Getting off the meal plan and leaving the dorms to transition to an apartment for the first time can be a new and exciting experience. However, moving off campus comes with an entirely new set of responsibilities, chores and financial expectations. For college students, this transition can take some serious getting used to. While dorm rooms are cramped and Spartan, they do come with several perks including building security, complimentary utilities and often a meal plan. With that said, consider these main factors when you finally decide to make the move:
Learn to budget
Figuring out how to manage on a monthly budget is a huge aspect of apartment living. As opposed to the dorms, you'll have to pay for utilities, groceries, new furniture and other miscellaneous expenses. For example, your heating and electric bill may go up significantly in the winter, and you'll have to be prepared to take on that cost, whereas it would have been covered in the dorms. Not only can it be tough to keep up with rent, but also budgeting for groceries, toiletries and various communal products can add up rather quickly.
Know what you'll need
Odds are your dorm room came with a sturdy desk, adequate lighting and firm (if not rigid) mattress. These items are often taken for granted, but when you move into a new apartment, unless you've found a space that comes furnished, you'll need to bring these necessities yourself. Initially purchasing all of these items can be a major expense, and once you move in you'll likely quickly build up a list of more necessary items. Do you have a trash can? A full set of kitchen utensils? Make a list of necessities beforehand so that you and any roommates can coordinate supplies and make as few purchases as possible.
Understand how a security deposit works
You'd probably have to wrack up some serious damage on a dorm room to get charged extra, but in an apartment small damages can swiftly burn through your security deposit. Make sure to speak in depth with your landlord before signing a lease about expectations upon move in and move out, and document any damages the living space has before moving in. After all, no one likes to throw away money, but if you beat up your apartment, that's exactly what you're doing.
Make note of your complex's security
One of the best parts of the dorm is feeling like your stuff is safely locked in your room at all times. Dormitories and other campus facilities usually require key-card access for entry and there's resident mentors or other staff on patrol. However, your apartment complex may not have a security system on the front door and there might not be anyone on duty to keep an eye out for intruders. Depending on how much you trust your roommates, having an individual lock on your bedroom door to safely store your laptop, tablet or other electronic devices can also come in handy. All in all, make sure that you feel comfortable and safe in your living space before signing the lease.
Whereas the dorms can feel rather boring and temporary, an apartment should feel like home. Get creative with your decor and ask your landlord about making alterations such as changing the paint color or nailing artwork into the walls. With more space, you'll have more opportunities to add your personality to your living space and truly make it your own. Work with your roommates to decorate common areas, such as the living room or kitchen.