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Living in Res Vs. Apartment: A Student-Friendly Guide

Written by Marina Khonaisser

Living away from home for the first time is new and exciting for sure. But with this comes uncertain waters. Whether you are living in an apartment or in a university or college residence, this is your guide for how to help you handle the ropes on your own.

Living in Res:

What’s a RA?

RA is short for Resident Assistant and they are extremely helpful. They know their way around the residence, can often help settle disputes or any misunderstandings between roommates, and give some good advice. They’ll make your life easier. Fact.

Sharing the Room

Get to know your roommate. You’re going to be spending tons of time together, and living together is going to be a lot more bearable if you’re on good terms. Introduce yourself right away and see if you can grab a coffee together sometime soon, which brings me to my next point…

Set Standards

Sharing a living space with someone means that you are going to have to have some guidelines in place so that you are both satisfied. Check out the “Roommate Contract” for some good ideas.

Personalize your Space

Resident rooms are usually very plain. You’re going to want to customize it so that you feel more at home. Bring a few things that remind you of home to brighten up the place. Something as simple as a few family photographs can change the mood.

Only Bring the Essentials

Most university or college residences only have a limited amount of storage in each room. Before you pack your entire life into a suitcase, make a brief list of things you are really going to need. This will be items such as a toothbrush, comb, soap, shampoo, etc. For a more complete guide on what to bring check out What to Pack for Residence and Dorm Checklist or check with your university or college.

Turn That Down!

There are going to be some instances when residence might get a little wild. This might not be super fun for you if you have an exam the next day. Be aware that you can always speak with your RA if things get out of control, or walk over to the university or college library to get some peace and quiet (earplugs will work, too).

Hungry Yet?

Rooms do not come equipped with a full kitchen and bar (sorry to burst your bubble). To satisfy your hunger, bring some easy snacks that don’t have to be cooked. Some dorms allow a mini fridge and microwave, so base your food choices on what you can store.

Living in an Apartment:

Research is Good For More Than Your Essays

You’re going to be picking the location and building that you live in, so you want to make sure that it’s going to be the best fit. You don’t want to be stuck in the middle of nowhere with your living quarters covered in mold (yuck). Research every detail extensively before deciding on a place.

What’s a Landlord?

The landlord is who you will be paying rent to, as well as addressing any concerns that you may have. Just like the RA, they are there to help you and to ensure that you have appropriate and acceptable living conditions. You need to make sure that the landlord is a right fit for you as well.

How Do I Pick a Roommate?

It’s important that whom you choose to live with is someone that shares similar values and priorities as you do. This is a luxury and can be used to your advantage. You’re going to want to read How to Find a Good Roommate to make sure you’re on the right track.

Get it in Writing

Make sure that you read through the lease before signing anything and committing to the living arrangement. Read it a few times to make sure that you understand everything fully, and ask for clarification if you don’t.

Be Money Smart

Renting isn’t always cheap, and as a student it can be difficult to find areas where you can save money. Try things like buying a fan instead of installing air conditioning. Lots of apartments have free laundry amenities, so watch out for things like that.

“Same Tune, Different Song”

Just like in residence, you’re going to want to set some guidelines with your new roommate(s) to make sure you’re on the same page. You can also decide how you want to personalize the space with your roommate.

In this case, you have a lot more freedom with furniture choice, wall colors, and decorations. As a student you might not be able to afford the most luxurious pad in the world, but there are ways of making it look great and bigger as well.

Congratulations to Connie Chen from The University of British Columbia, Winner of Week 8 in CIBC’s $10K Study Break!


Enjoy that $1,000 study break, Connie! For your chance to win, see this week’s challenge.

*Opinions expressed are those of the author, and not necessarily those of Student Life Network or their partners.