Living off campus offers the thrill of independent living and a more private, spacious environment than that of most noisy, cramped dormitory halls. Unfortunately, living off campus also introduces new challenges such as bill paying, building upkeep, and the potential for loneliness and isolation.
By being aware of what to expect when you sign on the dotted line, you will be better prepared for the challenges of off campus living as well as the benefits of renting a space.
1. Living expenses. Perhaps the biggest difference between living in a dorm and living in an apartment or house is the approach to living expenses. Dorm tuition encompasses many built-in expenses that – as a renter – are suddenly your responsibility. Having to pay monthly or quarterly bills for garbage, heating/electricity, and telephone services (not to mention the monthly rent payment) can be a bit of a shock for students who are on their own for the first time. Allocating funds for monthly bill paying requires a different approach to money management. If you don’t have a lump sum in your bank account to pay for these expenses, make sure you are bringing in adequate funds from a part-time job to pay the bills. Start the year out with a monthly budget and add new expenses as you become aware of them. Keep in mind that there is typically a first and last month rent requirement for many apartment rental agreements.
2. Building upkeep. Living in a dorm, it’s very easy to make a phone call and have something fixed in your dorm room, bathroom, or lobby by the end of the day. Colleges employ on-call facility staff to seamlessly complete these tasks, often while you’re in class. Unfortunately, dealing with a landlord can be less than seamless. If you’re renting a house, the owner may live in another state and can’t easily make same-day appointments to have work done in your rental. In addition, you are often required to be present in your unit or house while the work is being done. Services like snow shoveling or repairing a leaky faucet can often get delayed at a rental, resulting in an unsafe environment and a general annoyance.
3. Feeling disconnected. A college campus is a vibrant, exciting place to live. If you’re used to be being surrounded by people and having multiple study clubs, social events, and sports events at your fingertips, moving off campus can be a huge culture shock. Some students don’t need to spend a lot of “face time” on campus to feel connected, while others may need to spend more time on campus before and after classes. Some off-campus students meet to study and socialize on a regular basis or rent a space together to minimize loneliness and isolation.
4. Food preparation. Living on campus offers the benefit of three square meals a day, whereas living off campus requires extra planning for meal preparation and shopping. Chances are you won’t be able to afford the same variety of food that the cafeteria offers. However, the benefit of cooking meals for yourself is that you can prepare food you actually like and will eat. If you miss dorm food or the cafeteria experience, try eating a couple of meals on campus every week. Doing so will provide an opportunity for socializing or extra study time.
Moving off campus is a pivotal decision for a college student. Weighing the pros and cons and knowing what to expect, students can make an informed decision about moving off campus and will be prepared for the benefits and challenges ahead.