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When Your College Student Wants to Live Off CampusVicki Nelson
It may seem much too soon to be thinking about next year’s housing, but in many college towns it’s time to pre-lease off-campus apartments.
If your student is deciding between living in a residence hall again or moving off campus, you’ll want to discuss the options over Thanksgiving, and by winter break they should be ready either to apply for on-campus housing or start their off-campus search in earnest.
Whether they'll live on or off campus, one of the most important things to consider is who they want to room with. First-year students are still settling in and getting to know people, and authentic friendships can take a while to build. But the calendar doesn’t give anybody a break. Your student needs to take action!
Some lucky students get along fabulously with their freshman roommate and it's a no-brainer that they’ll stay together. If the choice isn’t so obvious, you can help your student make a wise move.
Here is advice to share with your student about the most important things to keep in mind when choosing a roommate.
Some of us gravitate toward friends whose energy picks us up and who guarantee fun and adventure. While this is a great quality in a friend, if you’re an introvert who appreciates quiet time, a friend who’s always on the go might not be the best choice for a roommate. Alternatively, if you like to socialize, it might be best to room with someone who shares your high energy.
Some people may advise you against rooming with your best friend, but rooming with someone you don’t know that well can be just as problematic. You’ll spend a lot of time with your roommate, and share very personal space. It will be easier to avoid conflict if you know their habits ahead of time (neat or messy? early riser or night owl? super talkative or quiet? regular partier or occasional socialite?) and have an idea of their schedule: do their classes align with yours? are they an athlete or involved in a club? do they stay out late, travel on weekends, like to have people over?
When selecting a roommate, or a group of roommates, to live with off campus, it’s important to be sure everyone is on the same page when it comes to housing goals. This includes the type of housing you prefer, proximity to campus, amenities, price, etc.
The last is possibly the most important. People can be flexible about many things, but when it comes to money, you may not have a lot of wiggle room. Start out knowing how much you can each afford to pay per month. Financial advance planning is required — when you sign a lease, you’ll need to put down first and last month’s rent and a security deposit. Each roommate must be ready to make this commitment and take on the responsibility of managing a household together.
No matter how well you and your roommate mesh, there is no way to avoid conflict completely. However, you can greatly mitigate problems and the harm they might do to your friendship if you respect each other, talk openly about what bothers you, and are ready to adjust.
If you aren’t willing to confront your roommate in a respectful and constructive way, even a minor problem like leaving dirty dishes in the sink can turn into a major source of resentment, frustration and drama. Instead of hoping they get the hint, or being passive-aggressive and leaving notes, ask nicely and explain that coming home to a dirty kitchen makes it hard for you to cook dinner. They may not have realized that their actions impacted you. For your part, put yourself in your roommate’s shoes and consider the impact your actions have on them.
A Roommate Agreement is a terrific idea. Find one here.
Rooming together, like any relationship, takes work. Both your student and their roommate should be prepared to work to make their home the best it can be.