Author Archive | Erica M.

Image by uniinnsbruck, Flickr

Image by uniinnsbruck, Flickr

Studying at university can be an incredibly rewarding and interesting experience. First things first, though – you have to apply! Don’t worry. Applying for admission to an Ontario university can be a very straightforward and relatively painless process.

First of all, start by researching different universities. The world (well, in this case, Ontario) is your oyster! Consider the reputation, location, tuition cost, residence fees, and program selection of each institution. Even if you are unsure of what you want to study, comparing schools will help narrow your options and refine your search.

The application process might seem intimidating, but you don’t have to do it alone. Make an appointment with your guidance counsellor to discuss any questions and concerns you have about the future. He or she might be able to give you information about events such as the Ontario Universities’ Fair and University Information Program Sessions, both of which will have a wealth of resources available for prospective students. While you browse and research university programs, it’s a good idea to discuss your interests and options with your teachers and your family as well. Also, remember to keep track of any program-specific admission requirements and deadlines – this will be important when the time comes for you to submit your application.

Speaking of submitting your application, the Ontario Universities’ Application Centre (OUAC) is the processing centre for undergraduate applications for admission to the universities of Ontario. The OUAC is not in charge of admission decisions – they simply process and forward the details of your application to the universities of your choice.Depending on your academic history and place of residence, different types of undergraduate application procedures exist. If you go to secondary school in Ontario, you will receive an “Access Code” letter in the fall. This letter contains the three important codes you will need to apply to OUAC online: your school number, your student number, and your PIN.

Important resources to help you navigate OUAC can be found below:

Good luck!

Image by gardener41, Flickr

Image by gardener41, Flickr

After a long and laborious housing hunt, the time has finally come for you to tour a prospective home. You’ve scheduled a visit with the property owner, and you’re ready to go! Here is a list of things to keep in mind when touring a property:

  1. Take a friend or family member with you. 
    It’s always helpful to have a second opinion! They might notice things that you otherwise would have missed. Also, if you have arranged the tour appointment online and are not personally acquainted with the person who is showing you around the property, it’s wise not to go alone.

  2. Bring a camera, cell phone, notebook, and pen.
    You want to be able to take pictures and record all the details about the property. You won’t remember all of it later!

  3. Bring a list of questions to ask while you tour the unit.
    Don’t be shy! This is your opportunity to ensure that there won’t be any unpleasant surprises for the duration of your lease.

    • Which utilities are included in the rent? Are Internet, hydro, and electricity included?
    • Do I have to pay a security deposit?
    • What is the method of rent payment?
    • Are the building tenants mostly families, students, or retirees?
    • How safe/quiet is the building? Are there security cameras or personnel?
    • Do I have to pay for parking?
    • Where do I dispose of my garbage and recycling?
    • Who is responsible for apartment maintenance and repairs?
    • How old is the property/when was the building constructed? Have there been any major changes or renovations? (The older the building, the more likely maintenance problems are to result from old ceilings, windows, plumbing, or flooring.)
  4. Examine the property.
    Take your time, and do not hesitate to really scrutinize the space when you’re looking around – this is your potential home. Take pictures of each room. Check the doors, windows, and locks. Flush the toilet, run the water in the sinks and showers, check the water pressure and temperature. Take note of (and photograph) any damaged walls or carpeting, as well as any broken fixtures or appliances. Look in the cupboards and the corners under the sink – this is where the insects tend to hang out. It hadn’t occurred to me or my roommates to check those spaces for evidence of any gnarly sort of infestation, and we were not exactly thrilled to discover a whole bunch of tiny new multiple-legged friends doing the congo in the back of our spice cupboard shortly after we moved in.

  5. Be polite. 
    At the end of your visit, thank the landlord or property manager for showing you around. Be cautious when it comes to making a snap decision or signing the lease on the spot – if you are interested in the property, you can tell the landlord that you are interested, and will be calling him or her soon.

