Tips & Other Notes

Study Tips

Learn to relax.

Take organized notes. Underline or highlight the main ideas, concepts and information
Write down all assignments and test dates in your organizer or notebook.
Take ten minutes after each class to review your notes
Avoid any distracting conduct. Activity such as talking, eating and joking can distract you and your classmates.
Find a quiet private place by yourself then settle in
If you need music playing in the background while you study or do homework, make sure that it is an old familiar cd so that you are not trying to listen carefully to the new lyrics or music
DON’T WAIT UNTIL THE NIGHT BEFORE TO STUDY OR COMPLETE AN ASSIGNMENT – plan ahead – reread/review a chapter or two a night the week of the test or exam will not overload your brain.

Test Taking Tips


Beyond the many services that your College or University’s Learning Center / Student Services offers, they can help you better prepare yourself for the ultimate challenge of being a student: test-taking. Test-taking can be a very frustrating event for many students. You can, however, use a variety of strategies to better prepare yourself for test-taking. The anxiety you may feel will decrease if you use these helpful tips. As a student, you will encounter many different instructors, diverse teaching styles, dissimilar testing situations, and various kinds of tests. Thus, you may want to try using various strategies to better suit your needs, and to actively engage yourself in enhancing and improving your test-taking abilities.

Test – Preparation Hints

Attend class regularly, especially the class before an exam. The professor will usually give helpful hints regarding the exam. About a week or two before the test, ask your instructor about what you can anticipate being on the exam. Start preparing for your exam at least two weeks in advance. Listen carefully during lectures. Professors will often stress important topics or points with body language, voice intonation, or repetition. Put a mark in your notes by that information so you remember that it is important. Predict and make practice test questions. Utilize your lecture notes, textbook notes, handouts, previous tests and quizzes, and sample tests from each chapter. Study with a group that has good study habits. Use note cards to quiz yourself on concepts and vocabulary. Repeat information aloud. Hearing it is sometimes more effective than reading it for the millionth time. Review ALL class information for the exam. Professors often throw in questions based on information other than what they specifically talked about in class. Never cram for an exam, but do review the night before the exam. Get a good night’s sleep and eat a healthy breakfast. Your mind, like your body, needs rest and energy to perform well.

“A Test is a Test… ” NOT!

Every professor creates tests suitable for the course and subject matter to be mastered, and unless you have had a particular professor several times, the chance you have of “figuring out” a professor’s testing style is slim without consulting the professor or other students who have had him or her. By using the hints below, you should be able to prepare for your exams in the most effective ways possible for each class.

Test-Taking Techniques

Always read the directions carefully.
Do a “memory dump” as soon as you get the exam. Jot down all formulas, mnemonics, and anything else you can remember from your studies on a blank scratch paper or in the test margins.
Skim the test to get a sense of what it covers so you can allot your time appropriately. Note the “weight” of questions. Questions worth more points should be completed in a timely manner, whereas the questions worth one or two can be finished after the larger, more difficult ones are complete.
Do the easiest questions first, and put marks next to the questions you are unsure of. When you have completed the exam, go back and finish the “marked” questions.
Don’t be afraid to ask the professor if you have a question; perhaps others may have the same questions about confusing items or directions.
Look for key words that might trigger the right answer. Occasionally, the information needed to successfully complete one question lies within another question.
For essay exams: Before you start, “brain-storm” for a minute so you can recall the information needed to answer the question. Then set up a brief outline of your points so you do not forget anything while you are writing. This way, if you run out of time, you can jot down the items left in the outline for partial credit. If possible, save time to PROOFREAD!
For multiple choice tests: Always read all the choices; then mark the answers you know are not correct. Continue until you know the correct answer or can submit an educated guess.
For true and false questions: Watch for words that change the meaning of the statement (i.e., qualifiers like “always” and “never”). And remember, all parts of a statement must be true for the answer to be “true.”

Always write carefully and legibly.

Ignore the pace of other students; always take your time.

Always save enough time to go through the test a second time.

A Good Resume

A good resume is vital. It’s your calling card to a prospective employer – one that lays out your qualifications and hopefully gets you a job interview. Remember, most employers will spend less than five minutes reviewing your resume. Follow these guidelines to make sure your resume gets you noticed.

