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When Your College Student Wants to Live Off CampusVicki Nelson
The May 1st deadline for choosing a college is nearly here! After making this momentous decision, your student has more decisions to make — including about where they will live next year.
There are tools available to help the first-year housing process go smoothly, and the college or university should communicate with your student about their housing options. Here’s an up-close look at how it all works!
Information about residential life is available on the college website. Depending on the school, you may find floor plans and pricing, like these at Boston College and Arizona State University. An official college username and password may be required to view this information; your student will get a login when they accept their spot, or can request access based on their status as an incoming student.
Many colleges guarantee housing for incoming freshmen and require they live on campus in freshmen-designated communities. Others allow first-year students to choose their own housing and even live off campus if they want. You and your student can find the roommate policy easily on the college website.
Some colleges match roommates with one another. If the school assigns a roommate, they usually provide a questionnaire to increase the odds of compatibility.
Your student may or may not be permitted to request a specific roommate. Duke University recently decided to stop letting first-year students choose their own roommates and now makes assignments entirely at random based on a questionnaire. The policy change was intended to prevent students from selecting roommates with similar backgrounds and perspectives and instead through their housing situation expose them to classmates from varying backgrounds and cultures. In a letter to the Class of 2022, Duke's vice president for student affairs and the dean and vice provost for undergraduate education stated:
Our experience over many years assures us (and thus, you) that you’ll be fine … better in fact! We believe that you’ll enjoy the opportunity to meet someone you’ve not previously known and will have a great opportunity to explore your roommate’s history, culture and interests. Who knows … you may get invited to a part of the world you wouldn’t otherwise get to see.
Social media can be used to foster online friendships that lead to a roommate match. These days most colleges create a closed class Facebook group so incoming students can connect with one another. Your student can use this group to ask questions and "meet" future classmates. In many of these groups, students introduce themselves and add a short bio for the sole purpose of finding a roommate.
Roommate matching sites like RoomSurf and RoomSync match students based on compatibility percentages. Students complete a questionnaire and are matched with others who answered questions similarly. At that point, students can contact one another and proceed from there.
Social media and roommate matching can’t guarantee a perfect match but do help your student find someone with like interests, specific geographic areas and mutual connections. Using technology, your student can get to know their roommate online before they move in together on campus.
Many colleges offer specialty housing, even for first-year students. If your student is interested in a substance-free dorm or a service community, for instance, those options will be listed on the college website during the room registration process. Your student should investigate these possibilities before making their dorm choices.
Fifty-five percent of students live off campus; most are upperclassmen. For first-year students attending a commuter college or a community college, though, the choice to continue living at home with their family is often a natural one. Other reasons first-year students live off campus:
Living off campus freshman year can cause students to miss out on important parts of the typical college experience. Before choosing to live off campus, encourage your first-year student to look closely at the school and student body, calculate the cost savings, and contemplate the loss of on-campus experiences. If your student will commute from home, support them in making a solid connection to their new campus community — find tips here.
Securing or deciding on housing is an integral part of preparing for the fall term. Knowing your options will help you and your student make the best choice and guarantee a stable and happy freshman year.
To stay on top of things, be sure to read "10 things to do now that your student has chosen a college."