It's common knowledge that most college students are short on cash, but it's not quite as common to find off-campus places to live that are affordable and inviting. Freshman and sophomores are required to live on campus at many universities across the country, which can certainly be beneficial. Living in the dorms allows you to meet potential friends, take part in residence activities, and get an experience that's likely completely different from what you had while living at home. However, room and board expenses can add up quickly. It's often cheaper to flee campus and live somewhere else.
Finding Cheap Apartments for College Students
Before you start hunting for apartments, know your needs and preferences. Are you looking for a party pad or do you need a quiet place to study with roommates who won't bother you? Is a big kitchen important to you, or do you know that you'll just be picking up Chinese takeout all the time? How important is proximity to campus? When you figure out the answers to such questions, you'll be able to effectively target your search.
The Internet is one of the best places to seek out apartment listings because it's efficient and speedy. Sites like Craigslist compile apartment listings by city. Most offer cost information and even interior and exterior photos of rental locations. Craigslist also has an "e-mail a friend" feature that will allow you to grab specific entries and send them to yourself to look at later. Apartments.com is another large site that separates listings by region. Finally, local apartment rental sites operate a booming business in almost every city; to find them, check out ads in a college or local newspaper or Google a term such as "student apartments in Atlanta, GA." Obviously, you'll find a wide range of apartment prices online, but most sites allow you to easily filter results into groups of listings that fit your budget.
Newspapers may not boast the circulation numbers that they once did, but they're still a fantastic resource for classified ads. Try picking up a variety of local newspapers and scouring them for apartment listings. Some may not provide as much information as you'd find online, but there are some real gems in the newspaper that might never show up on a computer because the ads are placed by people without Internet access or reliable e-mail.
A student who needs to sublet or vacate an apartment may put up fliers around campus to advertise the living space. If you're on campus anyway, jot down the information you see and make a few calls. Fliers targeted to students are more likely to be peddling cheap apartments rather than high-end units, so you might have luck in finding a place that's well within your budget range.
Word of Mouth
If you're well connected on campus, use that network! Sometimes, the lowest-priced apartments are never advertised at all because students snatch them up right after they hear about them from others. Keep your ears open, and ask your friends and even your professors if they know of any cheap rental units that are opening up in the near future.
Apartment Search Tips
Renting an apartment can be a headache for everyone involved. You need to clear your schedule for showings, spend time filling out rent applications, collect references, and sometimes wait for days or even weeks at a time before hearing back from a current tenant or rental agency official. Then, once you move in, you may discover that the apartment isn't quite what it seemed and doesn't have a very responsive support team.
Those roadblocks can be discouraging, but it's fairly easy to avoid them if you do your homework. Plan showings around times in your schedule that are already open. Scan completed rental applications so that you have digital copies and can easily access the information in the future. If possible, always talk with current tenants of prospective apartments and ask them about their experiences living in the area. It's also worthwhile to seek out online reviews of big apartment complexes and management companies so you know what you're getting into before the ink dries on your lease.
No matter how great an apartment seems, don't rent it if it's far outside your budget range. The last thing you want is to fall behind on your rent and go into debt because you didn't choose an apartment that was affordable.