There comes a time in many college students’ careers when the grim realities of dorming becomes enough to convince them to live off campus. If you’re tired of wearing slippers in the shower, hearing your roommate yell over the phone in rapidfire Chinese at 3 a.m. and the monotony of dining hall food, maybe living off campus is something you should consider.
Though it seems daunting, and the words “lease,” “security deposit” and “sublet” sound so very foreign, the only way to learn is to try. Probably the best thing about getting your first apartment in college is the fact that your parents are almost guaranteed to help you out financially. That’s more than half of the work done.
So let’s avoid the embarrassment and learn while there is still room for error.
To be fair, there’s a tremendous amount of time and persistence that goes into finding a place that you’ll feel satisfied with. It’s a tradeoff between having everything determined for you and feeling dissatisfied versus putting in the extra work and feeling happy with where you are.
You’ll have to consider the idea of living with strangers — another daunting, but, in the end, deeply illuminating experience. You’ll also be restricted by your budget, location, availability and status. A lot of apartments don’t rent to undergraduate students (let’s be honest, some of us are dirty and irresponsible), but more than enough do. This is an opportunity that should not be taken lightly. The ability to maintain an entire apartment in relatively good condition is a habit that will follow you for the rest of your life.
As for budget, though areas like Boston are notorious for rising rent prices, dorming is likely to be more expensive. Compare and contrast dorming prices with off-campus living expenses, and see what works for you.
With college students, working professionals and small families all fighting it out in the Boston housing market, it will be inevitably competitive. Luckily these demographics all vary in budget and desired living standards and space.
Be prepared to look at a ton of apartments. Believe it or not, this is actually the fun part. In doing so, you get a glimpse of how other people are living, and as a result, how you should live. You’ll walk into apartments that are heavy with cigarette smoke, incense, kitty litter, dirty laundry and if you’re lucky, nothing at all. You’ll see mounds of unwashed clothing draped over what appears to be a chair, kitchen sinks full of a week’s worth of dishes and shoes strewn about in the most unimaginable places.
But you’ll also get to see how the other half lives: well-furnished and well-maintained apartments that that resemble Ikea model rooms with expertly-curated clutter that embodies the essence of the people living there.
Once you find a place, you’ll be forced into doing things that will turn out to be the most valuable experiences you will gather during your college years — some of which include cooking, paying bills, cleaning (the whole apartment, not just your room), laundry, contacting your management, contacting maintenance and checking your mailbox. The hardest hitting reality is that your mom is not there to do any of the things you might forget about.
Whether or not we realize it, we’re all spoiled and incredibly blessed to have had all of these things taken care of for us. But there will be a time in the future that is a lot closer than it seems, when we will need to become our own mothers.