Product Updates

Introducing: The JumpOffCampus Learning Center

We’ve been hard at work on the new JumpOffCampus Learning Center. We built the Learning Center for you, oh, intrepid apartment hunter.

It’s a one-stop-shop to help you search for, inspect, move in to and live in your first apartment.

We’ll be creating lots more videos and checklists to help you along the way.  So if there’s anything you’d like to learn about, just let us know.

Happy hunting!

Learning Center - Sceen Shot

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Finances, Housing Advice, JumpOffCampus, Renting, Student Life

Get interest (AKA beer money) back on your security deposit!

Quick description: As a tenant, you’re entitled to interest paid on your deposits to your landlord. 

Why should I care?

As a renter, you probably had to put down a security deposit, right? And maybe last month’s rent, too. So that sucks. But you know what doesn’t suck? Beer. Burritos. And, uhm, books.

So good news: In Massachusetts, you’re entitled to get up to 5% interest on your deposits to your landlord. It’s all thanks to good old Chapter 186, Section 15B of Massachusetts general law.

In plain English

Here’s how it works, without the legal mumbo jumbo (sorry, pre-law geeks):

  • You give your landlord a deposit for last month’s rent and/or security deposit
  • At the end of the rental year, you get back the interest earned (because it’s like the deposit is still your money)
  • Interest can equal up to 5% of the total, or whatever the interest rate is at the bank where your landlord  deposited the money

For instance, if you ponied up $800 in last month’s rent, at the end of the year your slumlord is supposed to cut you a check. Assuming your landlord’s bank pays out 1% interest, that’s $8 you get back. AKA a free lunch. Or 20 lunches, if you count ramen.

Courses of action

What if your landlord doesn’t pay up within 30 days at the end of the year? You have a few options:

  • If you’re staying on as a tenant, you can deduct the amount from your next month’s rent.
  • If you’re done as a tenant, you get 3x the interest earned, plus court costs and attorney fees.

What to keep in mind

At the end of each rental year, keep a lookout for an interest check from your landlord. Or you could be missing out on a little extra cash that’s rightfully yours.

 

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Roommates, Student Life

The Passive Aggressive Note: What Does it ACTUALLY Mean?

Have you ever had a roommate that would leave you notes when you left dirty dishes in the sink, forgot to clean up your things off the kitchen table, or you had your friend over until 5 am?  Have you ever been that roommate?  If you’ve ever been in that situation (no matter what role you played), in most cases, in never ends well.  This is because there is a lot more behind that note than you may initially think.

Passive aggressive notes could mean one of two things:

The person doesn’t feel like they can talk to you.  Maybe you give that aura of “Don’t mess with me,” or maybe they’ve just never experienced a problem with a roommate before and they don’t know what to do.  The person could also just be afraid of confrontation, and this is their alternative to actually confronting you about the problem.

You aren’t around for them to yell at, so they leave you a note instead.  If someone is extremely frustrated, and you aren’t around, they may take out their frustration in note form.  It’s not the best option, but it certainly happens.

Sometimes it’s easy to see which option it is, especially when you know the person well, but then sometimes it isn’t.  You need to think about what motivations they might have for writing a note like that and what might have you done to make them do that.  You should go speak with your roommate about the note, because you don’t want to let things like this make the relationship worse.  I say worse, because, let’s face it:  your relationship is already not on the best of terms if you’re writing passive aggressive notes to one another.

Here are some tips for talking with your roommate about their passive aggressive notes:

Think about what you’re going to say before you talk to them.  Like we said in our previous posts about roommate relationships and conflict, it’s best to go into a situation prepared.  You want to plan out what you want to say and how you will say it.

Avoid escalating the situation.  You never want to avoid talking things out with your roommate, but you certainly want to avoid escalating the situation.  Avoid directly placing the blame on them, and use “I” statements instead of “you” statements.  This means that instead of saying “I hate it when you leave nasty notes like that for me,” you say, “It bothers me to read notes instead of actually talking with you.”

Act calmly and rationally.   Perhaps the worst thing you can do is to lash out and make accusations or make unrelated arguments about other things the person has done to frustrate you.  Remember:  You need to act instead of react.  This means that you should act on the situation, i.e. talk with your roommate about your relationship, why they are leaving you notes, and what you can do to fix it.  You don’t want to react to their note, meaning that you don’t want to go with your automatic and “gut” reaction to how that note made you feel.  While both you and your roommates feelings are important and should be acknowledged, you don’t want to take out those feelings on your roommate.

