Moving into your own place is a milestone that makes you feel like a grown-up. And with the new school year approaching, you may be thinking about signing a lease for your first apartment or sharing a house with roommates. So now what? As you head to campus, here are important tips to consider before and after you sign on the dotted line:

Pick Your Place
Every property offers different features, so do your homework before locking into a lease. Compare amenities for each rental to decide which fits your needs best. Is location the most important factor? Does a big bathroom top your list? Will you have a set parking spot or on-site laundry?

Next, shop around. Websites like Trulia can keep you on-budget by offering quick and easy cost comparisons. Consider living with a roommate to split rent and other expenses.

Make sure you understand the contract before you sign. Who pays for utilities? Who is responsible for repairs? What happens if you break the lease? Read the contract thoroughly, and ask the right questions.

Peace of Mind
Once you’re moved in, find a secure place for valuables like jewelry and electronics such as laptops and tablets. Your landlord may require you to have renters insurance in case of theft or damage to your property, but if not, it’s a good idea to review your options.

Often times your personal items are covered under your parents’ existing homeowners policy, but not always. At Erie Insurance, for example, single, full-time students under 24 are automatically covered. But, part-time students or students 24 and older may need to get their own renters insurance.

A renters policy can cover your personal property inside and out of the home. So, your laptop or bicycle would be covered if it was stolen while you were at a coffee shop or anywhere else.

In addition to damage or theft, renters insurance can cover additional living costs caused by a covered property loss beyond your normal living expenses — even if it’s not your fault. For instance, your neighbor could accidentally start a fire or overflow a bathtub, ruining your apartment and its contents. Renters insurance can offer a place to stay during these unforeseen circumstances. And in case you’re concerned about the cost of renters insurance, it may be less than you think. For example, if you have a car, you may be able to bundle your auto and renters insurance together for a multi-policy discount, which in some cases may add only a few dollars a month to your total cost.

Protect Your Ride
Sharing your ride with a friend for a grocery run? Remember insurance usually follows the car – not the driver. That means you should be covered if your friend gets into an accident with your vehicle. But be sure to review your policy before giving anyone the keys.

Consider a parking plan, since space on campus is usually limited, especially if your rental agreement doesn’t include a designated spot. Find a well-lit area, ideally with some form of security.

Don’t forget to lock your car, and always store packages or valuables in the trunk or take them with you.

Another option? Leave your car at home. Many college campuses are walkable, so you might not need a car.

Heading to college and getting your own place can be an exciting new adventure. Plan ahead so you can rest easy once class is in session.