Most students move out of the dorms after their second year or so. Tight housing markets across the U.S. and the rising demand for higher education mean universities can’t give students on-campus housing guarantees for the entire 3-5 years they may take to finish their degrees. If students do get on-campus housing when they’re upperclassmen, they’ll usually be placed in on-campus apartments, while other students look off campus for spare rooms in houses or apartments of their own.
Dorm living and apartment living require different sets of responsibilities because they result in different lifestyles. Dorm life means never having to cook (dining hall!) and sharing a bathroom with floormates.
Apartment life means having one's own lease, “adulting” more heavily, and transporting oneself to campus if the apartment isn’t within walking distance from the university. It means being more cognizant of one's impact on someone else’s property, delegating chores between roommates or housemates, and optimizing day-to-day routine to accommodate new challenges like grocery shopping and transportation.
Here are three great ways to help transition from a dorm room to an apartment.
1. Create a checklist of new household necessities
In the dorms, your student didn’t have their own bathroom. In an apartment, they will, and it’s easy to forget how many supplies are involved in maintaining and cleaning areas like bathrooms. The same goes for kitchens and living rooms. Unlike dorm life, apartment life will mean that your student needs the following: pots, pans, dishes, utensils, toilet bowl brushes and cleaners, broom and dustpan, disinfectants, and more.
2. Read through apartment lease together
Leases are extremely confusing when you’ve never had to read one (or sign one) before. Your student may have questions about the language in this document, the clauses to which they must agree, and the legal ins and outs of a rental lease. Walk through the different sections with your student (ideally before they sign it, if possible) and make sure your student is clear on what is expected of them as a tenant as well as what rights and responsibilities to which they are entitled.
This will be a huge help for them especially if a dispute arises or there is some sort of breach in the lease. It’s generally a good practice to understand the terms of your student’s lease, especially if you are involved in the rental process (perhaps as a rent “guarantor”).
3. Create a budget template
Apartment living can be less expensive than dorm living (on-campus housing rates are incredibly high), yet it can be trickier because your student may have multiple bills and expenses to juggle between rent, utilities, potentially cell phone bills, and food costs. To make sure your student is money-smart, offer to start a spreadsheet template with them to map out their sources of income and where it will go each month. Google Sheets is a great tool for this!
When moving into an apartment, it’s also good to ensure your student knows how to navigate their checking account versus their savings account, and to help them create these accounts if your student doesn’t have them. Teach them about transferring money between accounts, and show them how to review their purchase history so that they aren’t blowing money unconsciously. This is a life skill that can make a huge difference in your student’s life and keep them out of financial emergencies.
If your student receives financial aid, include these allotments in the money plan and practice making records of payments and deposits so that your student continues this habit upon moving into their new place. Your student will find they have much more autonomy and independence in an apartment than in the dorms. While they’ll likely still have housemates, they will have the space to cook their own meals and even take baths if their new space has a tub (baths are very hard to come by in the dorms!)