Maybe you’re just starting college, moving out of your parents’ home for the first time or ready to assert your independence. Or perhaps you’re a returning student. You’ve had fun partying in your freshman year, but now you’re looking for a secure place to rest your head after a long shift at the library. Whatever position you find yourself in, here are 10 essential tips to keep in mind when you’re hunting out the perfect student accommodation!
1. Look early!
You won’t be the only student looking for accommodation, and competition for quality rooms and houses can become intense very quickly. It’s essential that you start your house-scouting early or your ideal spots will be snapped up before you know it! It’s a good idea to set up alerts with local home rental sites and to check if your college offers a service for students to advertise spare rooms in houses.
Student accommodation options come in at many different price points, so there’s something to suit all budgets. Dorms and other private student residences can be costly, especially when benefits like gym access and catering are thrown into the mix. If you’re a returning student, you could get a discount by becoming a resident advisor. Privately rented property through an agency or independent landlord can be a more cost-effective option.
Do your best to save before heading off to college and draw up a budget, accounting for travel and accommodation expenses when working out which housing solution is the best for you.
How far are you willing to commute? Living on campus is great because it often means you’re close to your classes, social activities, and the library for late night study sessions. Sometimes, however, campuses can be a little disjointed, with dorms situated far away from other amenities. Check the distance before securing a room. Living off-campus can be a fantastic option if you plan to spend most of your time studying at home, have an off-campus job, or like to visit home frequently. Compare the commutes of on-campus and off-campus living and decide which one suits your lifestyle best.
4. Use your imagination
When you’re flicking through house listings online, or when you visit campus dorms in real life, you might be put off by the lack of space. Student accommodation is notorious for being compact, but if you use your imagination, you can come up with a whole host of space-saving hacks! Pinterest is an amazing resource to give you some inspiration for making a space homely and functional. Do some research and keep an open mind when viewing properties. A lot of students are turning towards self-storage as an option. This can be pretty useful for storing your possessions in the short-term , if you’ve got the budget.
At the end of a long day of class, you should be able to relax in your space without getting sick from damp and dirt. When you go to view a property, examine it for signs of mold or grime, particularly if it’s a privately-rented home.If you’re touring a campus dorm, find out if there are cleaners for the communal areas or if you’ll have to rely on those in your hall to clean up after themselves.
College is stressful enough without worrying about whether you or your stuff is safe enough in your home! All good student accommodation will have firm security measures in place. Basics like burglar systems and a fire alarm are compulsory. If you’re in a student residence building, is the entry manned by staff? Do they operate a key fob access system or a traditional lock and key? At the end of the day, decide whether you would feel secure enough to relax in that space, and if the answer is no, then it’s not the perfect student accommodation for you.
Life can get hectic as a college student – endless papers due, seminars to prepare for, and countless parties to attend. It’s a hard life! Decide if you’d prefer a property that offers rent that is inclusive of bills. This gives you one less thing to remember, and makes for an easy transition into the world of ‘adulting’. Explore your options if this a key feature for you – campus dorms are the most likely to offer this, but spare rooms in student houses might also work on this model.
How flexible do you need your rental agreement to be? Some student accommodation only offers term-time agreements, leaving you to look for alternative places over the summer. Some places hook you into a year-round deal, which can be restricting if you don’t plan on sticking around during the holidays. Think about whether you wish to remain on or near campus for the full year round, or whether you need some flexibility to be able to return home, travel, or find a job out of town.
9. Study Space
Despite the parties and sports games, you’re at college for one main goal: to earn a degree. And to earn that degree, you need to put in a lot of studying! It’s not always practical to hike out to the library so having a decent study spot in your home – with a speedy Internet connection – is a no-brainer. When you’re viewing places, scope out a decent spot to set up your study camp. If you’re restricted to your bed or a noisy communal area, maybe think about looking elsewhere!
Every year students fall into the trap of entering rental agreements that aren’t legally-binding and that give them no protection if anything goes wrong. Your potential landlord or the school must provide you with legitimate contracts to sign. Don’t rush into putting pen to paper – have a good read through all the terms and have someone you trust check it out for you too. If you’re uncomfortable with any of the terms, or have a sense that something isn’t quite right, you should probably go with your gut.
For more great tips on all things related to college, check out the other blogs at College Basics.