Should I Stay or Should I Go? What to Consider When Weighing Your Off-Campus Options
After several years of life in the dorms, some upperclassmen jump at the chance to find housing off campus. Living in an apartment or sharing a house with a group of friends can be very appealing and offer students a greater sense of freedom than they had when they lived on campus. With an off-campus rental, you don’t have to leave when the dorms shut down, you have a greater sense of privacy, and you aren’t governed by campus or dorm rules and regulations. However, before you start scanning Craigslist for available rentals, there are a number of considerations you need to take before finding your off-campus abode.
1. With Great Freedom Comes Great(er) Responsibility: Even though it doesn’t seem like it, living on campus has a lot of perks. Besides having easy access to classes and campus resources, such as the library and recreation center, you are not responsible for a number of seemingly minor but very important aspects of day-to-day life. You don’t have to worry about paying utility bills each month, grocery shopping, cooking, or cleaning. While these are definitely things that you need to tackle when you get out of college, some students head off campus without realizing the additional tasks that go into having their own place. If you decide to give up your dorm room, ask yourself the following questions: Would you be able to deal with these daily responsibilities? Also, are you capable of getting up early to get to class on time? If the answer is “No” to either one of these questions, you might want to rethink your decision.
2. Off-Campus Housing Isn’t Always Cheaper: Many of the undergraduates I work with mention the cost of living in the dorms as one of their main reasons for looking at rentals away from campus. On one hand, this makes a lot of sense. Room and board estimates for many colleges are in the mid-$10,000s, which is a formidable amount. However, depending on the area, living off campus can be even more expensive, particularly if you don’t want to have a lot of roommates. In addition to rent, which can be prohibitive on its own, you also have a myriad of other costs, such as internet (which, for most students, is a necessity), utilities, and transportation. When considering renting an apartment, be certain to think about all the expenses that you could incur rather than just thinking of rent as the bottom line.
3. The Stakes in the Roommate Lottery Are Higher: If getting a good dorm roommate seems stressful, getting a good off-campus roommate can be even more anxiety-ridden. Part of this comes from the sense of complacency you might feel after sharing a postage-stamp sized dorm room with someone for a year or so. Although this close proximity can be trying, off-campus life presents its own set of challenges when living with others. Yes, you have more space, but what you do with that space can be a bone of contention. What happens when your roommate wants to have a party with 50 or 60 of his closest friends and you need some peace and quiet? Additionally, how would you address everyday issues and responsibilities such as buying and replacing toilet paper (this seems silly, but relationships have been sorely tested by this), paying bills, and having overnight guests? In an apartment, you don’t have a resident assistant to mediate, which means that you and your roommate(s) need to be able to address any problems in a mature and straightforward manner without outside assistance.
Despite these three caveats, off-campus life can be a great experience, and it is definitely a good way to help ease you into the real world before you graduate. However, be certain to take your time when making your housing decisions and be honest with yourself and your potential roommates before you commit to something you can’t (or don’t want to) handle.