How To Get an Apartment as a Student with Small Income [2022]

Being a college student can be one of the most exciting times of life. Living away from home for the first time seems to be liberating and rewarding. Some students choose to live on their college campus to get the full college experience when they first begin their studies. However, many students wish to move to an off-campus apartment after living in the on-campus dorms.

When you are a student with a limited income, it can be challenging to rent your first place. You need to know so much before signing a lease agreement or rental agreement. Read on to learn the best practices on how to get an apartment as a student if you have a limited budget.

Why Living Off-campus Can Be a Smart Choice?

Students choose to live off-campus for a variety of reasons. Some of the most common reasons that make one google “how to get an apartment as a college student” include:

  • You will have more freedom;
  • You will usually have more space;
  • You have more control over your environment;
  • You can invite guests and entertain more freely;
  • You have more privacy;
  • You can choose your roommates;
  • You learn more responsibility, including paying bills and living on a budget;
  • Living off-campus can sometimes be more economical.

Yes, living on campus also has some advantages. But many students find living off campus much more enjoyable and sustainable.

Things To Consider Before Renting

You should never rush into a rental contract. Be sure you understand all the terms and provisions. If you have questions, you should speak with an experienced attorney to understand your obligations and rights as a renter. You may want to download and print Lawrina’s Lease Agreement Form to review and discuss with an attorney to simplify the process and get a legally-binding document, easy-to-customize. 

Always think twice before you take a legal leap that could have long-term consequences. You don’t want to enter into a situation that you later regret. So, before getting an apartment as a student, consider the following factors:

Your On-Campus Living Requirements

Let’s start with the most important pre-step. Before beginning an apartment search, you should check with your college to see if it has any restrictions on a student’s residence. Find out your university rules, and whether can a college student rent an apartment off-campus. Many colleges have requirements that students reside temporarily in an on-campus dorm before moving to off-campus properties. 

If you are not obligated to live on campus, renting an apartment off-campus can be a wise choice.

Your budget

You are likely to have significant education expenses as a student. That’s why it’s crucial to determine how much you can afford to pay monthly rent, utilities, food, and supplies for an apartment. You will also need to consider your budget for furnishing your rental. After you know how much you can afford each month, you also need to consider any upfront expenses such as security deposits, pet deposits, and advanced rent for the first and last month’s rent payments.

How to choose a roommate

When choosing a roommate, you naturally want to select someone whose company you enjoy. But there are several other important considerations:

  • Does your potential roommate have a reliable income source? A roommate will be obliged to pay a shared amount for the rent, utilities, and household expenses every month.
  • Is your new roommate a trustworthy person? A roommate will usually have access to your personal belongings and be privy to some of your personal information.
  • Is a roommate ethical and respects personal boundaries? Be sure the roommate you choose is ethical and reliable. You should also consider whether the person has pets, romantic relationships, or friends who will visit frequently.

    Think through all these issues before agreeing to live with another person. 

How long of a lease should you sign

Don’t sign a lease for a longer period of time than you know you can commit to. Generally, a lease agreement may be for a term of six months or one year. You can also sign a month-to-month rental agreement. In most cases, the longer a tenant rents a unit, the lower the rental obligation will be. You will also have a rental rate for the period of your lease unless the contract explicitly provides monthly increases. 

Location and access to transportation

You will want to rent an apartment that is in close proximity to your school and, if you have one, to your job. If you do not have a vehicle, you need to live within walking distance of school and work or ensure that you’re close enough to public transportation. When deciding how to get an apartment in college, always consider its location and your transportation needs. 

Are utilities included?

Some landlords keep the utilities in their own account and the cost of utilities when setting the rental fee. However, other landlords require all tenants to establish their own utility services. Utility companies often require a credit check and security deposit. Be sure you know what to expect before entering a lease.

Pet policies

If you do not have a pet, you may not need to consider this factor. However, if you have one or think you may have a pet in the near future, you should ask about your landlord’s pet policy. If a landlord allows pets in their units, they usually require a pet deposit to cover the cost of cleaning the unit after the tenant leaves. 

Specific landlord rules and restrictions

Check your lease agreement for any rules or restrictions your landlord may have. For example, if your landlord does not allow music or noise after a certain hour, you must decide whether to agree to that. 

Rental requirements

You should know upfront what requirements your landlord may have for entering a rental agreement. For example, will they require a credit check? If so, do you know your credit score? Will you need a guarantor to help guarantee the payment of your rent? Is there a security deposit? Find out your landlord’s requirements before completing an apartment application so you can be prepared. 

