Moving into an apartment after living in various dorms for two years was supposed to be the happiest day of my college life to date. And to be fair, that first day was pretty awesome. I had so much space, and after living in a tiny dorm room no bigger than some walk in closets, I couldn’t have been happier. But it didn’t take long for me to begin seeing the downsides to living in an apartment, especially one of the size my roommate and I had gone for.
Before I continue, let me give you a brief overview of the apartment my roommate Mike and I share currently. We have two floors which are set up essentially like a small townhouse. On the first floor we have a laundry closet, living room, kitchen, half bathroom, and closet. Upstairs we each have our own bedroom and full bathroom. It’s a lot of space which leads me to the first downside of apartment living.
Too Much Space
Our apartment has too much space for me. It is perfect when I have big groups of friends over for dinner, but a nightmare pretty much any other time. I personally cannot get work done if the room I am in is dirty or messy. The bigger the apartment, the bigger the space to pick up when it comes time to buckle down and study or write a paper. The bigger the apartment, the bigger the mess my friends can make after those aforementioned dinner parties. This may not be a deal breaker for everyone, and it could actually be a fantastic thing for many, but it is something to take into mind when you set out to find your first off campus living experience. Remember, more space does not always mean better.
Through my own personal experience and the experience I have gained being a Peer Advisor for my school, I have come to describe the first semester for many students as a train wreck. So many students start off ready to take on it all and end up not knowing how to organize their time effectively and it results in poor grades and self esteem. Some students come in their freshman year thinking it will be a breeze and they too face the train wreck syndrome. I know I had my own train wreck my first semester. Time management was non existent in my life and every aspect of myself and my academic career suffered. As freshman year went on and turned into sophomore year, I began to figure everything out and got into a good place and had balance with my schedule and free time as most students do.
Cue moving into my apartment junior year. The train wreck happened all over again. Not to the same extent it had before but it was still bad. Harder coursework coupled with the huge change in lifestyle really threw me off. My apartment was a twenty-five minute walk or a twenty-minute bus ride away. I spent a lot of time waiting for a bus or on a bus that first semester of junior year. This sucked away a lot of my free time and I scrambled to make it up somehow. My nights grew later and my days were spent more stressed out and tired.
Extra Responsibilities (Adulthood)
An apartment comes with more daily and monthly responsibilities than living in a dorm room. As I mentioned before, there is upkeep: cleaning, grocery shopping, cooking, snow shoveling, and more. There is freedom in living in an apartment, but remember the time it will take to complete these extra tasks. If you don’t have a car, you will need to live within walking distance of a grocery store, have a dedicated friend to drive you each week, or have a bus route. If you walk, you can only buy so much at a time. If you take the bus, that will take more time than walking to the dining hall to grab food. Then there is cooking. Will you have time to cook all your meals each evening or do you need to cook the bulk of your food on Sundays? These sound like small tasks but the time they take adds up and it can throw a wrench in your plans.
Living in an apartment means you should be using a budget. You will have rent payments, utility bills, and groceries to buy on top of any existing recurrent things you have to pay like phone bills, car insurance, or gas. More than likely, you’ll be paying for at least a part of these expenses with loan money. Loan money is paid out once a year typically so you will need to budget that money or any other source of income accordingly. Without a budget you could find yourself running out of money at the end of the semester. Dorm living is easy in that everything is paid upfront typically and there is no need to heavily budget on a meal plan but that all changed when living on your own.
By no means am I trying to say that living in an off-campus apartment is a bad thing. It is truly is an immensely freeing experience that will help you grow exponentially as a person. That said, these are just some ideas to keep in mind as you search for your first off campus apartment. Take into account your individual circumstances and personality as you search and don’t go for the first place you check out. Always look around a bit to see whats available before diving head first.
Regan Gearhart is a senior at Indiana University of Pennsylvania where she studies Anthropology. After graduation she plans to do a joint Master’s of Public Health and PhD in Medical Anthropology. You can find her on her website, Pinterest or Instagram.