Deciding where you want to live during your 4 years in college can make a huge difference in your overall experience. At the end of my sophomore year I asked myself “Should I live on campus or off campus for my last two years?” I decided to move off campus and it was the right move for me.
Living off campus is the best decision that you can make when it comes to growing as an adult. It allowed me to take on a lot more responsibility and prepared me for living on my own after graduation. Everyone should spend at least one year living in a house or apartment off campus and learn from the experience.
Living off campus is usually going to be a more expensive option in the long run. Between rent, utilities, parking, gas, and miscellaneous items that you need for your house, you will end up spending more. Some of these items include extra cleaning supplies, toiletries, furniture, and kitchen necessities. Finding a way to lower this cost will be key to making moving off campus affordable. Split up the list of things you need between all of your roommates and have everyone bring what they have available before going out to buy stuff. Facebook marketplace, Craigslist, and other trading apps will allow you to get great used or new items for a percentage of the original price. You can also ask the people who lived in the space before you if they will sell or leave you the items they don’t want. This works really well if they have to travel far to get to the next place that they are living. If you want to make some extra money when you live off campus check out these 13 awesome side hustles!
Living on campus is usually a very straightforward cost. You pay room and board for the year and then pay for a meal plan and you are done. This is great if you do not want to worry about variable expenses and landlords. Many schools offer some apartment-style living spaces that might help you feel like you are living off campus, but you will usually have an RA (resident assistant) who will check in on you. If you do become a resident assistant the school might pay for your dorm expenses and meal plan. This is a great option for those who want to have a great addition on their resume and want to save themselves thousands of dollars each year.
When you live off campus you have the option to live by yourself or have roommates. Most of the time you will have roommates because a 1 bedroom apartment is usually way too much money for a college student to live in. Even though you may have to share a room with someone, you gain a ton of privacy. There is no resident assistant doing room checks and making sure that you are following all of the imposed rules.
You also gain all of the advantages of getting away from a communal space. There is no shared “living room” with 6 floors of students and you can decide what type of furniture and set up you want. You also get a shower that is shared with a lot less people. If you lived in a dorm with communal showers, like I did, you will be very happy about this. You also might have a full kitchen so you do not have to leave your house to cook yourself a meal.
Having a Car
Transportation can be a positive or a negative depending on the situation that you are in. If you already have a reliable car and your house or apartment offers parking, you now can go wherever you want, whenever you want. This is a huge advantage if you go to a school that has restrictions on when you can have a car on campus when living in dorms.
The negative is that you will have to buy a parking pass (I was paying $400+ per year) to be a commuter. Between the pass and paying for gas to get to and from campus, it can be a major issue for students. Walking to class is always a possibility depending on your distance from campus.
I touched on this in the privacy section, but having your own place gives you the ability to cook. Having access to a full kitchen can actually save you money because you do not need to get a meal plan for the school cafeteria. You can meal prep for around $60 dollars per week if you are very smart with your money and it will cost much less than the average meal plan.
You also have the option to share groceries with your housemates and have group meals for very cheap. This works if you are living with people who you are friends with and want to spend a lot of time with. My house would have Sunday dinners together and everyone would chip in a few dollars and go to the grocery store and make pasta and some sides. It is a great way to bond with the people you live with.
When you live on campus you will most likely have a meal plan. This allows you to get into the cafeteria and any restaurants that accept your school’s currency. This is great for people who do not want to go shopping for food every week and do not want to clean dishes. There are also colleges that have great food choices. Finding the best on campus food is a must when you are in college.
Living off campus is always going to be more enjoyable than living on campus. You have so much more freedom and do not have as many restrictions. The house can be decorated any way that you want it to look and may even have a backyard to hang out in when it is nice out. You can entertain guests (make sure you do not get noise complaints) much later in the night and avoid most disciplinary issues when the school does not own the property that you live in.
If you live with a fun group of people you can enjoy on campus living. If you have to live on campus make sure you are friends with people who live in off campus housing so that you can get out of the dorms and see what it is like to be in a house or apartment. You can also have a lot of fun on campus as a freshman. There are so many people who come into college that are in the same boat as you when it comes to finding friends. You can always find people on your floor that will spend time with you and can even end up being the roommates you end up living with later in your four years.
How To Find an Off Campus House or Apartment
- Start your search as early as possible with a group of people who are dedicated to living off campus.
- Ask people who have moved off campus if they know of any houses for rent or rentals that need someone to fill the final spot to sign the lease.
- Have enough money to put a deposit down. If you take weeks to get money from everyone you will miss the opportunity to get the house you want.
- Research the area to make sure that you are in a safe neighborhood.
- Do a thorough inspection/walk through before signing anything.
- Find a co-signer so that it does not cause any issues if the landlord requires one.
What To Do When You Move In
- TAKE PICTURES! You need to document every damaged item in the house. If you do not let the landlord know that there is a problem with something before you had the opportunity to break it, they will pin it on you when you move out. This can be very costly.
- Make a list of everything that you have and then one with everything that you need to buy. You should split the cost between all roommates so that it is fair for everyone.
- Make sure you have your utilities set up as soon as possible. Not having internet for the first week of classes can be very annoying.
- Have fun! You are now living off campus and without your parents for the first time ever. Make sure that you stay safe, but have a ton of fun. This opportunity is very rare.
Having the opportunity to live off campus is something every college student should experience. It allows you to take on more responsibility and gets you prepared for the real world. With proper research and planning you can make it work and have a great year living with people who will be your friends for a lifetime!