When and How to Start Looking for College Housing

Posted: November 29, 2023 | Author: Abbie Cochrane | Read Time: 5 minutes

One of the most important parts of attending college away from home is finding local housing. Sometimes dates sneak up on you and you run into obstacles while trying to find good, affordable college housing. Here are some tips to help you as you start looking for your next housing location.

A group of students in off-campus student housing, chatting and working on homework.

When to Start Looking

Each university is different when it comes to timelines for applying for housing. The best time to look for housing for the upcoming year is nearly a year in advance. At least, that’s the case for on-campus housing. At SUU, University Housing applications open on October 1 each year. This type of housing usually fills up quickly due to new students and incoming freshmen looking to live on campus.

Off-campus housing is a bit of a different story. Many property managers open housing applications for the fall semester on January 1, but different housing options may open up at different times. Living in off-campus student housing at SUU can be very similar to living in the university residence halls. Most off-campus opinions are within a mile of campus, and students room with their peers. Learn more about what it’s like to live off-campus at SUU. University Housing also offers assistance with finding housing off campus.

Figure Out What You’re Looking For

Looking for housing can be overwhelming, especially when it’s heaped onto your laundry list of college 'to-do's.' Start thinking early about what kind of housing you’re looking for. Here are a few questions to ask yourself as you get started;

  • How close to campus do I want to be?
  • Do I want to live on or off campus?
  • Do I want to rent out a basement in a home, or live in an apartment?
  • How many roommates do I want?
  • What is my price range?
  • Is there parking available?
  • Does the living space come fully furnished, or will I have to buy furniture?
  • Is the security deposit refundable?
  • What is the surrounding area like?
  • Are there ADA accommodations, if needed?

Once you've answered these questions for yourself, start looking around campus or online to see what is available. There may be student housing accounts on social media platforms as well, and some students may post if they are moving out early. Remember; housing fills up fast, so be sure to start shopping for housing as early as 11 months in advance.

Going Shopping

Most student housing websites have photos of the space, and some may even have virtual or in-person tours available. Be sure to weigh all your options, and make a pro/ con list of every place you’re interested in if it will help you. Additionally, you’re not going to get the full picture from a model tour–talk to current and former residents to get their perspective on their experience living there.

While on the tour or speaking over the phone, here are some questions to ask before you sign a lease:

  • Does each tenant sign their own contract?
  • What appliances are included?
  • Are utilities included? What is the estimated cost per month of any included utilities?
  • How long is the lease?
  • If something breaks, who can I contact to fix it?
  • Are pets allowed? If so, is there an extra cost for them?
  • Are there any regulations on subleases or overnight guests?

Talk to a parent or someone who has gone through house shopping to get more insight on the kinds of questions you can ask.

Think Logistically

When it comes to signing a lease, you may have little to no established credit. This is nothing against you at all–you’re young and credit may be a new thing for you. That being said, you may have to have a cosigner on your lease (this is usually a parent or guardian). If you do need a cosigner, talk to your bank or your cosigner themselves to work out an arrangement.

Also, remember that there will be a security deposit for wherever you choose to live. A security deposit is about a month’s worth of rent paid to the landlord that they can use to repair any damages that may be caused by the tenant. Most security deposits are refundable, so if all goes well, you’ll get your money back once you move out.

Living On Campus

Most colleges have residence halls, or dorms, available for student housing. These facilities are located on campus and are usually meant for new students and underclassmen who are just starting their college careers. Southern Utah University has several on-campus residence halls; Cedar Hall, Eccles Living Learning Center, Founders Hall and The Cottages.

What About Roommates?

Living with roommates during your college years is something that most students will do. Residence halls are a good place to meet people as you start college, and some of your first roommates may become lifelong friends. That being said, everyone always has a crazy roommate story or two whether they live on or off campus, so don’t be afraid to talk to a mediator if you have problems with a roommate.

Here are some questions to think of as you figure out the kind of people you want to live with.

  • What kind of noise level is ideal for you?
  • How many people do you want to share a space with?
  • Do you prefer a private or shared room? Does the facility you’re interested in offer these options?
  • Are you open to co-ed or not?
  • Some places allow you to request a roommate–are any of your friends interested in living in the same space who you could suggest?
  • How do you plan to resolve any conflicts that come up with your roommates?

Creating a space of respect and kindness is key for everyone to feel safe and seen in a roommate situation. You don’t always have to like who you live with but remember that they are paying to live there just as you are, so respect for property, space and boundaries is crucial. No one roommate is more entitled to the space over another. And if any problems come up, remember that you’re both adults and can speak to each other as such.

Looking for college housing can feel overwhelming, but follow the checklist and ask about everything you can. Finding a place that can meet your needs is the most important thing about finding college housing, so be sure to hit the ground running and get first pick of the place that works best for you!

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