The average cost of room and board on campus at public, four-year universities was just under $10,000 for the 2014/2015 academic year, according to College Board. When you divide that amount by seven, the typical number of months students actually live in their dorms during the academic year, minus breaks, it comes to around $1,400 per month.
Census data finds that median gross rent (which includes electricity, water and heat) in the U.S. is around $905, potentially leaving the average college student with about $125 per week extra for food and entertainment if he or she decides to live off campus for the same price of the dorms. Moving into your first apartment can be both exciting and emotional, but with a little planning, it can be a smooth transition. Here are three tips for a successful move:
1. Check it Out in Person
Young people anxious for their first taste of freedom can be especially vulnerable, so be cautious when selecting your new place. Don't be tempted to settle for an apartment without seeing it in person. No matter how nice the pictures look online, what they don't show are the important things you need to know.
During a walk-through, keep an eye out for the following:
- Check for hairline cracks or holes in the walls.
- Turn on faucets, flush toilets, and ask to run the washing machine and dishwasher, if available, to check for leaks or low water pressure.
- Check for watermarks near floorboards and on ceilings and walls to spot sources of internal leaks.
- If your rental has a deck, check the boards and rails for splintering or warped surfaces.
- Try to meet some of the neighbors before you sign a lease. Get an idea of who you’ll be spending your time around and make sure that you like the energy of the community.
2. Know Your Rights
Before you enter into a binding, legal agreement with someone, it's important to do your research. Take the time to research your landlord or rental company and make sure that they have a good reputation for doing business. You can use a website like Yelp, or simply knock on the neighbors' doors to see if you can get their opinions first-hand.
Most landlords respect privacy and space, but there’s always exceptions to the rules. Every state has laws covering tenant rights, most of which closely resemble the federal Model Residential Landlord-Tenant Code. Whether its repair work, deposits, or eviction disputes, make certain to familiarize yourself with the protection afforded to you under the law.
3. Think Ahead
No one likes moving, we know. Make a checklist of all the basics you'll need when moving into an unfurnished apartment. Make a separate list that includes all the items you'll need to have unpacked and available on your first night. Cookware, silverware, toilet paper, paper towels, garbage bags, a shower curtain, bedding, and multi-purpose cleaners are must-haves for your first night.
Weigh your options about furniture and consider your future plans. Will it be best to buy inexpensive furniture now that you can dispose of or give away when you move, or does it make more sense to invest in nicer pieces now that you can take along to your first home?