Being a freshman generally means eating in dining halls, sleeping in dorms and having everything we need within a 10 to 15-minute walk. Our first taste of the college lifestyle is made convenient to accommodate for the fact that many of us are living on our own for the first time.
This comfortable lifestyle doesn’t last though, as most freshmen will move off-campus after freshman year. The process of finding somewhere to live can be overwhelming, especially because the process starts now. Freshmen are pushed to begin looking for apartments and roommates for their sophomore year almost 10 months in advance.
It is a competitive field to find an off-campus apartment, and for a freshman looking right now, there are many obstacles. Freshmen at UT have still recently left home for a completely new lifestyle with no real experience in home searching. Finding an apartment in the right area, price range and size is no simple task. It is unreasonable to assume that students will just know everything about what it takes to lease the right apartment. UT’s First Year Interest Groups, or FIGs, need to better focus on teaching freshman how to lease the right apartment for them.
FIGs are available to incoming freshmen and are designed to give new students advice and guidance during their first year on campus. Given that almost every UT student will have to find an apartment at some point during their time at UT, FIGs should dedicate a handful of their meetings to train freshmen how to find an apartment. The training could be a seminar given by someone in charge of an apartment complex, or a presentation on the various off-campus areas are to live. Even a simple an open discussion between the FIG leader and group could help.
While some FIGs give their students information on finding apartments, not every group does this. FIGs often allow students to pick topics they’d like to learn about at the beginning of the semester. However, given students are not generally knowledgeable of how early apartment leasing begins, it should be mandatory for all FIG groups to explore apartment hunting.
Destiny Gallegos, a business freshman in a FIG, benefitted from her FIG’s discussion of apartment leasing.
“They’ve given us presentations where they are telling us what our housing options are and the cheapest options,” Gallegos said. “I learned that condos are cheaper than apartments and (my mentor) even let us know his personal experiences with different kinds of housing.”
On the other hand, business freshman Gaurisha Dewan felt underprepared by her FIG when attempting to understand how to find housing for next year.
“They didn’t talk about housing at all,” Dewan said. “No powerpoints, nothing. I would’ve liked to know the differences between living in a co-op or living in an apartment with other people or a condo or joining a sorority — like what are the different options out there for us.”
Dewan said she would have liked this information to be presented through powerpoints or a FIG session dedicated to answering housing questions.
While some FIGs do a better job of helping their students understand more about housing, ultimately not all of them are good at getting the information across. Understanding more about off-campus housing should be a mandatory part of the FIG system in the same way that talking about stress and time management is.
Singh is an undeclared freshman from Cupertino, California.