Be sure to include these basics:

Contact information: Full name, phone number, school and permanent address, e-mail address.
Education: School, degree, date of completion, honors, special course work. If you’re still in school, provide your expected date of completion.
Experience: In addition to work history, include relevant non-professional experience, such as internships, extracurricular activities and significant volunteer work.
Skills: List any computer systems, office equipment and software programs you are experienced with, as well as particular office skills (shorthand, typing speed, etc.).
Other categories: If they are relevant, include publications, awards, leadership positions or other notable achievements.

There are many different ways to organize your resume. The most basic formats include:

Chronological: To emphasize your work history, list your jobs and activities, beginning with your most recent experiences.
Functional: To emphasize your skill sets, group your experiences under categorical headings, such as Leadership or Technology Support.

The key is to pick a format that presents your achievements most effectively – as well as being easy to read and comprehend. See below for samples of a number of resume formats.

Tips for a Winning Resume:

Keep it brief. Limit your resume to one page. Instead of paragraphs, use bullet-pointed lists.
Provide meaningful descriptions of your experiences. When detailing your job history, use short sentences or fragments to demonstrate your relevant experience.
Use strong action words (“developed and implemented a new filing system”; “created two new membership programs”).
Use formatting to help you out. Capitalize and use boldface, italics or underlining to help organize the information.
Proofread. Use spell-check, double-check your contact information, and make sure your formatting is consistent. Ask a friend or family member to proofread it as well. Check for errors that spell-check programs miss (i.e. there vs. their; to, too or two).
Custom fit your resume. Revise your resume for each job application to make sure it fits the opportunity at hand.

The final test: Take a look at your resume from arm’s distance. Is it confusing and text-heavy? Or is it easy to find the information you need? Do whatever is needed to make your resume “reader-friendly.”

Only An Assistance… SAVE:

As post-secondary sponsorship is only an assistance, I can’t stress enough the importance of saving some of your own money to help offset the additional daily expenses that you will have. Students are allowed to work, full or part-time, as long as work does not interfere with your studies of course.

As long as you are eligible, you don’t have to worry about paying any of your mandatory tuition fees, or your required books/supplies, but your living allowance will always remain the same. There are no advances to tide you over until the next cheque release and there’s no extra assistance for socializing, daycare services.

Then you have to start considering all the other important options – where will you stay? what can you afford? Regardless of where you decide to go (local or away) and stay (apartment or residence), you will have expenses to pay for – rent, food, laundry, toiletries, recreational activities, etc, etc. In addition to your tuition and books/supplies being paid for, a single student receives $675 a month for their living allowance plus an additional $40 per week per month for regular travel assistance. Your rent or residence fee is to be paid from your living allowance. If you are interested in staying in a residence, find out how much it is at each college/university you applied to? whether or not the meal plan is mandatory? Please be advised that some colleges and universities have very expensive residence/meal plans, while others are more affordable.

Residence is an option for you but it is not the only one for living arrangements. Please contact me if residence is your choice and I will give you a more detailed explanation of how your fees are paid and what your actual living allowance would be for the year.


If you are currently working (or when you get a summer job), I highly recommend that you set up a “bank account” and put aside a portion of each pay (whatever amount you can afford after keeping enough for your now limited recreational expenses – depending on your pay, it could be as little as $10 or maybe if you rearranged your spending habits, you could afford to save $20, $50, maybe even $100 a cheque). Trust me – the earlier you start saving, the better; any amount saved will definitely come in handy next year. Talk to any student currently enrolled, they will tell you some of the realities of money!!

Good Leader Attributes

Nation’s top CEO’s give a teenager some advice:

(Excerpt taken from an article on

Doug Barry wrote dozens of executives and, to his surprise, they wrote him back.

When seeking a role model, it makes sense to aim high. Fourteen-year-old Douglas Barry did just that, writing letters to the leaders of some of the world’s most powerful corporations to ask how he could someday attain such a lofty position. The plentiful responses he received —many of them warm, personal, and funny — were remarkable not only for their content, but also for the fact that these high-level individuals spent some of their highly compensated time responding to a child’s query.

The advice, personal counsel, and universal words of wisdom offered here by today’s titans of industry has already inspired me immensely.

I hope it inspires you, too.

Seven attributes

Despite their authors’ varied backgrounds and expertise, a pattern emerged in the letters, it was quickly evident that a good leader needs seven attributes to succeed:


“I believe in treating people with respect. My style is to speak to people, be available to them and willing to answer their questions. This also means being straightforward and honest with them.”
—Sanford I. Weill, Chairman and Co-CEO, Citigroup,Inc.