Getting an Apartment as a Student:  5 Essential Steps To Consider

It is not always easy to rent your first apartment. Most of the time, students do not have a credit history to show their reliability and trustworthiness. But you can prepare in advance to make the rental process smoother by being proactive. Consider the following factors when deciding how to rent an apartment as a college student. 

Prepare proof of solvency or reliable income

You need to show proof that you can afford to pay the rent each month. If you have a job, you should be prepared to show paystubs or a W-2. If you are relying on a student loan, you need to be able to show the amount of loan proceeds you will receive each semester or year for financing your education and living expenses. If you don’t have sufficient income, you may be able to have someone with reliable income and good credit co-sign the rental agreement with you.

Get advice from a local realtor or/and International Student Office

Realtors who service leased property can be a great source of information. They will be able to tell you about various properties and their requirements. If you feel overwhelmed by the apartment hunt, consider speaking with a local realtor who handles leased properties for advice on how to apply for an apartment as a student.

For international students, there is usually an International Student Office that provides advice and guidance, often with links to local rental listings and best agents. Check this on the college website.

Locate the BEST location based on your research

You should consider the type of neighborhood you want to live in when renting an apartment in college. Make sure that the place you choose is relatively safe, quiet, and conveniently located. You may also want to speak with other tenants in the neighborhood to get a better feel for the area.

If you do not have reliable private transportation, you will also need to consider access to public transportation. Research the bus and rail access near your potential neighborhood to be sure it meets your needs. 

You should also use Google Maps and Street View to get a sense of the area. Find out what restaurants, student hotspots, and hangout spots are nearby, and decide whether it suits your needs and your active social life.

Pick a price that suits your financial planning

Always know your numbers. Determine how much money you have to work with to pay rent, utilities, food, and other expenses. You must know how much you can afford to pay before entering into a rental agreement and incurring financial liability. If you feel overwhelmed when developing a budget, you may ask your college if they offer financial planner consultations. 

So, what matters here is finding a balance between comfort and affordability. Although you can’t always afford to rent a property in a cheaper location because of accessibility to college, it may be a great idea to find a roommate to share the apartment with. Usually, many college students may be looking for an apartment, just like you.

Ensure your accommodation is furnished

International students must look for furnished accommodations or order furniture and appliances after they arrive, which is not always an option because it needs lots of money. Always check whether amenities such as a washing machine and fridge are included in the apartment rent. Some housing options may even provide bedding for students from abroad. 

Tips for Protecting Yourself Against Scammers

Sadly, there are many scammers looking for an easy target. Some of these people prey upon young adults looking to rent their first apartment. If you begin emailing a potential landlord and something seems sketchy, trust your instinct and do not fall for a rental scam. You should be able to meet with a potential landlord and view the premises in person. It is not wise to enter into a lease agreement and pay a deposit without first walking through the apartment and meeting with the landlord or property manager. 

Final Remarks

Finding your first off-campus apartment can be one of the most exciting and liberating times of a student’s life. To ensure this experience is positive, you should carefully consider many factors. You should consider your budget, the type of place you will need, whether you want or need a roommate, and many other considerations before investing in an off-campus apartment.

Do not rush into a rental agreement. Stop and consider your needs, be sure you can meet the financial obligations of the rental contract, and consider the factors discussed above before you sign on the dotted line. Taking the time to think things through can ensure your first rental experience is a positive one. 

Frequently Asked Questions

What are some cool things for a college apartment?

When furnishing your new apartment, you should consider the needs, practices, entertainment choices, and lifestyle of you and any roommates. If you enjoy watching television, you may want to consider a large television and access to Netflix, Hulu, or other on-demand subscriptions.
You should also consider there is a cool place in your apartment to study. This place should be comfortable and enjoyable so you will have more motivation to study. You may also want to consider having a security system and remote monitoring of your apartment. If you have concerns about safety, these technologies can help you feel safer. The options are nearly endless when considering cool things for a college apartment, depending on your budget and needs.

How do I find affordable apartments?

One of the best ways to find affordable apartments is to speak to your guidance counselor and other students on your college campus. You can also search community bulletin boards and online forums.

What should be considered before long-term apartment rental?

Sometimes a landlord will offer a lower rental fee for tenants who sign a long-term lease. However, you should not rush into a long-term lease. Instead, carefully consider your current situation and plans for the future. For example, are you certain you want to continue your education at the same college for the entire term of the lease agreement? Be careful not to lock yourself into an obligation for longer than you may need. You may consider a monthly rental agreement instead.

Article by Sofi Ostymchuk

Sofi Ostymchuk is a Content Lead and Legal Writer at Lawrina. Sofi manages the content on the blog, communicates with contributors, looks for interesting topics, and creates articles in cooperation with lawyers and law experts. If you would like to be a blogger for Lawrina, you can contact Sofi for all the details via email at

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