  6. Speak to current tenants in the building.
    Trust me, it’s not weird, and it’s a wise thing to do. If you don’t know any of the tenants personally, hang out in the lobby and see if anyone passes by. Explain that you’re thinking of moving in and ask if they have a minute to answer a few questions. Ask if they feel safe living in the building. Ask if they enjoy living there. Ask if they have had any problems with the building or building management. Ask if the landlord or building manager are dependable and responsive to repair requests. The building tenants do not care if you move in or not, and might be more honest as a result. You won’t regret it!

  7. Visit as many properties as you like.
    It’s good to have a number of options to compare. Once you decide which property best suits your needs, make sure you know everything you need to know before you sign the lease.

    Good luck!

Image by jk5854, flickr

Image by jk5854, flickr

Congratulations! You’ve finally found a property that suits your needs, and you’re ready to make it official. Between the dense language of a legal contract and the pressure of an impatient landlord, it can be easy to feel as if you only have enough time and patience to quickly skim the lease before you sign, but remember – your lease is a binding contract. Once inked, you’ve committed yourself to its many rules and obligations. You need to be familiar with each responsibility that you and your landlord will be legally obligated to uphold for the duration of your lease. Here is a list of things you should know before you sign:

  1. What is a lease, exactly?
    A lease is a legal contract which requires you (the lessee or tenant) to pay the owner (the lessor or landlord) for the use of a property over a defined period of time. The lease comprises several numbered sections which outline all of the terms and rules by which you and your landlord must abide for the duration of the lease.

  2. A lease is not the same thing as a rental application.
    If you had to fill out a rental application prior to signing a lease, be aware that the application alone may not be a binding agreement to lease. The rental application is designed to give your landlord some personal information so he or she can screen you and ensure that you are someone they can trust to lease their property (and pay the rent).

  3. Read the terms and conditions of the lease.
    A legal contract is not exactly what one might consider a beach read, but I can’t emphasize how important it is to actually read your lease before you sign it. If you are having trouble with it, sit with a friend or family member and go through each clause together. If anything is unclear, call your landlord. In order to prevent being taken advantage of in the future, you should be well acquainted with your rights and any obligations for which you may be held accountable.

  4. If you are a smoker or pet owner, make sure to be aware of any smoking or pet restrictions in your lease.
    I’m serious – read your lease carefully! My roommates and I had a cat for eight months before we re-signed our lease and discovered a clause which prevented the ownership of pets in the apartment. Oops.

  5. Ensure the full name, phone number, and address of your landlord is on the lease.
    In case of emergencies, or if you need to call someone for repairs or maintenance, it’s good to be able to get in touch with your landlord as quickly as possible.

  6. Visit the property and ask questions.
    Investigate any prospective home before you sign yourself to it. Find out which utilities and services (heat, water, electricity, parking, garbage collection, maintenance and repairs) are included in the rent, and which ones must be arranged or paid for separately. If you plan on subletting your property, written approval of the landlord is often required. Ensure all of these details are written in the lease.

  7. Do not sign a lease with provisions you disagree with, and get any verbal agreements in writing.
    If there is anything that you are uncomfortable with, bring it up with your landlord – legal provisions can be negotiable. If you get any concessions as a result of your negotiations, ensure that everything you agreed to is written in the lease.

  8. Know who is responsible for routine maintenance, pest control, and emergency repairs. Get that in writing, too.
    It’s never fun when the toilet floods the apartment in the middle of the night, and it’s even worse when you have to call a plumber and pay an expensive fee out of your own pocket. If your landlord or management company takes maintenance requests, ask about availability and response times.

  9. Check the termination clause of the lease.
    Your lease may specify the number of months prior to the end of the lease you must provide your landlord before giving notice of your intention to terminate the lease. Otherwise, your lease may be renewed automatically, leaving you with a plethora of undesirable options – being stuck with your lease for another year, having to pay a hefty fee to get out of it, or going through the hassle of finding a replacement lessee to whom you might be able to transfer your lease. Also, make sure your lease conforms with applicable laws regarding the minimum amount of notice you are entitled to before you can be evicted.

  10. Get a copy of your lease, and keep it in a safe place.
    Remember, your lease exists so that you have verifiable proof of the terms to which you and your landlord agreed regarding your tenancy. In case of any problems, it is wise to keep a copy of the lease for future reference. If you have roommates, make copies for them as well.

