How to Get the Best Deal on an Apartment in College

List: Posted: 10/25/11

Finding a place to live is tough in itself.  Trying to do it for college makes it especially difficult.  Going to college is a huge step in your life where your skills of independence are tested.  You need to learn to budget your money and time, as well as balance your work, school, hobbies, and relationships.


Here are some tips to help you find the perfect pad while in college.


Tip 1: Make a Budget

The first step is to write down your budget.  How much can you afford to spend on a rental apartment?  This will give you a general idea of the type of place you need to look for.  After you come up with a price, subtract about a 1/3 of that and use this as a more realistic figure.  We tend to overestimate our budget, so always try to spend less than we think we need. 


For example, if your college living budget is $1,000 per month, then you should look for a place that costs between $600-$700.


Tip 2: Think About How Close You Want to Be to College

Proximity is everything when you're a student.  Depending on the type of college you want, you may decide to live closer or farther from college.  The best bet is to get a place as close as possible to campus; however, those apartments tend to be the most expensive.  If you have reliable transportation, it is often better to move a couple miles down the road, which can save you hundreds of dollars per month.


Tip 3: Check Out Online Rentals

Look online for the best rental deals.  Your school should have an online listing of campus owned properties.  They are very helpful in searching for livable apartments or dorms.  Other good sites are,,, and  I find the best deals are usually posted on Craigslist, but those go the quickest, too.  You can search for shared rooms too, which are much like dorms but cheaper.


Tip 4: Go Month to Month

From my experience, the best contract to get during college is month to month, especially while living in college.  You never know how things will change quarter to quarter or in different semesters.  One semester I had a full schedule, and by the next, I was only studying part time.   So, if you are like me, you may want to be mobile, and if you're contract won't let you leave, you may be stuck making payments you can't afford while living elsewhere.

However, if you are responsible and have budgeted your finances well (which of everyone I knew at college, not a single person did), then you may desire the stability of a long term contract while at college.   It's up to you.

The best contracts are the 15-month to 2-year deals.  Basically, the longer the landlord can make you commit to, the cheaper the rent.  However, most students go back home for summer, so I would suggest a 9-month term if possible during college.  Most people move at least twice during their college experience and friends/ classes/ relationships change, so plan on being a bit more mobile.


Tip 5: Start Looking early

I am a hypocrite to write that because I never do this, but I always end up wishing I had.  Preparation is the ingredient to every type of success.  To get the best apartment, you need to start searching as early as possible.  At college campuses, most of the good places fill up fast.  There are usually thousands of students clamoring for the best spots, and the early bird always gets the worm.  


Besides availability, searching early lets you compare prices.  You can often get the best deals when you shop around.  Landlords are competing with each other for tenants, so if there are plenty of places available when you start your early search, you can use that your advantage when negotiating terms.

One other reason to apartment-hunt early is to make sure you have enough time to inspect the apartment or house.  I once moved into a place in a rush the first day I viewed it, because college had started the week earlier. Little did I know that cockroaches became my roommates at night and both the bathroom and toilet ceiling was half rotten with mold.  If I had started my search early, I wouldn't be in such a rush to get a place, and would have inspected it a little better.  Luckily, I had a month to month contract and got out of there as soon as possible.

Use these tips to find the best place to live during college. College is a time of studying, (and maybe a bit of partying), and having a bad rental experience is the last thing you should worry about.


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