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It’s not inevitable, but the topic comes up in many college families. Your student wants to move off campus.
You may share their excitement about establishing a life off campus or you may have reservations. It can be just the right move for some students but not the best decision for others.
You can help your student think through a move by asking lots of questions. This will put both you and your student in a better position to make an informed decision.
Sharing rent with several roommates and doing your own cooking may mean lower costs than living on campus — or it may not. Make sure your student has a realistic budget. They will need to factor in:
Key consideration: Talk about whether your student will be solely responsible for paying or whether you will help out. If so, is there a limit to how much you're willing to contribute?
Some students are anxious to get out of the residence hall for more privacy and quiet. Escaping the constant commotion (not to mention the communal bathrooms!) has a lot of appeal. But there's a flip side. Help your student think through what it will be like not to have easy access to other students and to campus life.
Key consideration: Will they be able to stay engaged with activities, friends, and campus departments?
If your student has been sharing a small dorm room with one or more roommates, they may look forward to having some space to call their own. Ask your student these questions:
Key consideration: Make sure your student has a plan for handling potential difficult situations.
One of the wonderful outcomes of a good off-campus living arrangement can be your student’s growing sense of independence and responsibility. But make sure your student is ready to take on this increased responsibility. They need to be able to:
Key consideration: Off-campus life is very different from the comparatively carefree routine in the residence hall.
Most leases are for a full year. But most students are not on campus over summer and winter breaks.
If your student needs to be on campus for the summer, an apartment can be an ideal arrangement as summer housing in the residence hall is not always available, but if they'll be home during breaks (or possibly away for a semester for study abroad) what arrangements will they need to make?
Key consideration: Is your student prepared to pay rent all year even though they may not be living there? Does the lease allow for a sublet?
One of the wonderful things about living off campus is the opportunity to get to know many different types of people. Depending on the location, the neighbors may also be students, but they may not. Your student needs to remember that non-students — perhaps older retirees, working professionals or families with young children — may not be especially tolerant of the “student lifestyle.”
Key consideration: Your student needs to be prepared to be a good neighbor.
How will your student get to campus? Is it walkable? Is there public transportation nearby? If your student plans to have a car, does the apartment have designated parking or will your student need to find street parking? Will your student have to pay extra for a parking space or garage?
Key consideration: Make sure the commute will not present an obstacle to getting to class on time.
Most campus residence halls are relatively secure with a keyed entrance, a lock on each room, and campus security officers who patrol regularly.
Make sure your student considers the safety and security of any off-campus housing options. Is there a keyed entrance to the building as well as a lock on the unit? Is the apartment on the ground level or on an upper floor? Is the neighborhood well lit?
Key consideration: Will your student feel comfortable walking home late at night?
If you and your student have thought through and talked about all of these factors and your student is still interested in living off campus, what now? Here are some next steps.
The decision to live in a first apartment is not an easy one. But it is easy for your student to get caught up in the excitement. Make sure you help them think carefully about all of the aspects of living independently. Then, if the decision seems right, step back and watch as they take a huge step toward independence.