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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Housing Advice

Reducing Home Allergens

While allergies symptoms can range from mild to severe, according to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, approximately 60 million Americans suffer from asthma and allergies.  Approximately 40 million suffer from indoor/outdoor allergies as their primary allergy.  The most common triggers being trees, grass and weed pollen, mold, dust mites, cockroaches, and cat, dog, and rodent dander.   Food allergies account for approximately 6% of allergy suffers, and the most common triggers are milk, soy, eggs, wheat, peanuts, tree nuts, fish, and shellfish.

If you have allergies, you may have experienced sniffling, sneezing, watery eyes, headaches, or worse.  It can be a very unpleasant experience when you your allergies flare up.  While there isn’t much you can do to rid yourself completely of your allergies, there are certainly some simple things you can do around your home that will help to reduce allergens.

Use an allergen impermeable cover to enclose your mattress, box spring, and pillows.  In an article we read by Mikki Hogan at The Allergy Spot, the first area you want to consider is your bed and your bedroom.  Dust and dust mites found on your bed can be a major trigger for your allergy symptoms.  These covers will help trap any allergens that may be on your mattress, and will prevent them from being inhaled.

Wash sheets, pillowcases and blankets in hot water at least once per week.  Hogan explains that hot water will kill all dust mites and removes allergens from the fabrics.  By accompanying this with hypoallergenic fabrics, you can greatly reduce the potential for your symptoms to flare up.

Vacuum floors regularly.  By vacuuming carpeting and other flooring, you can greatly reduce dust and other allergens that can accumulate.  You can use dry carpet cleaners to further remove allergens.  According to Hogan, shampooing carpets can leave residual moisture than can increase dust mite growth.  You may also want to consider using a vacuum with a HEPA filter.

Dust regularly.  Be sure to dust every area that could potentially collect dust.  You may also want to consider clearing any clutter or messes regularly to prevent the collection of dust.

Wash curtains and blinds monthly.  In another article we read by Clean Air Plus, when purchasing curtains, you will want to consider washable fabrics so that you can wash them safely without damaging them.  You will also want to take a clean washcloth and wipe down window blinds.  Both curtains and blinds are primary locations for dust collection.

Regularly vacuum and clean furniture.  Ensuring that couches, tables, shelves, etc. are regularly cleaned will also help to greatly reduce dust and other allergens.  Be sure to remove the appropriate cleaners for woods and fabrics.  Vacuuming can be especially helpful on cloth-based furniture.

Regularly clean shower and tub areas.  Because these areas are generally damp, they can become breading grounds for mold and mildew.  To ensure that mold and mildew do not build up, regularly clean these areas with the appropriate cleaners.

Avoid opening windows when pollen is active.  This is pretty self-explanatory, but this will help ensure that no pollen gets in and it will decrease the number of allergens inside your home.

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Cooking, Housing Advice

Starter Pantry Essentials Checklist

When you’re moving off-campus for the school year, there are a lot of things to consider.  If your living in an unfurnished pad, in particular, there are a lot of things you have to remember to pack.  While it’s important, I’m sure many of you may forget the important essentials you’ll need to stock your pantry with when you move in.  It’s not like at home where your mom always had some chicken noodle soup in stock.  You’re on your own!

Knowing from our experience, we wanted to make sure you weren’t left out in the cold if you didn’t get to go grocery shopping one week.  Thanks to a couple articles we read at MyFirstApartment.com, we’ve come up with a list of things that every college student living off-campus needs to keep themselves fed.

  • Canned beans
  • Canned soups
  • Canned tomatoes
  • Pasta sauce
  • Spices (you at least want garlic powder, onion powder, salt, and pepper)
  • All-purpose flour
  • Sugar
  • Vanilla extract
  • Baking powder
  • Baking soda
  • Vegetable oil (optional)
  • Olive oil
  • Vinegar
  • Dried pasta
  • Instant oatmeal
  • Mustard
  • Ketchup
  • Coffee/Tea
  • Cereal
  • Honey
  • Hot cocoa
  • Rice

The articles we referenced:

http://www.myfirstapartment.com/2011/10/first-apartment-pantry-essentials/2/

http://www.myfirstapartment.com/2005/11/starter-pantry-and-staples-checklist/

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Housing Advice, Roommates, Student Life

How to Deal with Roommate Issues

Let’s be honest here:  You and your roommate(s) are never going to see eye to eye on everything.  Whether it is about doing dishes, who’s buying the paper towels, or whether they can have friends over at 12 am on a Tuesday night, things are going to come up that you just won’t agree on.  However, you certainly don’t want to end up in a bickering match or giving each other the silent treatment for the rest of the year.  This is why you need to be prepared before it comes time for you to have a talk.  In an article we read at MSN.com, they gave some tips on how to talk with your roommate when problems arise:

  • Avoid passive aggression.  The sticky note you leave your roommate detailing their wrong doings never goes over well (beware not get yourself on this site!).
  • Emphasize the positive.  Before you talk with your roommate, be sure to make a list of their positive qualities.   This will help to remind you what you like about them, and it will help keep you positive when you talk with them.
  • Consider how you could be contributing to the situation.  Usually issues in a relationship are never black and white.  Maybe your roommate never does the dishes because you never do.  You will want to consider how you could make changes too.
  • Be prepared.  NEVER GO INTO A SITUATION LIKE THIS UNPREPARED.  I repeat:  NEVER GO INTO A SITUATION LIKE THIS UNPREPARED.  This is perhaps the most important item on this list.  If you go into a situation like this with your roommate and you have not thought about what you are going to say beforehand, a myriad of (not-so-good) things can happen.  However, what will most likely happen is one of two things:  1) you won’t actually say what you meant to say, or 2) you won’t say it right and it will cause more friction between you and your roommate.  Be prepared!  Think about what you want to say and how you want to approach the situation.  You’ll also want to consider their possible reactions and how you will approach their responses.  You may even want to write down some notes and practice what you’ll say beforehand.  You don’t have to be afraid to talk with your roommate; you just have to be prepared.
  • Pick a comfortable location and time to talk.  You want to pick a time and place where both you and your roommate will be relaxed.  You may even want to set up a time with your roommate to talk with them.  This will help to prevent any outside influences (work, school, etc.) from affecting the outcome of your talk.
  • Be tactful, even-tempered, and clear.  Be clear about what you want to change, and make sure there are no “grey” areas.  You want to keep a cool head and be strategic about how you say what you need to say.  At least then one of you will be levelheaded.
  • Use “I” statements versus “you” statements.  Be sure to avoid focusing the discussion on what your roommate is doing wrong.  Instead focus on how the situation and their behavior makes you feel.  This way you’ll prevent them from shutting out what you are saying.
  • Don’t wait too long to talk to them.  Talk to them within a reasonable amount of time.  If your roommate had a party while you were away, you don’t want to wait 3 months after the fact.  Talk to them within a couple days of when you return.  This way it will be fresh in both of your minds, and it will prevent any future incidents.
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Ask the Expert, College Planning, Finances

ASK THE EXPERT: College Financial Planning, Part 3

For the third installment in our college planning series, we wanted to know what were some of the biggest issues encountered by students when applying for financial aid.  Once again, we spoke with Mark Kantrowitz, publisher of FinAid.org and Fastweb.com and expert on paying for college, to give us his perspective on this issue and how students can maximize their federal student aid.

According to Kantrowitz one of the major problems he identifies is that students often do not fully understand the reality of the loans they receive.  Kantrowitz explains that students will sign their name to a loan so long as it enables them to fulfill their dreams.  Many believe that they will figure out how to pay back the loan when they graduate from college.  However, this is a major problem, explains Kantrowitz, as it is much more difficult to figure out how to pay back the loan after you have incurred that cost, rather than before.   He urges that “If you’re choosing a college and your dream is to study a field that doesn’t pay very well, you need to make sure you borrow less to match your expected income when you graduate.”  While this could mean going to a cheaper school, it could also mean just limiting other costs while attending school.  Kantrowitz suggests buying used textbooks, selling textbooks back to the bookstore, taking fewer trips home, and eating out less.  He advises  “You have to live like a student while you’re in school so that you don’t have to live like a student after you graduate.”

Another major problem Kantrowitz identifies is that student often will not file their Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) early enough, and will consequently receive less financial aid.  Instead he urges students not to wait until they have filed their income tax information, but rather file their FAFSA based on projected income information and their previous income tax information.

To maximize financial aid with FAFSA, Kantrowitz urges students to be aware that income is weighted much more heavily than assets, and assets in a child’s name count much more heavily (about 20% are counted against aid eligibility) than those in the parent’s name (5.64% or less is counted against aid eligibility).  He explains that if you currently have a Uniform Gift to Minors Act (UGMA) or Uniform Transfer to Minors Act (UTMA) account to help save for college, you may want to consider moving the money to a custodial 529 college savings plan account.  Kantrowitz advises that this is the most tax advantageous ways of saving for college, and that this will help students to maximize the financial aid they receive.

By saving, being frugal and being mindful, Kantrowitz explains that students can make the most of their experience, while still being able to afford college.  It is important that students stay informed when it comes to paying for college so that they may make decisions that are right for them.

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Finances, Housing Advice, Renting

The Lowdown on Renters Insurance

There’s a lot to consider when you decide to move off-campus, including remembering all the furniture you have to bring, all the supplies you’ll need, and all the food you’ll have to buy.  However, before you move in, you may want to consider getting renters insurance.

In an article we read by the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, what many students may not realize is that most landlords will not have insurance that protects their renters’ property.  More and more landlords are, in fact, requiring that their tenants have renters insurance when they move in.  For students, renters insurance is a great way to protect important things like computers, stereos and other important property.  While you may be concerned that it’s an added expense, consider that the premiums are only about $15 to $30 a month.  That will save you a lot if your laptop gets damaged or stolen!