“Passionate people get things done. Passion for doing what you’re called to do resonates in every fiber of a true leader. Passionate people energize other people and build enthusiasm. And as you surely know, enthusiasm is contagious.”
—Leonard Roberts, Chairman and CEO, RadioShack Corp.


“One of the key qualities that any CEO (or successful person) needs—a willingness to stretch yourself and go after goals that others think are too visionary, too hard, or too ambitious to accomplish.”
—Richard A. McGinn, Chairman and CEO, Lucent Technologies.


“I believe in treating people with respect. My style is to speak to people, be available to them and willing to answer their questions. This also means being straightforward and honest with them.”
—Sanford I. Weill, Chairman and Co-CEO, Citigroup,Inc.


“Actions need to go beyond the letter of the law to a spirit of trust and integrity, and a willingness to lead on issues where the needs are greatest. This also includes a commitment to give back to make the world a better place—both as a corporation and by providing opportunities for employees to give their time and talents to help others.”
—Betsy Holden, President and CEO, Kraft Foods North America.


“I am curious and interested in just about everything. So, I am always learning and working at the margin of my ignorance.”
—Harvey Golub, CEO, American Express.


“It is critically important to be determined to do the right thing—to commit to conducting yourself with the highest standards of ethics and integrity. It will inspire people’s confidence and trust in you. And people, as a result, will help you in ways that you would never expect, and maybe never even know about.”
—Raymond V. Gilmartin, Chairman, President and CEO, Merck & Co.


“An important mark of a good leader[is] to know you don’t know it all and never will.”
—Anne M. Mulcahy, CEO, Xerox Corp.

Ways to Help Combat Home Sickness

Acknowledge to yourself that the sad, uneasy feeling you are having may be related to being homesick.

Find someone to talk to about it — a roommate, a friend from home, a resident assistant, a family member, your Academic Advisor, your Post-Secondary Counsellor or if necessary a counselor.

Call home (if you can) more often for awhile and share the fact that you miss your family, your room, your old friends, your neighborhood and yes, maybe even your problematic younger sister/brother(s).

Don’t try to bury the feeling. Don’t drink more or party more just to try to make the feelings go away

Do get together with new people in your surroundings and do get comfortable and enjoy comforting, fun things (i.e., lunch, walks, bike rides, talks, etc.).

Put a picture of your parents, house, siblings or old friends up in your room to give you a more comfortable and safe feeling.

Be realistic about what to expect from student life and from yourself. Establish a balance between work and leisure: you are NOT expected to work ALL the time – you would soon burn out. On the other hand, if you don’t put in enough time on work, you can very quickly get behind, which only adds to the stresses!

Check out that you do really want to be at this university, in this college, studying this subject, at this time. Most people come through times of homesickness and go on to do well and enjoy their time at university. But for some it can be right to leave and take another direction. Those who do leave mostly find another course or university with which they are happy, perhaps after taking a year out. But if you are thinking along these lines, you need to take expert advice about the academic, career, GRFN sponsorship and financial implications. Speak to your Academic Advisor, the Native Student Counsellor and your Post-Secondary Counsellor.

If your academic work is proving too difficult, can you improve your study skills or your organization of time and work so that you gain satisfaction from what you do? There may be people in your college/university or department who can help in this area.

Realize that new situations take time to get used to and that one longs (for awhile) for what is familiar.

If the doldrums immobilize you, consider getting more exercise by using a recreation center or the aquatic center which offers recreational and lap swimming and water aerobics.

Take advantage of inexpensive movies at the student union and other campus activities and athletics events.

Appreciate yourself and your growth process and give yourself time. You will settle in.

If you stop being able to do normal social and academic things, seek professional help either from your doctor or the counselling service. Don’t wait until the problems have grown impossibly large!

What is homesickness?

Most people will have felt homesick at some time in their lives, perhaps when they were younger, and it is easy to forget just how overwhelming it can be.

Beginning life at college/university naturally generates both excitement and anxiety about the move, academic work, meeting new people. For some, this apprehension is quickly overcome as they adapt to a new environment; for others the transition takes longer and sometimes emerges as homesickness where there is a preoccupation with home-focused thoughts. There is a yearning for and grieving over the loss of what is familiar and secure: most often it is about the loss of people – family and friends – but it is also about the loss of places and routines.