Perhaps the overall moral of the story is to be considerate and to have open communication between you and your roommate.  It will be significantly more successful, and significantly more valuable, for you to talk with them instead of resorting to notes, because your reaction (or their reaction if you’re the offender) says it all.  Don’t write passive aggressive notes to your roommates.

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Housing Advice, Roommates

Roommate Sharing 101

If you’ve never lived with a roommate before, it can be slightly daunting.  It’s strange to think that you’ll be sharing a home with someone whom you may have never met before.  There is certainly a lot to navigate when it comes to understanding how you will share that space and the things in it.  This is why we’ve come up with some ideas on how you can make sharing with your new roommate(s) easy.

Sharing Space

In an article we read by Catherine Walsh at Suite101, she explains that allocating storage for each roommate in the kitchen, fridge and bathroom is a great start.  You will also want to discuss with your roommates how the common areas will be used.  Are they primarily for hanging out and relaxing, or are they for studying, or both?  When will you have quiet hours?  You want to be sure that you identify those things with one another before you begin the school year.

Another thing you want to identify are the restrictions and guidelines for guests and overnight guests.  This is often the biggest problem roommates face, so be sure to to give plenty of notice when overnight guests are staying and establish beforehand what the terms will be.  This includes how long they can stay, if and how they can use shared space and items.

Sharing Food and Other Items

Establish beforehand with roommate(s) what items you will be sharing and how you will label those that are not.  This is especially important if you plan to share food items like milk, eggs, and condiments, as you want to establish a plan for purchasing them.  To do this, you may even want to establish a schedule to determine whose turn it will be to buy the shared items and when.  This way no one feels like they are the ones buying the food for everyone all the time.

You may also want to establish how these items get used, so you don’t run out of them before your next shopping trip.  While you don’t want to be “nitpicky” about how everyone will use the ketchup, maybe you want to establish a rule that if you are the last one to use it when it runs out, then you are the one who has to replace it.

Sharing Chores

This often tends to be another major problem roommates face:  who will clean what and when?  Establish a timeline or a schedule for when cleaning and other chores will be done and who will be responsible for what.  Maybe you want to break it up by week and switch off duties, or maybe you would prefer breaking it up by month; that is up to you and your roommate to decide what would be fair.  However, you want to be sure that everyone has a task and that the tasks are broken up evenly, so no one feels like they are left with all the dirty work.

Sharing Expenses

This is another tough subject for most roommates.  Especially if you are sharing one lease and sharing utility expenses, it can get difficult when it comes time to make those payments.  Our suggestion is to sign your own lease, rather than sign one lease between all the roommates (if your landlord allows it).  This way you won’t be responsible to make up the difference if your roommate doesn’t pay their rent on time.

If you can’t sign your own lease, we suggest that you establish one person who will be collecting utility payments and establish a schedule for when they will be collected (before the bill is actually due).  You may even want to switch off whose duty it is to do this, so no one feels like they are the “bad guy” all the time.  You could even establish some penalties for when someone neglects to make their payment on time.  This way everyone has an incentive to make his or her payment on time.

In terms of splitting utilities, that can be tough to do.  Use the same strategy as you would with your rent payments.  Be sure that everyone makes their payments on time so one person isn’t stuck with the bill.

The key to roommate sharing is really just establishing house rules beforehand, and making sure that everyone is complying with them.  Overall, roommate sharing can be simple, just as long as you are considerate and are able to have open communication with one another.

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Housing Advice, Renting

How to Make Yourself a More Attractive Tenant

The deadbeat tenant:  perhaps the most-feared in the landlord community.  This person is the tenant who never pays their rent on time, or at all, and will often leave their landlord with financial and/or physical damages that the landlord will have to take care of.  It is often for this reason that landlords will place prospective tenants through a rigorous screening process.  It certainly makes sense; you wouldn’t want to have to pay thousands of dollars in damages that were caused by someone else!

Well for those of you who consider yourselves good tenants, you have to let yourselves shine.  However, it can often be hard when the process is so rigorous and there may be plenty of other tenants out there who claim to possess the same qualities as you.

The first thing you want to consider is a credit check.  Often landlords will conduct a credit check on each of their prospective tenants, especially if they’ve experienced deadbeat tenants in the past.  For college students renting on their own, this can be an issue as many students either have bad credit or no credit at all.

In an article we read by Kay Miranda on eHow.com, she explains that you should include a cover letter with your application that honestly explains your credit situation.  You will also want to include information in this letter about what would make you a good tenant, and explain that you will be willing to work with the landlord to make sure they are comfortable with the situation.  Miranda explains that this could be agreeing to pay via direct deposit, or paying a higher security deposit.  You will also want to include any personal references that could vouch for your reliability and responsibility.

