One of the elements that sets VCU apart from other universities is the fact that living on-campus after freshman year is optional. Finding a place to live can be an overwhelming task for students who are barely 18, but by following a few steps, the decision can be simple and stress-free.
Before going to Craigslist or walking down the street to look up housing, the first step should be figuring out which part of Richmond is suitable to live in.
“Richmond laughs easy, parties hard and works very little,“ wrote Christian Detres in “VICE” magazine. “Getting there is easy. Leaving willingly, not so much.”
Living in Church Hill is impractical for students who do not own a bike or a car. The 1300 block of West Grace Street is known for loud parties, and studious people should avoid the headache. Also, living close to a busy street like North Boulevard can make finding a parking space difficult. For those who plan to stay in one place for a long period of time, the location can make home a sanctuary or a prison.
“I believe home is where the heart can be open and loving with a sense of security. It must not be a place of fear,” wrote author Marilyn Belleghem in “Questing Home: A Safe Place for My Holy Grail.”
After deciding on a location, the next step is picking which qualities of a home are most important. Some apartments and houses have been in Richmond since the early 1900s and do not include a washing machine. Leases can be all-inclusive or only cover water and trash bills. Also, the city can get unbearably hot in the summer and for those who wear shorts in 40-degree weather, a window unit might not provide enough air conditioning in mid-July. Most features of a home are listed online, but if not, a quick phone call should clarify.
Once location and qualities are matched, a student should visit the home in-person. A picture online might show white carpets, but once inside they could turn out to be a pale pink. Room sizes are never what they seem, so it is important to make sure necessary furniture will be able to fit. A bathroom might be fashionably decorated, but poor water pressure can make showering a struggle. Most importantly, students should never visit an unfamiliar place alone. While the likelihood of getting physically harmed due to a classified ad is less than one percent, both CNN and the New York Post have reported at least seven deaths due to a Craigslist post.
Finally, a lease should be carefully reviewed before signing. Some require a cosigner and a deposit of two month’s rent. Others have specific policies regarding damages and late fees. No one needs an unpleasant surprise after moving into a prime location. With good research and some luck, a student can find an ideal place to spend the remaining days of college.
“A true home is one of the most sacred of places,” wrote author J.R. Miller. “It is the place where love learns its lessons, where life is schooled into discipline and strength, where character is molded.”