“How do you feel about living off campus?” my suite-mate, Hayley, asked me as I washed my hands with soap I didn’t buy, under the light of electricity I wasn’t paying for.
I didn’t really know what to say. I wasn’t quite sure I had a say in the matter, either. I lived with seven other girls, all of whom were thrilled that we were about to be juniors and able to leave the dorms. They were already looking at apartments online.
Of course I wanted to have an apartment of our own as well. Signing a lease is a rite of passage into adulthood, and I wanted to feel that kind of power. Not to mention I was tired of sneaking my alcohol around at high academic risks.
But I wasn’t necessarily made of money, and I had no idea how it would affect my financial aid, so I set up an appointment at the aid office to figure it out. It turns out that your college sees off-campus housing and groceries as the same expenses as a dorm and meal plan and you, end up getting the same amount in the long-run. So I was safe there.
So we continued on with the long process of finding a place and suddenly, there it was: 60 Broad St., Apartment 3. The place had everything we needed: a dishwasher, a laundry room, four bedrooms, and it included furniture. The place was beautiful. We put down our $250 deposit, signed the lease and it was ours.
That moment was a big one for me. I was pretty proud of myself. However, I do have some advice for those of you who have just signed a lease.
First of all, make sure you enjoy the people you’re living with. Make sure they’re clean people who are ready to pitch in time and money. Toilet paper, paper towels, hand soap and dishwasher pods don’t buy themselves. And you definitely don’t want to get stuck buying them whenever you go grocery shopping.
You’re going to live in close quarters with these people for quite a while and you certainly don’t want to get stuck with people you can’t stand. In my apartment, we have lovingly designated the “Bitch Board” on our refrigerator. It’s a small white-board where we can (semi) anonymously write whatever’s bothering us: Do your dishes, pick up your mess, clean the beer off the bathroom floor, and so on. It seems to work flawlessly for us, and we’ve never had an issue.
Groceries are another beast to conquer. My first trip to the Price Chopper seemed harmless, but suddenly, my cart had been filled to the brim with things I didn’t even end up eating. Make sure you keep it minimal and necessary. Your wallet will thank you.
In my apartment complex, there are people that live above and below me. Dealing with drunk, screaming college students and blaring music at 11 p.m. on a Friday night just comes with the territory. Be prepared for that too. There’s not an RA that you can run to if the noise keeps up until 3 a.m. either. Just put some headphones on, and take a breather.
And for Pete’s sake, put your house keys on a lanyard and don’t lose them. If I had a dollar for every time I’ve been locked out of my apartment, I’d give Bill Gates a run for his riches.
It’s a good idea to make a cleaning schedule as well. I can tell you from experience that, on any given Sunday, our apartment looks like a scene from “Animal House.” It’s easier to look at a piece of paper and say, “Amanda, it’s your turn to clean,” than, “Amanda, you haven’t cleaned in a while. You go pick up our mess.” It’s good to hold people accountable rather than drawing straws. It keeps the peace, trust me.
All in all, if you have your finances in order and you’re living with trustworthy, kind people, than you’re good to go. You’ll discover all of the many differences that off-campus living has to bring along the way, but these are just a few things to be prepared for.
Now go make that deposit and sign that lease. Welcome to adulthood.
Email Courtney Casey at firstname.lastname@example.org