Leaving Dorm Life: Finding Off-Campus Housing

In college there are certain rites of passage: drunken (and regrettable) sexual encounters, the subsequent trips to student health, and then…well. Nevermind.

But at any rate, college is in a lot of ways like a training ground for the real world, and while you can f*ck up quite a bit and emerge virtually unscathed, a wise man once said “Tis better to…” uhh..actually, I’m pretty sure I slept through that class.

If I could remember that quote, it would have been something about learning from the mistakes of others. So in that spirit, here is our guide to leaving the dorm behind and getting your first apartment.

Beware of Crooked Landlords
Despite their regal-sounding title, many landlords are typically less than honorable in their treatment of college students. Maybe it’s their inability to cope with the number of upper-decked toilets they’ve had to clean over the years, but most landlords aren’t willing to provide college students with much more than the basic amenities provided to a prisoner at Guantanamo Bay.

OK, bit of a stretch, but one thing landlords do know is that college students are generally a lazy bunch, and that given a standard “adjustment period”, most students can generally learn to happily co-exist with the mice and vermin sharing their abode.

One thing to watch out for is the creative and liberal attitude landlords take towards keeping your security deposit. This is cash that you pay up front, typically equivalent to one month’s rent, that the landlord gets to keep if there are any “damages” to the apartment when you move out. Since most students are generally pretty lax in reporting anything but major damage (read: vomit on the ceiling), this is where the landlord gets to charge you exorbitant prices to fix all the minor holes and sh*t stains that are invisible to most college students since they’re so used to them. But don’t worry, nothing will get fixed. JP Moneybags will just use your security deposit to fund his summer vacation to Tahiti, only to charge another group of students for the same damages again next year.

Life Outside of the Dorm
A major concept in psychology is diffusion of responsibility. You will have a lot of first-hand experience with this concept if you choose to live in a house with more than two people. For some reason, when a group of people live together, it makes it a lot easier to ignore an overflowing trash can or a ringing door bell. One would surmise that the reason for this is because college students don’t like to get laid, but diffusion of responsibility is a curious concept that doesn’t always obey rationality or common sense (see also: Kitty Genovese, the behavior of Philadelphia sports fans, etc.).

Using the Internet also proves to be an interesting experience in a collective living situation. Whereas in dorm living the cost of Internet access is automatically added to your tuition bill, when you live in an apartment, you actually have to order the Internet connection yourself, and pay a bill every month, just like a real adult. Since most college students are usually too lazy to do this, this means one wireless router (or the neighbor’s wireless connection) ends up being split among three or more people, often resulting in painfully slow browsing speeds this side of the Prodigy-era 90’s.

Subletters from Hell
Often times when you sign a year-long lease on an apartment, you will have to find someone to help subsidize your rent over the summer if you’re not going to be living there. This is where subletters come in. These are people looking for cheap, low-commitment, short-term living options. Often posting an ad on Craigslist will yield plenty of students who are in town for a summer job or to take classes.

If you can find a normal, clean and sane individual this usually works out pretty well for both parties involved. The one time I did this, I found that my subletters had left a collection of fake pirate swords and an inflatable bounce house in my basement. I’m not really sure what they were up to that summer, but then again, I don’t think I want to know.

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