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6 Off-Campus Housing Tips

Friday, August 20, 2021

Whether you’ve been living with your parents or in the dorms up to this point, moving to your first off-campus college apartment is a major life event. It is exciting to think of being on your own as a young adult, but moving off campus also comes with a lot of responsibilities and some potential pitfalls. Living on your own for the first time can be scary — especially as a part- or full-time college student.

If you are thinking about taking the leap and signing a lease for your apartment or rental home, we’ve compiled some tips for college students living off campus, to help you be as prepared as possible.

Living Off-Campus Tips for College Students

1. Determine your budget. Before deciding about whether to live off campus and where you want to live, make a budget and determine what you will reasonably be able to afford. Many college students make the mistake of only factoring in the amount of rent when deciding if they can afford to rent an apartment.

In reality, the costs will include rent, a security deposit, moving costs, monthly utility expenses, laundry, parking fees, renter’s insurance, food and more. Estimating these costs can give you a better picture of what you can afford.

2. Consider living with a roommate. Living on your own can be expensive. That’s why one of the most common money-saving tips for first apartment renters is choosing to live with one or more roommates. When doing so, you can share expenses, dropping the monthly cost of renting dramatically.

Be sure to choose your roommates wisely, opting for people you get along well with and who you feel will be trustworthy. If you go in on an apartment with a roommate, set some ground rules up front. Address how you will share responsibility for cleaning and grocery shopping, use of common areas, paying rent and utility bills, etc.

3. Look at options near campus. You will also need to decide where you want to live. While you may find a seemingly great apartment, if it’s 25 miles from campus and you are taking traditional in-person classes, the commuting time and expense will add up quickly — making that great apartment not-so-great. When looking at options, it’s also important to consider whether amenities such as in-unit laundry or a fitness center are worth paying higher rent.

Safety is another point to keep in mind. Choosing a first-floor apartment in an unsecured building with poor outdoor lighting could be putting you, your belongings and your guests at risk.

4. Plan for your commute. When narrowing apartment choices, factor in your commute to campus. College commuter tips include choosing an apartment near public transportation, so you don’t have to worry about driving in rush-hour traffic or paying to park at school.

Public transportation can also save you money and give you time to study while in transit. If your apartment is within walking or biking distance of campus, you could also forego transportation in favor of getting some exercise on your commute.

5. Plan for your meals. If you are moving into your first apartment after living in the dorms, your college’s cafeteria and meal plan will no longer be quite as convenient as they were. It may still make sense to plan to have some of your meals there when you’re there for classes anyway, but you (and your roommate, if applicable) should plan and budget for grocery shopping.

One tip is to stock your freezer and shelves with easy-to-prepare but nutritious foods that can be enjoyed in your apartment — limiting the urge to get takeout or pizza delivery every night.

6. Decide what you need in your apartment. Another thing some first-time college apartment renters don’t take into consideration is the need to buy furnishings, decor, kitchen appliances, bathroom supplies, electronics, cleaning supplies, etc. for their apartment homes. 

First apartment tips include bringing items from home when reasonable and possible, or shopping yard sales or second-hand sale listings to find kitchenware, decor, desks, tables, chairs, bookshelves, etc. You may be able to save a significant amount of money by doing so.

As you can see, there are a lot of factors to consider before signing an apartment lease and moving off campus. Arming yourself with information can help you make smart decisions about where and how to live during college. This can, in turn, improve your overall college experience.

If you’re looking for more tips for moving into your first apartment, review and bookmark Generations College’s Off-Campus Housing Resources, which is full of helpful information and useful links. Located in the heart of Chicago, Generations College offers several two-year degree programs you can complete on campus or online. Contact us for more information and to take the next step toward your future as a college student.