This post is all about first college apartment tips and living off-campus for the first time.
Although dorms can be exciting at first, community showers and bunk beds can get old after a year or two.
During my junior year in college, I had finally had enough of cafeteria food and decided to live off-campus in a three-bedroom apartment with two girlfriends.
Living off-campus was probably the best decision I made in college, but it did come with a couple of lessons along the way (as most things do).
When you decide to go off on your own, you have a lot more responsibility, which is great, but if you’re a bit unorganized (like I was) it can quickly become stressful.
Here are a couple of the best tips for moving off-campus so you don’t make the same rookie mistakes I did.
First College Apartment Tips
Don't Do It Alone
This wasn’t a mistake I made myself, but I know a couple of people who did.
When you get paired with not-so-great roommates in the dorms, its easy to want an apartment all to yourself but being completely alone gets old quick.
Definitely reach out to some friends but even if they can’t be your roomies, don’t stress. Just make sure whoever you have as a roommate isn’t a complete slob, can pay rent, and is respectful.
Apartments allow you to have a lot more personal space than a dorm so it’s easier to be on good terms with roommates in these situations.
I’ve never had problems with roommates in apartments as long as everyone is respectful of the common space and cleans up after themselves.
Although there may be cons to having roommates, there are definitely a lot more pros. Living with someones is almost a precursor to marriage as you see not everything is done the same way.
It’s a great growth opportunity.
Make A Grocery List
I got pretty accustomed to the buffet-style dining halls when living on campus, but once you’re on your own you are completely responsible for your meals.
You will want to keep a basic grocery list on hand at all times. It doesn’t have to be crazy complicated or elaborate. Just a couple of staples that are healthy and easy to make.
A general idea of some staples I always had on hand was oatmeal, banana, bread, eggs, peanut butter, beans, rice, pasta, sauce, and vegetables.
All of these are cheap (especially when bought in bulk) and versatile, meaning you can change it up in many ways and avoid getting bored even if you’re eating ‘the same’ foods every day.
Which brings me to my next point…
Learn To Cook
You don’t have to create five-course meals for yourself, but at least learn two to three easy recipes that you enjoy and are nutritious.
Also, making one or two meals in bulk on Sunday night is one of the biggest life hacks in the world.
It will save you so much time in the evenings when you’re exhausted and more likely to reach for junk food.
I have been meal prepping my meals ever since my second year of college and genuinely don’t know how I survived prior. Probably lived off instant mac and cheese and carbs. Learning to meal prep is one of the best college apartment tips anyone can offer you.
Take Care OF Rent Early
Once you have your rent money set aside, don’t touch it.
It’s easy to say things like “I’ll get paid Friday, so I can dip into my rent money and it’ll be fine” but you’re walking a very thin line and can have some bad consequences.
Landlords have very strict deadlines and won’t accept late payments. Just one late payment is enough to land you in hot water.
You can set up automatic payments with your bank so you don’t have to even think about it and avoid any embarrassing situations.
Clean, Clean, Clean!
Just doing a little bit every day is enough to maintain your home and not have to spend entire days cleaning.
Also, it’s easy to have things get out of hand and next thing you know, your dishes have piled up and it looks like a mini-tornado passed through the apartment.
I always made sure to clean every day, even if for 15 minutes. It doesn’t take much to pass a vacuum or wipe down the kitchen and it makes a dramatic difference.
A clean home improves your mood and improves productivity.
Befriend Your Neighbors
You don’t have to invite them over for afternoon tea, but it’s always a good idea to be friendly with your neighbors. Say hi and make small talk when you see them.
Life’s better when you get along with people. That’s just a fact.
Letting your neighbors know you will have guests over and music playing is one of the most considerate things you can do and it doesn’t take any effort. Your neighbors will appreciate your consideration.
Moreover, a lot of the time neighbors can keep you safe. They are around when you aren’t so if they see anything suspicious, they can give you a call.
I had a neighbor I trusted and even gave her a spare key. One day, when I was out, there was a small fire in the building and she went into my home and got my dog out. You can’t put a price on that!
Don't Overspend on Furniture
Yes, you should be in a home you’re comfortable and happy with, but that doesn’t mean overspending to make it ‘perfect.’
A lot of the stuff you buy for your college apartment won’t fit into your next home in a couple of years. It will really hurt to throw away (or sell) a $1,000 couch that you barely used.
Get a couple of pieces you really like, but try not to get too ‘fancy’ with it. Check out local garage sales or apps like Offerup to get a lot of value for your money.
You can find anything on Offerup, from dining room tables and tv’s to barely used college backpacks.
Take Advantage of the Entire Space
More likely than not, your college apartment will be rather small and lack a lot of storage space.
A good way to combat this is to maximize all areas of the home with organizational furniture.
One of my favorite ways to do this is with cube storage spaces. They’re pretty cheap and a great way to maximize space.
Whether you want to organize your shoes, books, or makeup, you can have it all inside the storage cubes so everything looks decluttered and organized with minimal effort.
Have Roommate Meetings and Dinners
A lot of us hate confrontation and open discussions, however, when you co-live with others they become mandatory. If something is bothering a roommate and they don’t have a way to air it out, the environment can become a bit toxic and passive-aggressive.
The meetings don’t have to be “I hate that you always hog the tv” (which doesn’t benefit anyone) but more productive like “I think it would be a good idea to have a tv schedule so everyone has a chance to watch what they like. We can request tv times in advance and respect those times.”
A once a month meeting/dinner where you can discuss anything and everything is a good way to make sure the relationships inside the apartment are healthy and beneficial to all.
Have An Extra Set Of Keys Made
Learned this one the hard way, but make an extra set of keys just in case.
My mom would say I would lose my head if it wasn’t attached to me, which is harsh but true (lol!). Even if you’re not as forgetful as me, an extra set of keys will save you a lot of money if you ever do misplace them.
Also, more often than not, the keys you ‘lose’ reappear after a couple of days and you won’t want to spend $100 for a locksmith every time they get lost.
Keep them with a trusted friend, family member, or (in my case) neighbor.
If it’s your first time living off-campus, don’t stress, it will all work itself out. Both dorms and living in college apartments are a unique experience and I loved both very much.
There are a lot of reasons to move off-campus, but the main one I believe is the independence you establish for yourself. It is the first real moment you are on your own as dorms are still very much ‘easy’ and like living with your parents in a sense.
Don’t Forget These First College Apartment Essentials
Do you have any first college apartment tips to add to the list?!
Share in the comments below!
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Founder. Entrepreneur. Recovering Perfectionist. Not necessarily in that order.
I run on bad jokes and good food. Lover of life and experiences, I did the nomad thing for four years.
Semi-Based in Miami currently.
In my free time, you can find me reading, running my cats Tinder profile, or trying out a new fitness class. You can find me on Instagram