Those who experience homesickness might notice an increase in depressed feelings, anxiety, obsessive thoughts and minor physical ailments. Homesickness can often be distinguished from depression in this way – in depression sufferers find both college/university and home awful, whereas in homesickness college/university can feel awful while home may be seen in rose-tinted hues.

Some students will start by being mildly depressed and anxious several weeks before leaving home, in anticipation of the impending change. Others will be fine initially, and then to their surprise find themselves feeling homesick later in the academic year, perhaps after the Christmas break, or even at the start of their second academic year. But commonly it is the first few days or weeks after arriving at university which are the most difficult.

Students are not immune just because they have successfully experienced leaving home before. Vulnerability to feeling homesick is affected by:

  • the distance from home
  • a sense of anticlimax at finally arriving at university after working towards it for so long
  • whether the student was responsible for the decision to come to university
  • unhappiness due to expectations of university not being met
  • “job strain” – i.e. work overload and low control over it
  • contrast in lifestyle.

Those who are homesick often feel they have no control over their environment, and that they are not identified with it or committed to the university or their place in it.

Transition to College/University

There are two tasks involved in starting at university :

  • leaving familiar things, people and places,
  • adapting to new things, people and places.

Individuals have different levels of tolerance to change and have learned different ways of coping with new situations. But what can make transition so hard? In a familiar place people generally feel accepted and secure, and are therefore able to function and meet challenges successfully. Away from the familiar, they are without their usual sources of support, and in unfamiliar surroundings their tried and tested methods of coping and working are challenged; “failure” looms large and self esteem and confidence drops. Tasks which would normally have been taken in one’s stride, can suddenly seem quite a challenge, or even feel impossible.



Here’s what not to do:

Don’t talk about how much you miss your daughter/son:

If you communicate your distress about your child’s absence, you’ll justify her homesickness.

Don’t provide an easy out:

Don’t tell children in advance that they can come home early if they don’t like school (even if it’s true) or they won’t have any reason to work at making school a success. Overcoming homesickness builds strength and character and is part of the going away to school experience.

Don’t encourage guilt:

Don’t make your child feel like a failure if she leaves school early and don’t feel guilty about having encouraged him/her her to go away for school. Focus on the positive elements and encourage her to try school again soon.

What might help?

Talk to someone. If you haven’t yet made friends here, then try a tutor, supervisor, chaplain, nurse or counsellor.

Keep in good contact with the people you have left behind; arrange a time to go back to see them, perhaps after a few weeks. But also give yourself time within the university to begin to get involved here. Don’t let looking back actually hinder moving forward.

Remember that many other people will be sharing similar feelings, although you may assume that they are doing fine! (You can’t read their minds – just as they can’t read yours!)

You are allowed to feel sad and homesick! You are also allowed to enjoy yourself – it isn’t being disloyal to those you miss!

Be realistic about what to expect from student life and from yourself. Establish a balance between work and leisure: you are NOT expected to work ALL the time – you would soon burn out. On the other hand, if you don’t put in enough time on work, you can very quickly get behind, which only adds to the stresses!

If work is proving too difficult, can you improve your study skills or your organisation of time and work so that you gain satisfaction from what you do? There may be people in your college or department who can help in this area.

Remember to get enough food and sleep! These affect us emotionally as well as physically.

Make contacts and friends through shared activities such as sport or other interests. There are so many clubs and societies within the university and city, that you are very likely to find something that suits your particular interests. At the start of the academic year many new people will be joining – you are unlikely to be the only new person.

Give yourself time to adjust: you don’t have to get everything right straight away. Nor do you have to rush into making major decisions about staying or leaving.

Check out that you do really want to be at this university, in this college, studying this subject, at this time. Most people come through times of homesickness and go on to do well and enjoy their time at university. But for some it can be right to leave and take another direction. Those who do leave mostly find another course or university with which they are happy, perhaps after taking a year out. But if you are thinking along these lines, you need to take expert advice about the academic, career and financial implications. Speak to your tutor, the University Career Service and your LEA.

If you stop being able to do normal social and academic things, seek professional help either from your doctor or the counselling service. Don’t wait until the problems have grown impossibly large!

We hope that some of these suggestions will prove useful. There are many things you can do to help yourself, but don’t hesitate in seeking out the help of others. Homesickness is not unusual – and it can be conquered!

