Living on campus at your university can be an exciting new experience. You’re living with (potentially) your friends, deepening your bonds as well as developing new ones!
But after the first year or so, you can (and should) start considering moving off campus. Not only is it cheaper, but you also get a different sense of freedom that you wouldn’t otherwise have while living in the dorms. You’ll also still be quite close to anyone important to you.
There are pros and cons to moving off campus, as there are with most things in life, but it can be done easily with good planning. Off campus living is the bridge between a more traditional college experience, and standing on one’s own two feet. Let’s begin:
- To roommate, or not to roommate, that is the question.
- Living alone definitely has its perks. You get to experience full autonomy—from choosing your housing location, the apartment decor, to the house rules. Your inner child will surely rejoice with the unparalleled freedom that comes with living alone. Although, being the sole renter also comes with taking on 100% of the cost and responsibility. Things that for some can be a lot to handle at first.
Going from a dorm room situation to full-on solo living is not for the faint of heart. For those who may feel like a little companionship is more their vibe, a roommate (or at least a cat) is a strong option to consider. By living with roommates, you can opt for a larger apartment space—a huge upgrade from a dorm situation. Roommates also help split the cost, and ultimately can end up being some of your strongest friendships in life. Few things bond people together as deeply as sharing a space.
Make sure you find someone you feel comfortable communicating with. Living with roommatescan be fun if you have good roommates. Being able to split the cost of rent is a perk of having a roommate but make sure it’s someone you are compatible with, so try comparing study habits, sleeping schedules, cleanliness, and work schedules with a potential roommate to make sure you won’t have conflicts. Location, Location, Location.
- A great apartment search tip is to start near your campus and work your way out.
Look around…. notice which bus stops are there? Is there a train? Are bike racks readily available? If you have a car, most places will include a parking space with your rent cost, saving you a bit of money every month versus buying those unnecessarily expensive campus parking passes. If you're already living nearby, try taking a trip through potential neighborhoods and see if you can find any houses or apartments that aren’t listed online—you might be able to find a few hidden gems!
Some extra student-friendly apartments will even offer shuttle service to the nearby campuses. If you have a car and don't mind paying for the parking permit you could save some money by moving a bit farther away from campus.Furnished or Unfurnished?
- Depending on what you and your roommate’s preferences, it’s helpful to make a list of all the things you want to have in your new apartment (for example: a balcony, washer/dryer in-unit, fully equipped kitchen, big windows, etc). You can also choose furnished or unfurnished apartments, which includes a lot of people's favorite part: decor.
Although perhaps not as essential as the other parts, it is still considerably important and something you have to include in your budget. When living at an off-campus apartment, you get to customize your space and express yourself in a different way. Make sure your space is comfortable seeing as you'll be spending a lot of time there.
Some places will offer the option of including furniture, but this can sometimes bring up the cost of rent. You can alternatively choose an unfurnished apartment and easily add your own style by looking for some cheap, cute, comfy furniture—the 3 C’s. Another good thing about getting your own furniture is that you can potentially re-sell it once you’re ready to move out. I recommend using Facebook Marketplace or Craigslist to find cheap furniture in fairly good condition, but remember that this is an extra expense you’ll have to save up for.
Furnished apartments are great if you’re not local, and it makes the moving process even easier. Just make sure the furniture is in good conditions when you move in and out; you don’t want to put your security deposit at risk!
Hold on a second though! Before you start picking out a color scheme, you have to: Finalize Your Apartment Decision.
`After scrolling through an extensive roster of furnished/unfurnished apartments, try narrowing down your list to 3-5 options.
Begin scheduling tours by calling or emailing the real estate agent or landlord. Some realtors are even willing to schedule virtual tours through video call to follow social distancing regulations (or if you’re an out-of-state student). While on the tour, make sure to look at every single room and pay attention to details so you can take note of anything that looks broken or ‘off’. After you tour all the apartments choose the one that works best and begin the leasing process.
It cannot be stressed enough, but do NOT sign anything without reading it thoroughly first. If you are interested in learning more about negotiating your lease or how the process works make sure to check out this article. Once you review the terms of your lease and you reach an agreement, it’s time to submit your first payment.
This first payment should include the security deposit, first months rent, and any fees. If you started saving up money early this should be the first thing taken care of. If you didn’t quite save enough, it’s time to look at your options. One option is that you could ask your parents or legal guardian to help, but that isn’t always an option for everyone. Another option is looking up loans like the 0%-interest loan offered by EDUrain to students who are eligible for the FAFSA to assist them with the cost of moving to off-campus housing. The last consideration is getting a loan through a private bank, and most likely, with high interest fees. Pass.
Once all of that is taken care of, determine whether you’ll need a moving truck (if you’re bringing a lot of furniture), or you can potentially save money if you have a friend with a truck, van, or any car to help with your travel.
Congratulations! You’ve successfully acquired your first off-campus apartment *wipes tear from virtual face*. Now it's time to sit back, relax, and enjoy your new space and lifestyle!