Should You Live Off-Campus? 10 Considerations to Help You Decide
Living off-campus is something that many college students choose to do each year, often once they’ve gotten used to their classes and bored of on-campus life. We’re not going to pass judgment one way or the other on whether it’s a good idea, but we are going to say that it’s not a decision to rush in to.
In the following article, we take a closer look at the considerations you’ll need to make if you plan on making the most of your decision to live off-campus. Let’s begin!
1. Your Financial Situation
The first area to focus on is the financial outcome. Do you have any scholarships that are contingent on you living on campus? If so, you may want to think twice before giving up those opportunities. Some scholarships or meal plans are only available to on-campus students, or they’re available at a premium to off-campus. Either way, you spend more money to live and eat.
If you decide that it is worth it to live off-campus, then you have to weigh in the way that your lifestyle will change. You may have to buy groceries instead of eat at the cafeteria. You may have to curb how much you go out for meals or entertainment. If you expect to pay more, what are you doing to compensate for the difference?
2. Living Alone or With Roommates
One option that makes living off-campus more affordable is having one or multiple roommates. This can dramatically cut the amount that you pay for rent and deposits. If going this route, though, you want to make sure the people you’ve chosen are actually responsible enough to live off-campus. That means they’re willing to share the bills, come up with their share of the rent on time, and split up any shared deposits.
Don’t make the mistake of thinking that just because someone is your good friend, they’ll do right by you if you get an apartment together. Ask yourself what their financial arrangements are before considering them as roommate potential. You will, in all likelihood, save the friendship by politely declining them as a roommate than going through with it, even if there are some hard feelings up front.
While managing that emotional piece, don’t lose sight of the financial side. Run some numbers to see how many people you can comfortably bring into the situation and how much it will benefit you.
3. How It Will Affect Your Studies
Some people are responsible enough to live on their own. Others, not so much. Thing is, moving off-campus can actually be a good thing for your studies if you keep this at the front of your mind.
Living on-campus can put you in direct contact with parties and other distractions. It’s tough to “stay at home and study” when the party is happening in the hallway outside your door or in the dorm room caddycorner to yours. It’s all about the crew you’re running with (or rooming with, in the case of living off-campus).
Take a close look at what on-campus life is like in your current setup. Would living off-campus with a different group of people help or hurt your situation?
Living on-campus can make transportation pretty easy. If the campus is not too large, you might be able to walk everywhere and get plenty of exercise throughout the day without even really trying.
Living off-campus means finding a way to get to your classes. That could mean carpooling, hitching a ride with your friend and throwing them some gas money as a thank-you, or driving yourself. Each scenario may get the job done, but it will come at very different price tags.
Also, you want to consider factors like what it takes to get around town. Will you have the funds or ability to go to a part-time job or head out to a grocery store, fitness club, or cinema when you want to?
5. Geography to Work and Hangouts
Sometimes transportation isn’t that big of a deal. For example, maybe you have a bicycle or motorcycle. You can simply hop aboard and get to where you’re going quickly at minimal cost and zero hassle.
Make a list of the 5-10 locations that you visit the most. How many miles are they from where you’re considering making your off-campus home? What are the best routes to avoid traffic? How many minutes will it take?
6. How It Compares to Life On Campus
If you’ve done the math on 1-5, then you should be able to take a clearer look at how off-campus life will compare to on-campus. What are your findings?
Do you see too many new considerations you hadn’t previously thought about? Maybe it’s the other way, and you can instantly see your life getting easier. Now it’s time to think about potential changes or complications you will bring into your off-campus life. How would you handle those things if you lived on-campus? Will off-campus make it harder or easier?
7. Whether You Plan to Get a Job
Getting a part-time job can make living off-campus a lot easier if you are centrally located and have the transportation covered. You won’t have to deal with the often cluttered on-campus traffic so much, and you’ll be able to get to your job more quickly.
Of course, if you’re saving money by living on-campus, you may not need the job. But whether you need it or not doesn’t matter. A part-time job can be an excellent primer for your career. It will also teach you how to successfully manage more responsibilities.
8. Lease Terms
We would be remiss if we didn’t mention this part of living off-campus. It can be difficult finding a good location if you have no designs on staying put. That’s because property owners want to ensure that their properties are always rented out and earning money. If you are always on the move, then there will be 2-3 months out of the year that they’ll have to either not collect or charge you in spite of you not being there.
Those situations may not work for you or your landlord. So, understand the terms of the lease fully before moving forward with an agreement. Have a plan that you’re committed to, and don’t try to pull any last-minute changes.
9. Whether You Plan to Stay Over School Breaks
Staying over school breaks will inevitably come with more costs. Some factors to consider here.
- How are you on food?
- Can you get enough hours to make up any difference?
- Are other roommates going to stay with you? (If not, that could drastically increase your costs.)
You can help defray some of the financial shocks of those off-months. Just figure everything up and annualize the cost over 12 months, so you’re saving even when school is in session.
10. How Much Stuff You Will Bring With You
Pairing down the books, movies, devices, clothing, and furniture that you plan to bring with you can make moving out a lot easier if you choose to go home for the holidays. However, you don’t want to place yourself in a situation where you have to find a new place, sign a new lease, and cull together new roommates every semester. Too much of that would get old in a hurry!
Life Off Campus Requires Consideration and Adjustments
As you can see, off-campus life requires careful consideration. It means looking at your behavioral history, will power, ability, and means. If one of these is out of sync, it can make for an extraordinarily difficult time. At the same time, it can offer you the freedom and life experience that sets you up for bigger things down the road. Just make sure you’ve given the decision the respect it deserves. Good luck!
[Featured Image by Flickr Creative Commons]