Prerequisites and Admission Requirements

Prerequisites and admission requirements – what are they and how do they affect you?

by Rob Taylor (from myschool101)

Before you can get onto the roof, you need to get a ladder to climb up to the roof with. Prerequisites and admission requirements are life’s ladders. You use them to advance upwards towards your goal. Currently, most of the prerequisites you are encountering are related to school.

You’ve probably encountered them already, even if you haven’t graduated from high school yet. You can’t take Grade 12 English unless you’ve taken – and passed – Grade 11 English.

The same situation exists in college and university, but in a bit more of a complicated manner. You may not be able to take a particular second-year English course unless you have taken three particular first-year courses, and, to make it more interesting, not all of those courses will necessarily from the same discipline.

Going from high school to university or college carries its own set of challenges.

Prerequisites and admission requirements to get into university or college

In general, schools require that students entering their first year at that institution have taken certain courses, based on what province the students come from. For example, a student from Ontario may have to take Grade 12 science while a student from Alberta may have had to take Grade 11 science and a Grade 12 science to gain admittance.

Most schools require that students have at least Grade 12 English or the provincial equivalent. A school may also require a minimum grade average to be accepted to any program, but this is more rare.

Some specialized schools, like a school for the performing arts or an art school, may require that you submit a portfolio or examples of work you have done that relates to the program or school that you are applying to.

Prerequisites and admission requirements to get into a specific program at a school

It’s entirely possible for a student to have the prerequisites and other admission requirements to get into a school but not get into a program at that school. Many programs have their own specific requirements and prerequisites. This is especially true of programs that are not in the general arts or sciences. For example, an engineering program may require a science course, multiple mathematics courses and a high academic average to enter the program.

Non-academic requirements

As mentioned previously, some specialized schools or programs may require that you submit work related to the program or school as part of their entrance requirements. This might be a sample of your writing for a journalism or creative writing program, or photographs for a photography program. You may even be required to go in for an interview to talk about the work you have submitted.

Other programs might look for your experience in relation to a program. A teaching program might be interested in volunteer work at a local school or with a youth group while a medical program might be interested in volunteer work at the local hospital.

Beyond first year

You might think that you’d get away from all of these prerequisites and requirements after you finish your college diploma or university degree. This is not the case. If you want to go to graduate school or take a post-diploma, you’ll probably encounter requirements like these. And even if you don’t go back to school, you’ll have requirements to deal with the rest of your life. A job description is made up of prerequisites and requirements.

But don’t panic. All you need is planning and foresight and you will meet those requirements with ease and efficiency.

It is very important that you talk with your parents and your High School Guidance Counsellor when you are making your course selections each year. This may not seem as important right now, but you need to start planning now for your college/university years, and ultimately, “what you want to be when you grow up”.

If you have any questions, concerns or need some assistance mapping out your course selections, please make an appointment with either your High School Guidance Counsellor or call your Garden River High School Liaison Worker – Phil Jones or myself, Anne Marie Jones, the Post-Secondary Counsellor at our office, 946-3933.

Completing Your Scholarship Application Essay

Writing the Scholarship Essay (Kay Peterson, Ph.D. – from fastweb)

The personal essay. It’s the hardest part of your scholarship application. But it’s also the part of the application where the ‘real you’ can shine through. Make a hit with these tips from scholarship providers:

Think before you write

Brainstorm to generate some good ideas and then create an outline to help you get going.

Be original. The judges may be asked to review hundreds of essays. It’s your job to make your essay stand out from the rest. So be creative in your answers.

Show, don’t tell

Use stories, examples and anecdotes to individualize your essay and demonstrate the point you want to make. By using specifics, you’ll avoid vagueness and generalities and make a stronger impression. 

Develop a theme

Don’t simply list all your achievements. Decide on a theme you want to convey that sums up the impression you want to make. Write about experiences that develop that theme.

Know your audience

Personal essays are not “one size fits all.” Write a new essay for each application—one that fits the interests and requirements of that scholarship organization. You’re asking to be selected as the representative for that group. The essay is your chance to show how you are the ideal representative.

Submit an essay that is neat and readable

Make sure your essay is neatly typed, and that there is a lot of white space on the page. Double-space the essay, and provide adequate margins (1″-1 1/2″) on all sides.

Know your audience

Proofread carefully, check spelling and grammar and share your essay with friends or teachers. Another pair of eyes can catch errors you might miss.