      

Image by sincerelyhiten, Flickr

Image by sincerelyhiten, Flickr

Finding your first apartment or house out of residence is an exciting albeit daunting task. Here are five basic considerations you should make before beginning your search:

  1. Budget. Figure out how much you want to spend on rent each month. Keep in mind that you might have to pay extra utility fees if hydro and Internet are not included!

  2. Location. Choose the general area or neighbourhood in which you wish to live. Important factors might include proximity to campus, grocery or convenience stores, public transportation (metro or bus stop), laundromat (if there isn’t a washer or dryer in the building), and neighborhood safety.

  3. Furnishings. Some properties come with furniture, some don’t. Decide if you want to find a house or apartment that is already furnished, or if you would prefer to furnish it yourself.

  4. Building facilities. Any apartment perks that might interest you, such as a swimming pool, exercise facility, parking access, rooftop access, or security personnel.

  5. Roommates. If you plan on living with other people, make sure you all agree on the considerations above when looking for a property!

Now that you have an idea of what you are looking for, here are some easy ways to start your search:

  • Classified advertisement websites like Craigslist or Kijiji have sections devoted to housing. Always be careful when setting up appointments over the Internet.
  • Your university website might have a similar classified advertisement page for off-campus student housing.
  • Ask around! Friends in upper years might be moving out of their apartments, or might be able to put you in touch with someone who is.
  • Take a walk in the neighbourhood you want to live in.
  • If you see an apartment building you like, either call or go in and inquire as to whether any units are free.

You are now ready to set up an appointment to visit any of the properties that caught your eye.

Good luck!

Image by kcolwell, Flickr

Image by kcolwell, Flickr

Living with a total stranger might seem intimidating at first, but you can beat the initial awkwardness by making an effort to get to know your roommate. 

  • Grab a coffee or snack together. If you end up sitting stiffly across from each other in your empty dorm room, walking and talking might be a more comfortable and casual setting for that first conversation.
  • Don’t ignore your roommate! Say hello and goodbye when you enter and leave the room. Ask how their day went, invite them to grab a bite to eat, or introduce them to your friends.
  • If you already have a friend on campus, invite both of your roommates to hang out with the two of you.

Don’t expect to be instant best friends.

  • Focus on living compatibility. If you have a roommate who respects your sleeping schedule, cleanliness standards, and noise level tolerance, you’ve scored big time.
  • It’s nice to make an effort to include your roommate in social activities, but it’s also okay to have different friend groups as long as you can be open, polite, and comfortable while living with each other.
  • Remember, you’ve gone from not even knowing this person existed to living in a room with them. Allow your relationship to grow over time!

Set some boundaries and respect each other’s schedules, property, privacy, and personal space.

  • Respect your roommate’s sleeping schedule. Try not to be noisy or disruptive when they are trying to sleep.
  • Try not to be a slob! Keep your side of the room clean.
  • Don’t wear their clothes or eat their food without permission. Not okay.
  • Simply telling your roommate when you plan to invite friends over is not enough. Ask them if it is okay ahead of time, and don’t pressure them to say yes.

Communicate. Living with someone in close quarters is hard work, and you deserve to feel comfortable in your own living space. It is super important to be able to talk to your roommate about any problems you might be having.

  • Don’t assume your roommate can read your mind! He or she might be completely unaware that he or she does something that bugs you. On that note, ask your roommate if you do anything that bothers them. You might be doing something annoying, too!
  • The idea of confrontation might seem awkward and uncomfortable, but staying silent won’t solve any problems. Your stress and resentment might grow, and the tension will erode your relationship over time.
  • Confrontation doesn’t have to be ugly – you don’t have to be overly critical or argumentative. Try to be calm, patient, honest, and prepared to compromise. Explain what’s bothering you, suggest a solution, and talk about it. Afterward, tell your roommate that you’re going to run out for a coffee, and offer to bring one back for them. It’ll give you both some space.

Be nice. Everyone gets stressed out and homesick at some point during the school year. You are the one person that your roommate will probably see every day – it’ll be nice if you can count on each other for support.

Good luck!