As a first generation student something that isn’t really talked about is finding off campus housing. Most students have at least one parent who attended university and when the time came they found an apartment, found roommates and signed a lease. As a first gen student finding off campus housing was one of these most stressful things I’ve done so far as a student. First I had to find roommates, luckily for me I had made a great group of three other girls who were all interested in getting an apartment together this made this step easy. The next step, finding an apartment. And so began the pintrest boards, price limits, wish lists and house hunter esque vibes that came with apartment hunting. We began with narrowing down a price that worked with all of us and searching online. At Illinois State University there are three major leasing companies, which meant we had to pick a building and a company based on what we all wanted out of an apartment. This was not an easy task for four 19 year old girls who had never signed a lease valued at so much money in our lives. As we entered the show rooms we were hit with the stench left by the current tenets and left to imagine what our version of the room would look like all while having a sales person try to tell us all about the amazing amenities, all inclusive utilities and parking spots that came with the apartment. As we finally began to narrow down what we wanted out of a apartment for our junior year, we found an apartment we all fell in love with- The Cherry Street Apartment. This four bedroom apartment was the pinnacle of our college dreams, spacious, a great kitchen, washer/dryer in-unit and a cute street name. We were practically sold at the idea, until we found out that the leasing agency the apartment was through was/is considered one of the sketchiest companies on campus. This frightened the four 19 year old girls but we thought they would never try to scam us… or so we hoped. As we began the leasing process I was immediately overwhelmed with the prices listed on the contracts I was signing and I soon realized that once we signed this paper there was no backing out of the contract. So what did we do? Blinded by the thought of girls nights, group dinners and game nights we signed the contracts. With this came a 99$ application fee and a 200$ security deposit. While at the time this seemed like nothing the realization slowly started to set in that I had signed an unbreakable lease with a company that may or may not scam us out of our money. But that didn’t matter because we were so excited and saving money by living off campus and being able to make our own food! It wasn’t until I talked with my mother that I realized the severity of what I had just done. All the girls had signed a joint lease which meant that if one of dropped out or couldn’t make a payment the other three girls were held responsible, which meant if we were late making payments these transactions would effect all of our credit scores for the rest of our lives but we didn’t care… we were to busy planning how many cats we were planning to foster. Then began the yelp reviews, we researched and found that the company we had just signed with was notorious for not returning students security deposits despite them leaving the apartment spotless when they left, but again we didn’t let this bother us because it was of course a problem for future us to deal with. Looking back now, I would do a number of things differently. I recently learned that on campus (and on most college campuses) there is a lawyer who is set up to help students (typically for free) read over leasing agreements to make sure they understand what they are signing and what it means. Another thing is that the four of us signed what is called a joint lease, but there are single leases that are available which basically mean that if one of your roommates forgets to pay or is late your credit score won’t be penalized because the contracts are separate. Currently, I’m filled with excitement about living in my first apartment with three of my best friends and keeping in mind this experience for when it comes time to sign next year.