Many landlords will also request a face-to-face meeting or interview with you.  You want to prepare for this meeting like you would for a job interview.  You should be prepared to answer all potential questions they could ask, including those related to your finances and credit history.  You should be open and honest with them about this, as it is important to be honest with them and address their concerns.  You should be aware that your reactions, your demeanor, and your appearance will all play a role in determining whether the landlord chooses you or not.

As with any interview like this, you should also be upfront regarding your concerns.  Be prepared with questions that you may have for the landlord.  Their answers to these questions will also help you to gauge their reaction to you, as well as how willing they will be to work with you.

Overall, it is important to develop a good rapport with all of your previous and future landlords.  While the most important part of being a good tenant is complying with the terms of your lease, it is also important to keep the premises clean, tidy, and well kept.  This is because the way in which you maintain the space and leave it when you move out will prove to your current and any potential landlord (should your previous landlords give you a reference) that you are a good tenant.

Another major part of being a good tenant is keeping open communication with your landlord in regards to any repairs, damages, questions, or concerns that may arise.  In another article we read on eHow.com, they suggest also keeping a record of all of your correspondence with your landlord, just in case a problem should arise.  It is always important to let your landlord immediately (and in writing) about any problems or maintenance that must be taken care of.

It is relatively simple to make yourself a more attractive tenant in the eyes of potential landlord.  All it takes is being open, honest, and demonstrating responsibility and reliability.   Just be sure to address concerns they may have regarding your credit history and any other concerns they may have.  Keep in mind that fostering good relationships with any landlord you have cannot only provide you with a great reference for any potential landlord, but it will make your renting experience that much better.

Other articles we referenced:

http://www.ehow.com/how_4731666_good-tenant-rental.html

http://www.ehow.com/how_2062599_spot-potential-deadbeat-tenant.html

http://www.ehow.com/how_8455475_interview-prospective-tenant.html

http://www.ehow.com/about_4674958_deadbeat-tenants.html

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Dear JumpOffCampus..., Housing Advice, Student Life

READER QUESTION: How much money can you expect to spend on groceries per month in Boston?

It’s slightly difficult to answer this question with one number because what people buy, where they buy it, and when they buy it all plays into the equation. While our co-founders Mark and Kyle (who have lived in Boston) explained that you could get away with spending $100 per month, it may be a little difficult. Instead, we’ve put together some tips for you on how to find the cheapest alternatives and how you can limit your costs.

From our experience, if you’re trying to limit your costs, you may want to choose grocery stores that don’t sell only organic products. While we aren’t hating on organic eating, if you’re a college student trying to live on a very strict budget, it may not be the most price-friendly option.

We also suggest choosing stores that offer the best deals in their weekly circulars and coupons. While coupon clipping may not be something you considered before, it will save you a significant amount of money in the long-run. Some stores that offer some great deals include places like Stop and Shop, Shaw’s, and Market Basket (a chain of stories specific to Massachusetts and New Hampshire). Memberships to stores like Sam’s Club and BJ’s will also help you to save money. You can split the membership fee (only about $50 a year) with your roommates, and you can buy items like toilet paper, paper towels, and bottled water in bulk, which will help limit your costs when you go to the grocery store.

Another way to limit your spending is by sharing the cost with a roommate. If each of you has your own carton of milk, it will end up taking up a lot of space in your fridge. Save space and money by splitting the cost of items like milk, eggs, and condiments that you can all share.

You can save a lot of money by putting together a budget of what you want to spend each week. You will probably have to do shopping about once a week, especially if your buying items like fruit and vegetables, but you can break down those trips into 2 larger and 2 smaller trips each month. Every other week you can make a larger shopping trip where you stock up on nonperishable items (canned soups, canned vegetables) and other items that won’t spoil in 2 weeks. In between those trips, you can make a smaller weekly shopping trip and buy just perishables and other items you’ve run out of. You could easily set yourself a budget of about $25-30 during those smaller trips and $100 during those larger trips. This way your total for the month is about $250. You could even limit that further by buying store brand foods, and buying only the essentials.

We hope this helped to answer your question. If you have any other questions or suggestions for any topics you would like us to cover on our blog, feel free to drop us a line at [email protected]!

