A block of apartment windows and balconies, half on a gray brick wall and half on an orange brick wall

Student Housing Doesn’t Have To Be a Scam

By Brittany Anderson
Web Content Contributor

Whether you’re a commuter, dorm dweller or apartment liver, being a college student means you have to face the real world— “adulthood”— eventually. Living on your own truly inhabits what it means to grow up, and there’s nothing quite like it to give you that much-needed reality check. 

A graphic of four brown packing boxes labeled kitchen, dishes, bedroom and books
Packing your life into boxes is a pain, but there are ways to make it easier.
Image by BilliTheCat via Pixabay – Creative Commons

Securing a decent place to live so you can focus on your studies is imperative. You might be wondering why this topic is relevant in September, so I’m going to let you in on a few secrets. If you’re planning on moving into your first apartment for the next school year (2020-21), or are already making plans to ditch your current digs once your lease is up and find someplace new, keep reading. 

So…why is this topic relevant in September?

Student housing is by far the most popular and practical choice when considering living options that aren’t dorms or your parent’s house. These are apartments that aren’t explicitly associated with any university (in this case, Texas State) but cater themselves towards students. 

First and foremost, what most student housing complexes don’t want you to know is that their rent is “blocked.” For example, signing a lease for the 2020-21 school year in October or November 2019 will give you the best chance of securing the cheapest possible rent. Wait too long— say, until March or April 2020— and rates will be much higher by then. This is because once the complex fills up the first block of units, they raise their rates and continue on to the next block. This will steadily keep happening until most if not all units are filled. 

Rates will eventually fall again once summer hits in a last-ditch effort to fill any empty units. While there’s a chance you might score a cheap rate then, don’t use this as an excuse to wait. Start looking now. It might seem like a big commitment to make so far in advance but it’s better than waiting until the last possible minute in hopes of finding availability somewhere. Plus, if you end up needing to cancel the lease before you move in, the only thing you’ll lose is the deposit. 

Signing early also means the complex can usually guarantee you with things like your preferred floor level (aim for the top), and there are almost always different deals available for signing, like gift cards or waived fees. 

If you’re able to snag a place you really like, consider re-signing there as soon as they begin to renew leases. Most complexes give their current residents first dibs on renewals and will give you discounted rent for the next lease year. Plus, you won’t have to mess with packing everything up again! 

What kind of apartment is best for you? 

As a Texas State student, I highly recommend you look into student housing. There are a bunch of options around San Marcos, and living in one will make your life a million times easier. If you have roommates, everyone will be on separate leases— so if someone decides to trash their bedroom or back out of the lease, you and your other roomies won’t be liable. All of these apartments are on the Bobcat shuttle route (which you already pay for in your tuition fees), so getting to campus is a breeze. Most come furnished with furniture and appliances. Plus, there are usually bills included in the rent that you won’t have to pay extra for such as wifi, trash and cable. 

Monica Gellar’s apartment (kitchen and living room) from the tv show Friends.
Understand now that your apartment won’t be anything like this. It’s okay. You’ll be okay.
Image by  Rob Young via Flickr – Creative Commons

Moving into a “regular” apartment means you have to take into consideration all the little things that might not be covered. Plus, if you have roommates, having to be on the same lease with them can put you in the uncomfortable situation of having to cover their portion of utilities, find a subletter for their room or be responsible for damages that you didn’t cause if something goes wrong. And renting a house might sound ideal for more space, but it means you have to think about HOA fees, street parking, how you’ll get to campus and having no on-site maintenance. 

Consider your options. Is it worth spending a little more for student housing if they offer more financial security? Is your prospective apartment prone to flooding? (We know how San Marcos gets.) How important are amenities to you? Every complex offers something different. It’s all about narrowing down what’s most important to you and going from there. 

Should you live with your friends?

Anyone you ask will tell you, “don’t live with your friends!” To an extent, it’s true. But a good rule of thumb— and one that’s better than a blanket statement like “don’t live with your friends”— is to not live with people you know you won’t be compatible with. Staying the night at a friend’s house for a night is far different than living with them. Don’t live with someone if you think you won’t be able to maintain an adequate living environment. At the very least, use your apartment’s roommate matching system so you can still save money by having roomies (usually, the more bedrooms there are, the cheaper the rent). 

A screenshot from the tv show Friends during Christmas.
Some friends live better together than others. Even if you don’t share an apartment with your besties, there will still be plenty of time to hang out. Screenshot by Brittany Anderson

If you do decide to live with people you know, make sure there’s an open line of communication regarding personal boundaries and communal expectations with everyone. You want to stay friends with them after this, right? This especially applies to random roommates— you don’t know each other personally, so it can get complicated quicker. Work out cleaning schedules, make sure the cost of groceries are evenly split and be respectful of each other’s personal space. Knowing each other’s work and school schedules is helpful, too. Living with others can be a lot of fun if everyone is mature enough to handle it. 

Of course, there are cons to all of this.

Student housing complexes would like you to believe that you’ll be moving into a utopian paradise, but it’s best to come to terms with the fact that unless you’re willing to shell out a lot of money, there’s going to be mismanagement, maintenance requests and a lot of this-is-not-what-I-was-expecting moments. It’s all manageable if you don’t go in expecting the best of the best as a twenty-something living in San Marcos. It’s called character building!  

Any other last minute tips?

Something to keep in mind is that it’s not unusual for student housing complexes to go through a slew of different management companies. Read online reviews, but take them with a grain of salt. If new management has taken over, these reviews might not be relevant. Ask your friends or classmates on their experience with a particular place, and ALWAYS tour the complex in person first. 

Use local resources like Apartment Pros and Apartment Experts. They’re free San Marcos based apartment locators that will assign you an agent to help you find a place that fits your needs. It’s a great way to save time and get “behind the scenes” information from licensed professionals. 

A screenshot from the Apartment Pros website listing their location, hours and phone number
Using an apartment locator is especially useful if you don’t live near San Marcos and can’t tour apartments as easily. Using a service like this will most likely help you find your future apartment by the end of the day. Screenshot by Brittany Anderson

Now you’re ready to flee the nest. 

Finding the right apartment can be a tricky game to play. Remember: you’re a college student. Be realistic. Now is not the time to blow your money living paycheck to paycheck just so you can have an upscale one bedroom loft for upwards of a grand every month. 

Moving out is an exciting and fun time, but this newfound sense of adulthood comes with a lot of responsibility. There’s no shame in living at home a little longer if it’s the best option. Or if you aren’t ready for total independence yet, go with a dorm. You don’t need the stress of school to be compounded with unnecessary living-situation problems caused by a lack of planning. Do your research, be smart and enjoy the ride. And if all else fails, remember that a bad apartment experience will only make for some really funny and heartwarming stories later. Trust me.

Featured image by George Becker via Pexels – Creative Commons

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