Now that you have taken admission to your desired program in a top university, it is time to decide on your accommodation before you fly off to study abroad. Student halls, living out and staying at home options abound and each one of these has their pros and cons.

Living on your own

You could play music as loudly as you want, keep your own hours, for you’ve left the chaperones and curfews back home with your overly protective parents. You would be forgiven for living it up king size for the first time until the novelty wears off. The first sign of independence becoming a drag are the realisations that – the dustbins do not empty themselves, drainage plugs do not self-unclog, and the fridge does not self-replicate delicious take-out food, which becomes obvious within the first month itself.

The state of affairs, with the rent being foremost

It’s true that many houses are let to students because they have clear flaws that would be intolerable to older tenants with jobs. These include, but not exclusively, leaking ceilings, running water that fluctuates in temperature, exposed wiring, nightmare neighbours and the list goes on. However, these houses should also mean that you get a better deal on rent and you must negotiate.

Check what amenities are paid for and the extras you need to shell out for

For those leaving home for the first time, halls can be a pleasant halfway house between full independence and the strict rules imposed by parents. Advantages include reliable broadband and kitchens that must comply with basic health-and-safety standards. If the apartment has a heater system that’s included in the rent, then weigh the slightly higher rent with compensation for a warm cosy nest to return to on wintry days, without the penury inducing bills. But if you do end up living out, it is crucial to keep an inviolable emergency fund, of at least three hundred dollars. Furnished or unfurnished, the laundry does not do itself so ensure that the complex has a laundromat on site or you would have to lug it to the nearest one either by car or walk. Also, be certain that there is a food place in walking distance so you can either make your own coffee or get take out. You don’t want to be stuck at home with no grounds and the nearest bistro charges 3 dollars for delivery. The caffeine goes a long way when deadlines loom.

Pick your neighbours carefully

Chances are that this will be the first time you get to choose who you live with. There are various things to bear in mind when choosing your housemates. Also, under no circumstances should you agree to live with anyone until the second term, or better still the second year. Shared habits and preferences are great where you have equally good standards in hygiene, but if both are untidy and unhygienic, it would be an unhealthy environment to live in. In other words, pick someone who you would relate to without ‘twinning’ on all parameters. Also, rooming with the roommate from Hell means picking up after him/her, while also shelling out his rent so it would be nice to ascertain gently their source of income (legal) so you know the deal squarely.

The distance between university and your home, with the nearest transit stop being a mile away

Running late on a class is a no for sure, imagine sprinting a mile like an athlete and then making it to Science 101 with a sweaty shirt and grimy face. Be certain that your apartment has easy access to all the transit stops. Find out the bus route of your university’s transit system and see if you could get a deal on an apartment in the area. Shelling out a couple of extra dollars is way better than losing out on a perfect 4 pointer, just cause you came late for the last minute extra credit quiz.

Keeping it legal, always.

Lastly, be sure to ink all agreements in the name of all roommates for equal deposits and rent liabilities, let the apartment manager know that they need to include all the utilities/amenities in the main body and list them out, fine-print won’t cut it. Also, just to be certain, ensure you have your seniors in college or the University Housing section give the rental agreement a once over and enquire whether it needs to be stamped, notarised or registered with the county office. Also, make sure that you clearly mention the due date for the rent and the absolute last date for utilities to be paid up. Few realise that delayed or non-payment of the same has an impact on the credit score, which is also reported to the university.

With this comprehensive check list in hand, you are empowered to finally explore your independence as a young varsity student.