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Ask the Expert, Student Life

ASK THE EXPERT: Internships

Photo from money.howstuffworks.com

When you’re looking to get some field experience, an internship is a great way to “get your feet wet.”  However, many students may not know where to begin, or what they should do to get one.  This is why we decided to speak with expert, Lisa Ferns, Career Advisor and Internship Coordinator in Career Services at the University of Rhode Island, about what students should know about finding internships, the interview process, and landing an internship.

When should students start looking for internships for the fall?  Spring?  Summer?

Students seeking internships should give themselves 2-4 months prior to the start of the semester to find, interview, secure and select an internship.  If students are seeking credit they need to inquire with the appropriate department at their college/university at the start of [class registration] for the following semester.

What should they be expecting when they apply for an internship with regards to documentation?

Students should expect to submit a resume, cover letter and reference page.  This may not be the case in all instances but a student seeking an internship should be prepared to supply these if required by an employer.

What are some red flags students should watch out for when applying for an internship? 

  • Students need to be aware that most recruiters paint their organization in the best possible light and they need to determine whether or not the organization will be a good fit for them and their internship/learning objectives.  Asking pointed questions based on research and having an understanding of individual needs will assist a potential intern to evaluate the internship objectively.
  • Valid information regarding the company should be available when researching.  Look for an actual contact person and company email.
  • Internships should be learning experiences that are supervised and have a reflective piece.  When interviewing, ask about the specific work tasks required of the new hire and how learning objectives can be incorporated into the agenda. You don’t want to be doing “grunt” work or filing all day.
  • I usually don’t recommend internships that require a student to pay any kind of fees.

How many internships should they apply for?

Students can apply for as many internships as they see fit.  Finding and securing the best fit for each individual is the main objective.

How long should they wait to hear back?

If applying electronically, students should wait approximately two weeks before contacting the organization.  If applying by snail mail, a three-week time frame is suggested.

What if they don’t hear back?

It is perfectly acceptable and recommended for a student to “check on the status” of their application if an appropriate amount of time has passed with no response from the company.

How should they prepare themselves for an interview?

Research the company, conduct a self-assessment (know your strengths and challenges), be able to articulate concrete examples of your skills and abilities, conduct a mock interview with Career Services, and practice, practice, practice…

What are some key pieces of advice you would give to someone going on an interview for an internship?

Be comfortable and very familiar with your resume; have an understanding of the company and its culture, do your research and a mock interview with Career Services (practice, practice, practice).  Also, have 3-5 questions prepared that reflect your research and needs, and ask the employer these towards the close of the interview.

If the company calls them back for a second interview, how should they prepare themselves?

Be prepared to meet with a variety of people within the company and to delve deeper into the questions asked previously.  Otherwise, all the rules remain the same as for the initial and second interviews.

If they have multiple internship offers, what should they do?

Students should have a solid understanding of their time/geographic restraints, learning objectives and goals.  They need to evaluate the experience they will have within the organization as well as the kind of supervision they will receive.

How should they prepare themselves for their internship?

You prepare for an internship similar to the way you would prepare for a job.  Try to research the company and complete all necessary forms and paperwork for your college/university ahead of time.  Know who your supervisor will be both at work and at school, and plan accordingly for transportation, mid and end of semester reviews, as well as for a balance of academics and work.

What should students wear to their internship?

It is best to wear business attire initially and then, once established within the organization, a student can acclimate to the organization’s environment accordingly. 

What are some tips you have for students on the first day of their internship?

Look, listen and learn; on the first day it is good to get a sense of your surroundings, observe the people and the culture of the work place and try to absorb as much as possible.  No doubt, newcomers may be overwhelmed and the first day of an internship is not the appropriate time to make bold gestures.

How can students make the most of their internship?

Ask questions, take the initiative and become involved.  An internship is a learning experience and by asking questions you further expand your knowledge base.  Employers expect that interns don’t know everything and hopefully they will want to instruct or teach students the correct ways to complete tasks.  Likewise, employers are not familiar with the rate at which a new intern can grasp concepts or complete assignments. Therefore, if you complete all that is assigned to you, do not hesitate to ask as to how you can be of further assistance.  If you want to know more about a certain department or process and it is not within your job description, ask if you can shadow or conduct an informational interview with people from that department.  Many companies have philanthropic affiliations or recreational teams; join in these events or groups to expand your network of contacts.

What should students avoid while working at their internship?

Always have goals that you want to achieve within the internship experience.  Try to avoid being passive within the internship by taking the initiative.  Do not be a “know-it-all” and listen carefully and thoughtfully to supervisors, co-workers and colleagues.  Be cognizant of the employer policies, adhere to them and try to never to be unreliable.

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