Questions to ask when looking for an apartment

Great! You’ve finally found a few available apartments and you’ve made an appointment to take a look. But what should you look for? Be sure to get the full scoop before you sign the lease.


  • How much is monthly rent? How much is the security deposit? When will you get your deposit back?
  • If you have roommates, do you each sign the lease? Are you each responsible for your own share of the rent, or will you be expected to cover costs if one of the roommates doesn’t pay? Are there extra fees for additional roommates?
  • What day is the first rent payment due? On what day is rent due after that?
  • Is there a deposit for keys or pets?
  • Which utilities are you responsible for?
  • How much do utilities cost?

Buildings and Grounds

  • Are the hallways, entryways and grounds clean and well lit?
  • Are the laundry facilities and parking lot in good condition?
  • What kinds of trash removal facilities are provided for the building?
  • Are snow removal and/or lawn care provided?


  • How close are you to school and/or work?
  • Is there a grocery store nearby?
  • Are there public transportation stops or stations close by?
  • Is the neighborhood safe?

Rental Unit

  • Does the landlord behave professionally? Are repairs made in a timely fashion?
  • Do the doors have dead-bolt locks?
  • Do the windows open, close and lock? Do they have air leaks? Are screens and/or storm windows provided?
  • Is there enough heat and hot water? (Test by running the hot water and checking to see how quickly it heats up.)
  • Does the apartment have individual meters for tenant-paid utilities?
  • Are there any spots on the ceiling from leakage?
  • Is there any evidence of roaches?
  • Does the apartment have a smoke detector?
  • Are there any repairs needed prior to moving in? If so, have them noted in your lease, along with a schedule for completion.


  • How much is monthly rent? How much is the security deposit? When will you get your deposit back?
  • If you have roommates, do you each sign the lease? Are you each responsible for your own share of the rent, or will you be expected to cover costs if one of the roommates doesn’t pay? Are there extra fees for additional roommates?
  • What day is the first rent payment due? On what day is rent due after that?
  • Is there a deposit for keys or pets?
  • Which utilities are you responsible for?
  • How much do utilities cost?

Furnishings and Appliances

  • Which appliances and/or pieces of furniture are provided?
  • Does the apartment need to be painted?
  • Does the carpet need to be cleaned?
  • Does any furniture need to be replaced?
  • When checking out an apartment, don’t just talk to the landlord. Current tenants, the tenant union and your school’s off-campus housing office can give you valuable information about the landlord’s record and the condition of the apartment 

Moving on up: Going from dorm to an apartment

 Fed up with sharing your bathroom and eating cafeteria food? Maybe it’s time to move into your own apartment. But before you start packing, learn what you can about the big move.

Finding an Apartment

The good ol’ days when the university residence hall association found available housing for you are no more. Finding an apartment takes research and time. Be on the lookout for ads placed by landlords, sublet announcements or “roommate wanted” notices. Look in the classified section of your local or college paper and check the off-campus housing office and Web page. Talk to your friends and classmates, too—they might know of some great open spots.

Rent and Amenities

How much you pay in rent depends a lot on where the apartment is located. Apartments that are closer to campus or near the most active streets are generally pricier than those that are farther from campus or the downtown area.

Find out what is included with the rent. Sometimes garages, parking and storage spaces are included with the advertised price; a lot of times they’re additional. For places that are advertised as ‘furnished,’ find out what furniture specifically comes with the apartment. Also check to see if appliances (refrigerator, dishwasher, etc.) are included, and if laundry facilities are provided in the building.

Decide whether you want to look for roommates. Living by yourself gives you more freedom, but paying for everything on your own can be expensive.


When it comes to leases, be sure to read the fine print! Discuss the contract with the landlord and make sure everything you agree to is in writing. Be sure to ask:

  • Is the lease for an academic or a calendar year? If it is a 12-month contract, can you sublet the apartment in the summer?
  • Is there a charge for each additional person living in the apartment?
  • What happens if you break the lease? Is there a fine?

If your campus or community has a tenant union, have them look at the lease before you sign it.

Security Deposit

 Security deposits range from $100 to a full-month’s rent. If you have a roommate, each of you will probably be charged separately. At the end of your lease, your deposit will be returned or used to pay for any damages to the place you were renting.

