Moving Off-Campus: 12 Considerations Before You Take That Step
Moving off-campus might seem like a great idea, and it very well could be! But before you let the frustration of shared bathrooms and curfews get the better of you, you need to do the balancing act of pros and cons.
In this article, we examine 12 special considerations you should be weighing. We give them to you in the form of questions, because it will force you to answer yes or no to each of these issues as you think about them. Give it some thought before you sign that lease, and good luck!
1. Can You Afford It?
The first concern over off-campus life that you need to have is affordability. Affordability follows a two-pronged approach: what income or monetary resources will you have coming in, and what will you have going out?
This can be a tad more complicated when you decide to live off-campus, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it will be more expensive. You’ll just have to sit down and put the pen-to-paper to see how much you’ll be out-of-pocket. We’ll be getting into more of those particulars in just a moment.
2. Will You Have a Roommate?
A major factor in calculating the affordability is deciding on whether to have a roommate (or more than one roommate). Getting an off-campus home or apartment on your own may not be cost-feasible, but bringing friends into the mix can change the game.
As you decide on roommates, however, don’t simply go with friendships. You’ll find that living under one roof changes quite a few dynamics. If you’re a neat-freak while your friend is a slob, it can damage more than just the feng shui. It can forever impair those relationships. Therefore, find someone who works well with the type of environment you want to live in.
3. Will It Be the Right Roommate?
The right roommate is someone who a) has the money to pay their share, b) has the temperament to play nice with you and any others that will be staying there, and c) complements the type of living environment that you and any other parties are wanting.
Again, the worst thing you can do is ask a friend to come live with you when that friend is disruptive to the type of lifestyle that you want to lead. Just because you like someone, that doesn’t mean they will be a great roommate. They could end up being terrible, and that can lead to you making a new enemy.
4. Do You Stand to Lose Scholarship Money?
Some scholarships are tied to your residence. For example, the ACT scholarship is contingent on living on campus. Depending on how much money your scholarship award is, you could be standing to lose that each semester.
You have to ask yourself whether it’s worth the risk. And maybe it is. You’ll have to do the calculations and also find that savings somewhere else.
5. Will You Work Part-Time?
One way you can really help your situation is to get a part-time job. It used to be a little more difficult to pick up the added dollars, but with the gig economy booming, it’s possible to work a part-time job while also picking up some extra money on the side.
If you feel like living off-campus will make more sense from an earnings standpoint, that can be more than enough to make up for a few or even several hundred dollars per semester. Again, it comes back to the calculations.
Consider putting together a program in Excel or using an app that helps you keep up with your gigs, earnings, expenses, and more. That’s the only way to know for sure.
6. How Far From Campus?
Proximity to campus can be another major consideration that you’ll need to mull over before deciding to move. Where exactly are you moving to? How far will the drive be to your classes? Will it be centrally located to your employer or any other locations?
Depending on where you end up, you’ll need to factor in gas prices, how much longer (if any longer) that it takes to get to your classes, and how much more driving you’ll have to do to other frequently-accessed locations. Will it disrupt your quality of life or add to it?
7. How Long Will You Live Off Campus?
Some choose to live off-campus indefinitely. They pull up stakes and make their new home their permanent one, while others would prefer to go home during holidays and summer. If you do have a preference for leaving every summer, then you might want to stay in a dorm.
That’s because off-campus leasing standards aren’t usually that convenient with class schedules. You can find some apartments and duplexes willing to cater to college students, but for the most part, landlords want those properties occupied 24/7, 365 days a year. An empty rental is a rental that’s costing them money.
Before taking that step, decide how long you plan to stick around. It could still be worth it if your roommates continue paying their share of the rent while they’re away to hold the lease.
8. Could It Affect Your Studies?
Some people do extremely well when living off-campus. That’s because they’re able to get away from the on-campus party atmosphere and enjoy the quiet that comes with living in a home or duplex. Such an environment can make it easier to study and leave any bad habits behind.
However, there are others who see living off-campus as a ticket to party. If you’re usually the host of a party, it can be counterproductive to move things off-campus because you no longer have as much oversight. Imposing the restraints of on-campus life on yourself can be the best way of finding the right balance.
Take a hard look at the type of social life you want to have. Then, try to figure out if off-campus life will help or hurt.
9. How Are You With Temptations?
The type of person who is tempted easily can do either very well or very poorly living off-campus. It gets back to the type of company you keep.
Surrounding yourself with roommates who will respect your wishes is key. Living with someone who is quieter and takes their studies as seriously as you do is the best way forward.
If neither of you are very good at imposing those restrictions on yourself, then you need to live in a place where someone else will do it for you. Keep that in mind before signing the lease.
10. What Are the Terms of the Lease?
Terms of a lease are vital to understand. They’re vital because you are on the hook for the rent for however long that lease dictates. If you plan on going home, this is something to be mindful of.
Say you only plan to live at the location for eight months out of the year. A one-year lease would obligate you to four extra months of full rent for which time you would not be staying there.
Should you try to end the lease, you would have to move your stuff out, maybe pay extra to break the lease, and then hope no one has come along to rent it out from under you. You might be able to work out a special deal with the landlord, but there are no guarantees.
11. Who Will Be Responsible for Other Bills?
Rent is not the only thing you have to worry about with off-campus apartments or homes. You also have to decide how to break up the utility bills.
Also, who is going to pay for the internet and cable? Do all of you want internet and cable, or would some of you rather opt out?
These discussions should be had before you decide to commit to the lease with the roommates you’ve chosen. Make sure everyone knows who is responsible for what, and try to make things as even as possible so no one feels cheated.
12. What Will Be the Rules of the House?
Finally, make sure each person living under the roof knows what their responsibilities are. Who is taking out the trash? Who is responsible for picking up common areas? What about the dishes and the bathroom?
Resentment will build in a hurry if these tasks are always left to one person. And when you’re that person, it’s really no fun.
Voice these concerns ahead of time. Decide as a group what to do about issues should they arise. Doing so will prevent significant conflict down the road.
Moving Off-Campus Is An Important Decision
We hope this look at moving off-campus has not seemed too alarmist. It can truly be a wonderful experience, but you do have to realize ahead of time that it comes with an added sense of responsibility. You should also be aware of the bad that goes along with the good to determine whether it will be worth it.
Now it’s your turn, readers. What are your favorite things about college life, on or off campus? Sound off in the comments section below.
[Featured Image by Wikimedia Commons]