will be different. Be sure to ask the tough questions concerning utilities. Take the time to understand the terms of the lease. Think about food. Many people are surprised with how much food can actually cost. On campus living is safe with all of the dining halls right there, and meal plans bought at the beginning of each semester or quarter. However, off campus, one actually has to cook things and consider those costs.
I have talked to people who love living off campus. They wouldn’t change it for the world. It is also a great step towards true independence. While living on campus is a great experience, it still has that safety net. Off campus living, if you miss a rent payment, you can get kicked out. Students can learn how to manage their monthly bills in a way that was previously impossible.
Lifestyle changes may also have to occur. When one could previously fall out of bed and make it to class in 5 minutes, that person must now consider the time it takes to get to class from the off campus location. If you rely on a bus, being late is no longer an option. No longer will an RA be banging on your door to quiet you down, you may just have to deal with the cops. In that same vein, no longer will an RA be able to bother your neighbors about their music, so if it’s thumping at 2AM on a Tuesday and you have a 9AM exam, you’ll have to deal with it yourself.
The last off-campus option is always to live at….home. Yes, I know it’s the nightmare of all college students to be stuck at home with their parents. Depending on families, this can be a great choice. Financially, it is the best out of everything, because you are avoiding housing costs altogether. Of course, if you go to school far away, this isn’t an option, but if you live in the same city, it should be considered. No matter what you decide, be sure to make the college experience your own and enjoy it. Parents, make sure to let your kids experience college as well. Consider finances, weigh the options, and I’m sure you’re decision will work out (and if it doesn’t, there’s always next year!).
June 05 2007 | Housing | No Comments »