Review all of the policies regarding security deposit return. Find out what you need to do to be sure you get your deposit back (as well as what would lose you your deposit!).

If you have a pet, you may also be charged a pet deposit, which can range anywhere from $50 to $300 and is not always refundable.


Rent often includes heat and water, but not always, so be sure to ask. If it’s not included, you could spend from $15 to $50 a month (depending on the climate).

Almost always, you’re the one who has to pay the electricity. This bill will go up during the months you use air conditioners and will be affected by appliance use. And don’t forget to include any hook-up fees required at the start of your service.

Also remember to figure in the cost of things like Internet access, cable television and telephone lines.


 The cafeteria food might have been hurting your stomach, but a new gourmet lifestyle could hurt your wallet. When using your new kitchen, try to budget your shopping lists and develop your cooking skills. Using pre-packaged foods and eating out can get expensive.

Renter’s Insurance

Don’t think nothing will happen, because it will! Renter’s insurance covers the cost of your possessions if disaster strikes. The $100 to $250 you’ll spend annually will be worth it.


 Living farther from campus might mean cheaper rent, but when you add in transportation costs, the cheaper apartment could be the more expensive choice.

Owning a car can be the most expensive way to get around. Factor in registration fees, city taxes, insurance and permit fees. Check into costs for parking on campus as well.

Public transportation can also add up. The $1.50 or so for the train or bus amounts to about $45 a month and nearly $300 a year.

If you’re not that far from campus, walking can cut down transportation costs. But remember to consider the weather, the safety of your neighborhood and your class schedule (are you taking night classes?) when budgeting how much money you’ll need for public transportation.

There’s a lot to think about when moving into an apartment. But plan it out right, and you’ll be on your way to life on your own.

Avoid Subletting Nightmares

Maybe you can’t finish the semester due to an unexpected emergency, or won’t stay in town for the summer. But you don’t want to pay rent on an empty apartment, so you figured you’d post a flyer on campus and sublet the place.

Subletting is allowing someone to temporarily live in your apartment to cover the rent while you’re away. While it’s common, you should be careful. “The risks are enormous,” says Susan Hessee, staff attorney at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. “If things go awry, the subtenants rarely get sued. The primary tenant is the one that has to eat the loss – and it can be huge.”

— by Jennifer LeClaire

Risky Business?

There’s a long list of risks to subletting for all parties involved. For the primary tenant common issues include property damage, uncollected rent and even evictions.

“If the subtenant gets thrown out of the unit because they violated some house rules, then you still have to pay the rent,” says Stephen Roulac, author of 375 Housing Mistakes and How You Can Avoid Them. “You also have the potential risk of someone coming into the apartment and injuring themselves. It can be a dicey proposition.”

Of course, the subtenant should also walk into the deal with both eyes wide open. Not all landlords allow tenants to sublet. Failure to confirm the tenant’s right to lease you the apartment could spell disaster when the landlord comes around with a notice to vacate the premises.

Safe Subletting

A little wisdom goes a long way toward preventing financial loss, damaged credit and the need to find a new home.

The obvious first line of defense for all parties is to sign a written agreement, says Peggie Luers, coordinator for off-campus housing services at California State University Sacramento.

“Contracts are only enforceable when the parties know the terms,” Luers says. “So, put it in writing and have everyone involved sign it. It does not have to be notarized or use any special legal language. A contract just has to clearly spell out what each side has agreed to do as their part of the bargain.”

That agreement should include things like the amount of rent, the house rules regarding noise, pets, visitors, the length of the lease and any other provisions in the primary tenant’s lease.

Pictures Say 1,000 Words

Hessee says many subtenants seemingly have no conscious about the damage they do to the property.

“Beer-soaked carpets, cigarette burns on the furniture and furry items stinking up the refrigerator are often the norm at the end of the sublease,” says Hessee. “Collect a security deposit from the subtenant and get all the rent paid up front if possible.”

Before you hand over your apartment keys to subtenants, do a walk through of the unit and note the condition. Experts suggest using a video or still camera, but even written documentation is better than nothing if both parties sign off on it.

While pictures say a thousand words, so can subtenants. Subtenants could also run up thousands of dollars on your telephone if you forget to cut it off. Experts recommend transferring all utilities into the subtenant’s name before heading out of town.

On the flip side, subtenants have a right to privacy, meaning that the primary tenant cannot come barging in at will unless there is an emergency. Subtenants should also be sure to get contact information from the leaser in case there is any problem.

