Living Off Campus
Tired of dorm living? Ready to be a little more on your own? Living off campus is a step many college students take for a lot of different reasons. Whatever yours are, the decision involves a few new aspects and responsibilities. Be sure to check with your college or university on dorm requirements. Some campuses may require you to live on campus during your Freshman and Sophomore year.
Finding a Home
The first order of business is lining up a place to live. Most students rent an apartment or a house with or without roommates.
- Location. How close to campus do you want to be? Maybe you prefer to be near your job or shopping. If you're beyond walking distance from your classes, you will also need to consider transportation.
- Sources. Check the ads in the local paper, look online and scout campus postings for rentals. Most college communities have a thriving rental property business. Think about subletting – taking over someone else's lease for a set period of time.
Making Living Arrangements
Will you share your new home with one or more roommates or try to go solo?
- Budget. Can you afford the rent on your own? What about furniture, appliances and monthly bills?
- Personalities. Remember that a good friend from class doesn't necessarily make the best roommate for you. Will you be able to tolerate your roommates' different living styles? Can you trust them to pull their weight with bills and chores?
- Sources. Check online social media like Facebook or Craigslist for other students from your college looking for roommates. Campus bulletin boards and ads in the local paper are also good places to look. WARNING: Always use caution when agreeing to meet someone about renting an apartment/house.
Paying the Bills
Living on campus, whatever its drawbacks, at least meant that you didn't need to worry about monthly utility bills.
- Utilities. You will now be responsible for electricity, natural gas, water, cable, phone and even sewer and garbage bills monthly. Budget out the estimated expenses and make sure you can cover them.
- Rent. When you rent a space, you will sign a contract with the landlord stating when your rent is due and the penalties for late or missing payments. Make sure you understand your obligation and meet it every month.
- Repairs. Know whether you or your landlord is responsible for different types of necessary repairs and who you should call for, say, an overflowing toilet at 2 a.m. on a Sunday.
- Groceries and household supplies. Look for generic brands and sales to save money when you're shopping. You may also be able to share costs with your roommates. Your college might offer a dining plan for off-campus students that'll save you money on a meal or two a day.
If you move very far off campus and your community doesn't offer convenient public transportation, you may have more transportation costs to get to class – car payments, auto insurance, registration, fuel and parking all add up. You might arrange to carpool with a roommate or neighbor to lower your expenses.
Staying in Touch
You probably want the benefits of moving away from the dorms without losing the ability to meet up with friends, enjoy the social life and do what you really like. Look for activities, organizations and study groups you can join to keep you involved with daily campus life.