There are many things that life teaches you. Once you learn, you do not repeat a mistake. Fortunately, there are several mistakes others have committed for you. All is left is for you to learn and stay clear.
LEASE: Students often get apartments handed over to them by their seniors or fellow mates. You would do well not to do that. Typically, there is wear and tear in a home that the tenants are accountable for. The leasing office makes sure everything is in shape before handing it over to you, if you sign a new lease. You protect yourself by not accepting to the damages that you are responsible for.
Another thing is not to have just one person sign the lease and let the other roomies live with no strings attached. This will make your room mates carefree and not accountable. If a person has not signed the lease, then that person is not responsible for the dwelling. Which means, if there is an issue, the leasing office holds you responsible and not your friend(s), who may very well living with you.
Always, make sure you read the agreement that you sign and understand all the policies. Particularly, the policies on rent payment, rules to follow and ending a lease. If you are not careful, you may have to pay a penalty for breaking the lease. Reviews about apartments etc are available online. Please make sure you read through them to ensure safety and quality of living.
Several properties offer one month rent free move in kind of deals. Please make sure you as the occupant is getting the deal and not your friends who have booked this apartment for you, as a reference. They are welcome to keep the referral fee.