Paying Rent 101: What To Know

By Ashley Paskill on June 24, 2023

After you live in the dorms for a year or two, you may decide that you want to move to off-campus housing. This likely means that you will be renting an apartment for the first time. While this is exciting, you may have a lot of questions about paying rent and the cost. It can be overwhelming at first, but once you know the information you need, you can make an informed decision about where you will live off-campus.

Factors of cost

There are several things that factor into the cost of renting an apartment. Apartments closer to campus tend to have higher rent because of the convenience. The nicer the apartment, the higher the cost of rent will be. For example, if you find an apartment that is less than $500 a month on its own, there may be an issue with it that you might not be able to see at first glance. Be wary of any apartment that seems too good of a price to be true because it likely is.

Original costs

Before you even get the apartment, you will likely have to pay a fee when you are applying for the apartment. When you first sign the lease of your apartment, you will need the first and last month’s rent plus a security deposit. Though you may get the security deposit back when you move out, do not count on this as you might not get it back.


One way to help reduce the amount you pay for rent individually is to live with roommates. The more roommates you have, the less you each have to pay individually since you can split the rent. However, your landlord may have limits on how many roommates can live in the apartment at a time so be sure to check the lease or ask your landlord. Many landlords do not like more than four people living in a single apartment, so if you would like to add more roommates but you are at the maximum, you may consider going somewhere that allows the number of roommates you want.

Added costs

While living in an apartment, things like utilities and parking are usually added on top of rent each month. There may also be additional fees if you have pets living with you. When determining costs, make sure you know how much each of these costs and budget them into your monthly apartment expenses on top of your rent so you are not surprised when the bills come in. Also, you may be paying more if an apartment was recently upgraded with new appliances and features. If you pay your rent and utilities late, you may have to pay a large late fee. This also goes for your utilities.

Financial aid

Most students receive some sort of financial aid for going to college, whether they have grants, scholarships, or student loans. Many of these have specific requirements for what they can be used for. When applying for financial aid and accepting the money, make sure you are aware of what the money can be used for. If you want to use the money for paying rent, make sure the money can be applied to your rent or living expenses. Otherwise, you may get in trouble for using the funds wrong.

How to pay rent

Depending on your landlord, you may have options for how to pay your rent each month. Some landlords may be old school and only accept cash, check, or money order. Other landlords may accept credit or debit cards through an app. There are some that may even allow you to send the rent money through apps like PayPal or Venmo. Be sure to check with your landlord to see which method they prefer so you can ensure they receive their money on time.

Paying too much?

Typically, a month’s rent is 30% of your income. This may be difficult as a college student, even if you have a job, so it can be a good idea to find roommates to help lower the cost. If you feel like you are paying too much for your rent, you can find out what others in the area are paying. Ask classmates who rent apartments how much they pay for their rent each month or do a quick Google search. You will be able to find sites that can help you compare local rent to what you are currently paying.

Negotiating rent

If you do feel like you are paying too much for your rent, you may be able to negotiate the rent down. As mentioned above, do some research into what other similar apartments’ rents are and use this as a springboard for your negotiations. Show your landlord the research and mention that you are tempted to live in a less expensive apartment. You may also want to demonstrate that you can be a good renter as this can factor into the lowering of the rent.

Paying rent for an apartment, especially for the first time, can seem overwhelming. However, being informed of the costs can help you decide for where to live and not pay more than you can afford.

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