My Guide To Renting Your First Apartment in College

Chances are you won’t be taking any course related to renting your first college apartment, so like me, you might be feeling a bit lost and overwhelmed. Where do I start? How do I know how much I can afford? Who’s gonna clean this place? Can I even cook? These might all be questions going through your mind right now, but the good news is that it’s completely normal to feel lost and confused right now. Renting your first college apartment is a completely new experience, after all. But if you’re really dedicated to renting your first apartment in college, you can’t stay in this state and expect your new apartment to magically appear.

So you’re finally ready to rent your first ever apartment in college. Whether your reasoning for doing so is to gain more living space, save money, being tired of dorm food, or another reason all together, there’s no doubt that renting your first college apartment is exciting! And stressful.

I began renting my first apartment in college the beginning of this school year, and it’s been great so far. I love being able to cook my own food, decide what I’m putting into my body, and decorate my space. But there were several learning curves and unexpected situations that me and my roommate felt with before we finally picked a place and even after we moved in. In an attempt to make your apartment renting process a bit smoother, here are all my tips for renting your first college apartment, along with everything that I’ve learned about living on your own and renting your own space for the first time.

Decide if you are willing to live with a roommate, and if so, how many.

Most college students spend at least one year living in a dorm with a roommate. So ask yourself: How was that experience? Did you hate everything about it or find it fun and comforting? If living with a roommate wasn’t your cup of tea, be sure to ask yourself why. Maybe you simply didn’t like the person you were living with, and if you were sharing a space with someone with a similar living style as you it wouldn’t be so bad. This is an important distinction to make, so make sure that you analyze your past roommate experiences carefully and honestly.

If you decide that you wouldn’t mind living with a roommate, it’s time to figure out how many people you would be willing to live with. There are pros and cons to having multiple roommates, such as the possibility of getting a cheaper price with more roommates or having less people sharing a bathroom with just one roommate. But regardless, the choice is yours, so be sure to weigh all the pros and cons before you accept someone’s roommate offer.

Figure out what your monthly rent and bills budget will be and what your roommate(s) budget is (if you have a roommate).

So you’ve figured out your roommate situation, and you’re ready to begin your apartment search. But how do you know what monthly rent price is too expensive? Before you begin going on apartment tours, you and any roommates you will be living with (make sure to confirm with people to get their official yes or no to be your roommate!) need to calculate what monthly rent price you can afford as well as what your budget for bills such as utilities and groceries will be. I personally utilize my extra scholarship money for all my monthly bills and then money from my paychecks to pay for my groceries, but how you will pay for your bills and rent is entirely up to you and the money you have available. I highly recommend calculating the maximum amount of money you would be able to spend and then searching for apartments whose monthly rent is at least $150-$200 below that maximum. This should leave you enough money to at least pay for your utility bills if you plan on using money from your job to pay for your groceries. It also ensures that you will always be able to pay your rent!

Start searching for apartments EARLY!

Now you have figured out your rent budget, and the fun can begin—going on apartment tours! While touring apartments is exciting and all, be sure to stay focused and ask lots of questions. In order to get a good apartment for a good price, I highly recommend starting your apartment search early on in the semester. Apartments intended for college students go quickly, so you want to make sure that you don’t put it off until October or November.

When you’re touring apartments, be sure to ask questions about what utilities are included, any extra fees on top of rent that you would have to pay (and if those fees are separate or included in the overall rent price), pet policies, if there is a laundry facility in-unit or in the building (and if it is free or not), how many months the lease is for, and any other information that is important to you and your roommates. You want to make sure that you’ll have zero surprises when you move in and when your first bill comes.

Decide who’s going to buy what and what things you are planning on sharing.

If you are going to be living with any roommates, after you choose an apartment to rent and you put down your security deposit, decide who is going to buy what for the apartment and what items everyone is comfortable with sharing. If the apartment is furnished, then you do not need to worry about furniture. But if you’re renting an unfurnished apartment, decide who is going to buy which pieces of furniture for the rooms and spaces that everyone will share. Same goes for cooking utensils and cookware. Will everyone buy their own, or will everyone share the same bowls, pots, and pans? Get all of these things settled long before you move in so that everyone is aware of the agreement and so that everyone has plenty of time to buy what they need.

Be sure to also discuss whether or not everyone will buy their own groceries, or if you’ll all go grocery shopping together and share all of the groceries. Some things like flour, sugar, toilet paper, and paper towels are easy things that everyone can take turns buying for the apartment, if you decide that everyone will buy their own groceries.

If something goes wrong, don’t panic.

So you’re all moved in and you officially have your first apartment! While renting your first apartment in college is an exciting accomplishment in adulthood, be aware of the learning curves that will come. No one is perfect, and there will be things that happen that you might not know how to handle right away. Don’t panic when these things go wrong though. It is important to remember that you are always capable of handling anything that goes wrong, and that these experiences are all a part of the process and journey. Familiarize yourself with your apartment’s maintenance policies and numbers, and don’t forget that it is perfectly okay to ask for help whenever you need it. 🙂


Class of 2021
Hey y’all, I’m a History and Gender and Women Studies double major and a French minor from Chicago! I concentrate in all things Black and Black women studies and love long-distance running.


  • I wish there was a thorough guide for UIUC students who are new tenants. Something that talks about the different property management companies nearby, what to do if your landlord won’t respond to unsafe living conditions, what your rights are as a tenant, etc.

  • Hi Lukas, you might want to check out Off-Campus Community Living, which provides support to UIUC students residing in privately owned apartments and homes. Here’s a link to their website, which includes a number of resources, as well as contact information if you have additional questions: We hope this helps!