Comparing off-campus housing options

Comparing off-campus housing options

There are so many great things about living off campus. It’s a big step toward full independence and developing real life skills. Students love the freedom to live with the friends they choose in their very own place.

Now, about that “place.” How do you find it? What type of off-campus housing is best? It’s all about individual priorities and goals. To find the best fit, start by making a list of what matters most in a living situation (location? amenities? price?) and compare these priorities to the types of off-campus housing available in your college town.

Some things to consider when planning a transition to off-campus life:

  • Convenience: Will there be a commute? Is transportation easy and affordable? How close are stores?
  • Connection: Students living off campus may need to make an extra effort to stay engaged with campus life and focused on academic goals.
  • Safety: Can you relax in the environment or is crime a concern?
  • Money: Students may be able to save money living off campus. They will learn about leases and security deposits, and how to coordinate expenses with roommates. Budgeting carefully is key.

Let’s start with a comparison: Apartment vs. House.

Roommates
APARTMENT HOUSE
Studios and one-bedrooms cost more, but appeal to students who like privacy. A private bedroom (and even bathroom) may be an option in a multi-bedroom unit. Houses typically have more bedrooms. This means rent can be split more ways, making this an affordable option for larger groups of friends. Be sure to comply with local limits on how many unrelated people can live together.
Utilities
APARTMENT HOUSE
Utilities will vary from apartment to apartment. Students should pay attention to which utilities are included, and which will be separate bills. Is there air conditioning? Renters may have to set up their own accounts for electric/gas, cable, trash removal, etc. Winter heating bills can be high in older, poorly insulated houses. Water may be extra.
Amenities
APARTMENT HOUSE
There might be a laundry room, added security and 24-hour maintenance as well as perks like a pool, fitness center and common areas. Is there storage for bikes? Is parking available and is it extra? Storage and parking may be better, but students might need to budget for trips to a laundromat. Repairs will take longer if a landlord isn’t on-site/responsive (and may be needed more often if the house is older).
Responsibilities
APARTMENT HOUSE
Apartments are a more low-maintenance choice, which works for busy students who aren’t home much. Renters are often responsible for lawn care, snow removal, taking out the trash, etc. Sharing a house with lots of people makes managing finances more complicated.
Safety
APARTMENT HOUSE
Apartments may have good security features such as 24-hour security, key-card entry and outdoor lighting. It can be easier to get to know neighbors in an apartment building. Security is up to the renters. Student-heavy neighborhoods sometimes have higher crime rates. Research the specific address you might rent to be sure it is not a “nuisance property” associated with past noise or occupancy complaints.
Noise
APARTMENT HOUSE
Shared walls and floors/ceilings can mean more noise. The noise level will depend on housemates’ lifestyles. Establish rules about music/parties/guests.
Sociability
APARTMENT HOUSE
If there are a lot of students in your building, it may feel a bit like a campus residence hall. Professionally managed student housing communities (see below) offer fun social activities. It’s nice to come home to housemates. Some neighborhoods are lively, while others are quieter and more residential (which can feel isolating).

Another option: Professionally managed student housing communities

These are found near universities all around the country. Because the buildings are dedicated to the comfort and success of students, they have advantages from both the student and the parent perspective.

  1. The communities support an academic-focused culture. Residents make new friends who share their priorities.
  2. “Individual lease liability” means that students are only responsible for their own lease and rent. One-semester leases or leases that just cover the school year may be an option.
  3. There is a range of prices depending on the number of bedrooms/roommates. Utilities are usually included, meaning no hidden expenses. Students can opt for fully-furnished rooms and/or roommate matching.

Professionally managed student housing communities tend to be:

  • Close to to campus and local transit
  • Well-maintained (sometimes even brand-new)
  • Safe, with up-to-date security features

They usually include:

  • 24/7 on-call management and maintenance
  • Professional and student staff
  • Utilities and wifi
  • Quiet study spaces
  • On-site amenities (laundry, fitness centers, social areas, etc.)
  • Organized social activities plus “Living/Learning” programming (tutoring, career development workshops, community service projects, etc.)

Note: Not all apartment complexes that cater primarily to students in a college town fall into the category of professionally managed student housing communities!

Final thoughts for students:

Consider your top priorities for your off-campus experience.

Ask around: Where do your fellow students love living? Is there an apartment complex that people move into and want to stay until they graduate?

Bottom line: When you’re happy with your living situation, you have more energy to focus on being a successful student.

 

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