Apartment hunting can be fun if you approach it the right way. What's the "right way"? Give yourself plenty of time, meaning two months; be honest with yourself about priorities and budgets; and get help choosing a place if you can. If there's advice or assistance available from your school or work, use it. Lean on your friends and family. With all that done, you're ready to go on safari and find a place that fits your lifestyle.
If you're looking in a major city, the natural place to start is with an apartment rental guide. They're likely to be available at any local grocery store. These are basically published collections of ads, so they're very useful in some ways, but no way are they going to reveal any flaws. Using the web to start the search for apartments is challenging, to put it nicely. Take the rental guide, get a big map that you can draw and make notes on, spread out on the dining room table, and circle what's interesting to you.
For an apartment rental search, be open to everything at the beginning, and then narrow your search to the most likely section of town. You're not only choosing an apartment, you're choosing a neighborhood. There are some obvious aspects to the neighborhood -- the schools, your travel time to work or school, the crime rate -- but also put some serious thought into the less-critical amenities like the views and the atmosphere, the demographics, whether or not you'll be able to walk to a grocery store, and the character of the place.
Then, budget two or three days for your safari. Also budget an appropriate amount of gas money and patience for driving around to look at your options. There's absolutely no substitute for a personal visit. Take your big marked-up map, drop in on the rental agents for a first conversation, check out their layouts, and check out the models and condition of the cars in the driveway. Listen carefully to how the rental agent describes the other tenants, and you'll get a good indication of how you'll be treated. Keep your eyes open to discover new potential complexes along the way. Make a list, rate your options from 1 to 10, and your answer will gradually appear.
You have two reasons for starting your search early: you'll find the best complex for you, and, with luck, you'll get into the position of viewing and choosing from multiple apartments in the same complex. This simple thing can make a huge difference in your quality of life, saving you thousands of trips up steps, or scoring the apartment with that beautiful sycamore tree outside. By giving yourself these choices, you may not find that mythical Perfect Apartment, but you'll be so comfortable with your new quarters it won't matter anymore.