The phenomenon can be likened to a continental shift, a mad dash that can be felt throughout all of Blacksburg. The mass exodus of freshmen scrambling to find off-campus living occurs from September until the beginning of spring semester. The eventual transition from dorm living to the “real world” is one that can be intimidating, and the extra pressure of scrambling to decide whether to live in a house or an apartment, how many people to live with and who will make the cut on the lease never helps. Barely a month on campus and freshmen must juggle their first college courses with extensive research on the plethora of options in the area. Upperclassmen are used to it at this point, as most will renew their leases because of the convenience. Where should a newly minted Hokie even begin? A couple off-campus residents share their tips and tricks to surviving the leasing process and ending up in a place you love.
Just like any good chemistry lab or book report, research is the first step. Figuring out what options are available (in an acceptable price range and location) requires thought and care.
“Don’t discount the value of other people’s input; you never know what might be useful,” said Miles Guth, a sophomore biological sciences major living in an off-campus apartment. Some helpful resources include parent Facebook pages, junior/senior Facebook pages, and the Virginia Tech Off-Campus Housing Office (VTOCH). They can provide resources on roommate agreements, housing fairs and even apartment guides.
Guth and others further removed from “dorm sweet dorm” living have followed a process in picking their first adult living situation. First, try to figure out how many people will be living together, as this will narrow down the search and potentially set a budget.
“Usually, students living off-campus for the first time will live in apartment complexes because they often include furnished apartments, have amenities and allow the student to live closer to fellow students,” said Sammy Schroen, a student helper at VTOCH. “These large complexes are the most similar option to living in the residence halls. It is important to do extensive research before signing a lease so that you can determine what your needs are and what housing options will be able to fit those needs.”
Even if the exact roster might not be set, the team can at least plan to play the game. VTOCH student-worker Kaycie Ludwig gives this tip: “A great option for finding a roommate is using a roommate matching service that many different apartment complexes offer. If you find an apartment complex that you want to sign a lease with that offers this service, they will be able to match you with roommates after you sign a lease.”
Next, distinguishing a budget and standard of living between the roommates helps establish similar expectations between every resident. Does the monthly rent include amenities, and how will the rent/other costs be split? Unfortunately, the fine print on a lease should not be swiped through like Apple’s terms and conditions, as some units do not include facilities usage or utilities in monthly rent.
Finally, take a page out of any real estate agent’s book and consider the importance of location. How far away from campus is too far, and the presence of a car (or lack thereof) should be a factor when considering housing options. While the Blacksburg Transit system is far-reaching and very reliable, it is not always convenient for every complex or house.
“Spend some time now driving around, familiarizing yourself with the surrounding area, and creating a ‘mental map’ of where you might want to live here in Blacksburg,” Guth said, as even differentiating between where the Krogers are located can be a challenge sometimes. Understanding where the ideal home is in town is key to narrowing down the search as well.
Above all else, stay calm. With enough research and conversation, the process will eventually work out. In just a little less than a year, a new group of sophomores (ready to finally use a bathroom without shower shoes) will descend upon the town, ready to take on another year in the great town of Blacksburg.