Moving into a dorm was a great step toward independence for you. But now you are looking to move out of a dorm and into your own apartment. Before you jump into that decision, make sure you've considered all your options through using an off campus living checklist.
A Basic Checklist
We'll discuss going through your finances as well as your electronics needs in just a minute. First, we'll start with a basic checklist. With a few exceptions, you'll usually need to bring and/or purchase the following household items when you move off campus:
- Dishes and silverware.
- Pots and pans.
- A desk and chair.
- A bed.
- Linens that fit the bed.
- A shower curtain.
- Bath mat.
- A dresser.
- A nightstand.
- Large plastic tubs to organize and store items such as extra socks or pens.
- A telephone if you plan to use a landline.
- A bookcase if you have a number of books.
Your Credit Rating
Learning your credit rating is crucial, as most landlords will check your credit even if you're moving into someone else's apartment as a roommate. Fortunately, you can check your credit standing for free using the government-approved website AnnualCreditReport.com. Using other websites may leave you holding the bill for "credit monitoring" services, so listen to the Federal Trade Commission and only use this site for truly free credit reports.
Your student loans show up on your credit reports as positive accounts unless you temporarily left school and didn't make the appropriate payment arrangements. You may even have a student credit card, which hopefully you've paid on time. But you need to ensure there are no surprises or inaccuracies on your credit report. Identity theft is a growing problem as are unpaid medical bills showing up on credit reports. So check yourself out in advance of applying for an apartment or other off campus living situation; if information on your credit report is incorrect the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) ensures you can dispute that information. But that, like so many other pieces of important financial business, can take time.
Your Financial Aid
Some colleges may reduce your aid if you live off campus; check to be sure your award package will not be dramatically affected before moving off campus.
Your Overall Finances
Once you've checked to ensure your credit rating is accurate and your financial aid package is not in jeopardy, sit down with a pencil and paper to assess your overall finances. Do you have a part-time job? Are your parents footing part or all of your bills, including the possibility of off campus housing? Are you eligible for scholarships? Creating a personal spending plan is important, as late rent off campus can quickly lead to eviction and credit problems. Keep in mind you'll also need to budget for food.
Furniture and Electronics
Can you afford new furniture, or have access to available furniture? This might not be a consideration if you're moving into someone's existing apartment, but always ask. Some roommates expect you to provide some or all of your bedroom furniture. Also, keep in mind that you likely will need to buy a computer and television if you don't already own them; the computer is especially critical for your schoolwork as you may not have easy access to campus computer labs once you move off campus.
The aforementioned categories are just a few that could comprise your off campus living checklist; hopefully you'll also consider other areas that may apply to your situation such as social life, transportation, and how you will physically move into your new apartment. Don't hesitate to speak to your adviser, a favorite professor, older friends, or your parents if you're still not sure where you should live for the remainder of your college studies. Many people are more than happy to help, but the decision is ultimately your own.