By Melissa Nichols
It’s that time of the year again. Starting in February, Western Michigan University students have started making plans for where they will live next year.
There are many options, and students have the choice of living on-campus or off-campus.
There are various perks and disadvantages to both options, but following a few simple steps should make the process less stressful and more exciting.
1. Get advice. Do your parents have input? If not, talk to people who currently live in on-campus and off-campus apartments, houses, residence halls, and those who participate in non-traditional living options. They can let you in on the perks as well as the disadvantages of each option.
“I recommend West Michigan Woods, because if you tell them about problems, they work with you. They also have a pet-friendly policy, which I like,” said Shawn Meyers, a student at WMU.
“I prefer living on campus, because it’s a closer walk to classes, and it’s just easier,” said Nick Benitez, a freshman at WMU currently living on-campus. “You don’t have to worry about all the extra stuff. Also, the whole floor of my residence hall got really close this year, and we thought it would be fun to live on the same floor next year too.”
2. Know what you can afford. Let’s face it: the majority of students can be categorized into “broke college student,” so mapping out monthly expenses will make it easier for paying rent on time, in addition to other monthly expenses.
It is important to know how much it will cost to furnish your apartment, the cost of Internet and cable connection, what kind of transportation you will rely on, if you will need a meal plan or how you will pay for food, etc. so you better know your options based on your personal financial limitations.
Most off-campus apartments have 12-month leases, and can range from $300 to $600 per month for rent per person.
On-campus apartments can be leased by the semester, and run about $300 to $400 per month for each person.
“At Hidden Hills Apartments we have 12-month leases, so students generally take classes during the summer and work part-time to pay their rent,” said Lisah Simon, community manager of Hidden Hills Apartments in Kalamazoo.
3. Do research. Typing key words into a search engine, such as “WMU living options” or “Kalamazoo apartments” will provide you with links to different living options, both on and off-campus. Research the cost, policies, length of leases, perks, and utilities of each option.
Web sites have contact information, so you can call if you still have questions.
4. Roommates, roommates. “Make sure you are living with people you can stand for a long period of time,” Simon said. “If you don’t request a roommate, make sure you get a good sense of the person who is assigned to live with you.”
5. Take a tour. Representatives are available to give students tours without any commitment of actually living in a certain place.
This is great chance to ask any questions you may have in person.
6. Apply. Students living in off-campus apartments can usually go to their apartment Web site of choice, and apply online.
Applications are usually simple, and representatives will contact you and let you know if you have been approved.
Most students are approved, but sometimes they have to have a parent sign for the apartment as a guarantor, meaning they are responsible for any charges that students cannot pay themselves. Students living on-campus do not need a guarantor’s signature.
“Traffic begins around February, and we suggest starting the application process no later than the end of March for students who want things that are in high demand, such as a certain floor or specific roommates,” Simon said.
7. Sign the lease. Students living in apartments or houses will usually have to pay a down payment before they move in, and sometimes a cleaning-fee.
This ensures the rental company that you are committed and covers any unexpected damage you might acquire over the year.
The down payment is usually refunded to the renter after the lease is up.
Asking questions about the lease is an important way to make sure students know exactly what they will be paying, and what is expected of them.
“During this time, I also recommend that students ask about renter’s insurance,” Simon said. “It protects all of your belongings for around $10 to $13/month. If you’re a dependent, you may be able to be covered under your parent’s insurance. This way incase of a fire, you’re covered.”
8. Congratulations. Once the lease is signed, students should know they are committed for the duration of their lease.
The summer before students move in is a great chance to get any furniture they may need, or get a summer job to start saving for rent.