Photo from myfirstplace.com

When you’re looking at purchasing renters insurance, there are two basic types of coverage you should be aware of.  The first type is personal property coverage (the most common type), which will pay to repair or replace your property if it’s damaged, destroyed or stolen.  The second type is liability coverage, which will protect you against any claim or lawsuit from any injury or damage while on the property that you’re renting.

However, there are many differences when it comes to the providers and the plans they offer.  Be sure to talk to your landlord, your parents, and the insurance providers about the plans they offer and what they cover.  Don’t take the first plan you see, but shop around before you make your decisions so that you get the coverage that works best for you.

Here’s a checklist we found at Leaky.com that will help make it easier for you to find renters insurance.

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Housing Advice

Don’t let the bed bugs bite!

Bed bugs, up until a few years ago, seemed like a pest of the past, and the saying “Don’t let the bed bugs bite” just seemed like something your grandmother would tell you before you went to bed.  However, infestations have become more and more common and it seems like the bed bug has made its comeback in the developed world. I don’t know about you, but bed bugs give me the heebie jeebies, and while it isn’t a pleasant subject it is certainly something to consider when you’re renting.  This because bed bugs not only survive on the blood of mammals (i.e. us!), but they also can completely infest your home.

Photo from bedbugdefense.com

According to an article we read at BedBugDefense.com, before DDT was banned, it was used to kill bed bugs, as it was highly toxic to them and would remain in the application site for more than a year to prevent resurgences.  However, it was banned as it was determined that DDT caused cancer, and since 1995, bed bugs have made a rather surprising comeback and have infested homes all across North America.

According to the EPA, bed bugs are considered a public health pest, although they are not known to transmit or spread any disease.  However, because they do feed on blood, they can cause allergic reactions at the bite site, whether it is simply a small mark or a whole body reaction.  According to the CDC, bites can also cause secondary infections of the skin, and may even cause affect the mental health of those they infest.  People who have experience bed bug infestations may experience things like anxiety, insomnia, and systemic reactions.

However, what I think may be the scariest thing about them is that you can pick them up anywhere.  All it takes is one brush of the arm from someone on the subway, sleeping on your friend’s couch, or staying in a hotel to pick them up, and once you have bed bugs, they will get into everything: in curtains, couches, beds, and electronics.  This is what makes them so difficult to get rid of (also accounting for the fact that they actually live longer in the cold and love warm temperatures!).  And while you think that it can’t happen to you, think again.   No place is immune to the bed bug.  Your home doesn’t have to be “dirty” for you to have a bed bug infestation.  They can infest even the cleanest of places.

So I’m sure by now you’re probably freaking out and wondering how you can stop these intruders before they attack.  Well, there are certainly some precautions you can take to ensure you don’t have a bed bug infestation.

Photo from allbedbugs.com

The first thing you’ll want to do is to inspect your apartment for bed bugs before you move in.  You could either hire someone to do this or do it yourself.  In either case, you’ll want to do this before you move in because bed bugs can go undetected for months.  If you do choose to do this yourself, you’ll want to be sure to go through The Bed Bug Inspectors checklist.

  • Check for telltale signs.  You’ll want to check the floors and other surfaces for small black spots, shed bed bug skins, egg shells, live bed bugs (if you don’t know what they look like use the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene checklist), and bloody or rusty stains.  Another sign is a sweet or offensive musty odor.
  • Uncover their potential hiding spots.  Take a flashlight and a magnifying glass and thoroughly inspect window and door frames, cracks and crevices, carpet tack strips, baseboards, behind outlet and switch plates, smoke detectors, thermostats, loose wall paper, molding, and wall junctions.

Once you made sure there are no signs of bed bugs, you’ll want to be sure to “bed bug proof” your home.  While you can’t prevent everything, there are some precautions you can take.  The first thing you’ll want to do is be sure to elevate your mattress off the ground.  You will also want to protect your mattress by using a protective mattress encasement, as well as protective pillow encasements.  You may consider using climb up interceptors on the feet of your bed frame.  These will help prevent and trap bugs from climbing onto your mattress.  You may want to monitor your home by conducting regular inspections and by placing bed bug traps around your home.  While this won’t solve the problem, it will certainly give you a definitive answer if your home is infested or not.

In order to prevent future infestations, you will want to be sure you are careful of where you stay and who is staying with you.  When you go on vacation, you can check the hotel you’ll be staying in by going to BedBugRegistry.com to see if there have been any bed bug reports.  You will also want to be sure to conduct an inspection of your room before you place your belongings down, and you will want to keep your belongings elevated off the floor at all times.

To ensure that your friends don’t bring bed bugs to your home, help them to inspect theirs.  Make sure they are as careful as you are about inspecting their home, and staying clear of places that could potentially have bed bugs.  With what you learn, you can help protect themselves too.

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