Since most of the risks fall on the primary tenant, Hessee says these agreements should not be entered into lightly.

“With a sublet, you are likely to receive only nominal rent,” says Hessee. “In exchange, you are permitting someone else to live in your apartment and are putting yourself at risk for damage that a person might cause. Be very careful in weighing the risks and benefits in subletting.”

Dealing with Damage

Broken furniture. Outdated appliances. Student rental properties aren’t always in the most pristine condition. But that doesn’t give you a free pass to walk away if you knock a three-foot hole in the wall.

All tenants have certain obligations to their landlord. The lease you signed does more than state your move-in date and rent. It also contains a slew of legal protections. “Assume that the leasing arrangement is more complicated than you think it is,” says Ed Sacks, author of The Savvy Renter’s Kit and the “Apartment Watch” column for the Chicago Sun-Times.

The Consequences

If the landlord discovers damage you’ve failed to report while you’re living in the unit, you could find yourself homeless in a heartbeat. Depending on the severity of the damage, and nature of your lease, the landlord may be able to evict you.

You might be able to move out before the landlord notices, but you’re not off the hook. “Your security deposit will be tapped, and chances are it will be tapped at a fairly substantial level,” Sacks says. If the cost of repairs exceeds the amount of your security deposit the landlord can sue for the difference.

Damage affects every tenant, not just the perpetrator. Even though you were out of town during your roommates’ ill-advised game of dining-room dodgeball, that doesn’t absolve you of your obligation. Every tenant is accountable. And, if your credit necessitated a guarantor or cosigner on your lease (a parent or guardian), they could face consequences too. They’ve guaranteed that damages will be paid and “may find that they have been sued knowing nothing whatsoever about what has happened,” Sacks says.

A damaged apartment could also hurt your chances of getting a loan, insurance or even a job. “A management company or landlord can place derogatory information on a credit report,” Sacks says. That credit report can be seen by banks, insurance companies, future landlords and employers.

Take Action

So how do you avoid such a mess in the first place? Obviously, avoiding damage will prevent a lot of headaches. Your rental may be your home, but there are still limits on things like noise levels and occupancy. Simply respecting your home and neighbors will go a long way.

However, accidents do happen. In the event there is damage be proactive. “Offer to be as useful as you can in seeing that it gets taken care of,” Sacks says. “Notify the landlord of what happened, and be very forthcoming. Say ‘I will pay for the repairs, do you want me to take care of this, or would you prefer to do it?”

Dealing with damage when it happens is critical. At that point, as a tenant, you have an active relationship with the landlord. This makes resolving the problem easier. Things can get contentious if the problem isn’t confronted and the tenant moves. Now, the landloard may be more likely to pursue a less amicable resolution.

Wrongly Accused

If you’ve ever pleaded, “But it was like that when we moved in,” to your landlord as he told you he wouldn’t return your security deposit, you know sometimes claims of damage can be suspect.

Damage is different from normal wear and tear. “Reasonable wear and tear are conditions that are expected to happen because of normal use, or because of the continuation of time,” Sacks says.

The best way to protect yourself is with a walkthrough when you move in. With your landlord present, check the floors, walls, outlets and plumbing. Take photographs. Then sign a document with your landlord that describes the unit’s condition on the day you moved in.

If you’re still having trouble with a landlord, seek out a tenants’ rights organization in your community.

How to Submit Documents in PDF Format Using a Cell Phone

If you have a paper copy of a document that needs to be submitted to someone via email and if you do not have access to a scanner, you can create pdf copies which are much better quality than just sending a picture.

For an iPhone, use the NOTES application:

  • Create a new note
  • Select the “camera” and you will see another menu list pop up –
  • Select ‘Scan Documents’
  • Scan the documents by positioning your phone over the document,
  • Make any adjustments needed or retake
  • Select “Keep Scan”
  • Select “Save”
  • Select “Done”
  • Then select the box with up arrow in top right corner to send by email
  • You can find the copies of each scanned document in your NOTES application….feel free to save or delete if your memory space is limited.

For android cell phones, there a few options with free apps that you will need to download if not already loaded on your cell:

  • Microsoft Office Lens – PDF Scanner
  • Google Drive
  • Adobe Scan

Again, this process, will take a much clearer copy and it will send documents in pdf format which are always much better than just sending a picture.


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