Going to college is a step toward being more independent. Another large step in growing up is living off campus for the first time. Most students rent an apartment, which comes with a lot more responsibility than living in a dorm room did. There will be tough choices you have to make, and it can be quite a learning experience.
If you feel like you made a mistake, don’t worry everyone does. Collegeboxes is here to give you a few tips for living off campus in college. Even if you’re simply moving back home and commuting to school, we have a few helpful ideas for you too.
1. Building a New College Budget
Whether you’re moving into an apartment, renting a house, or living at home, you need to establish a budget. Renting will be a monthly cost, unlike a dorm which is included in your tuition. There is also a deposit, renter’s insurance, utilities, groceries, and more that will be on your tab now.
When starting a budget for living off campus for college, you’ll need to consider these things:
- Truly, how much can you afford?
- Are you expecting help from your parents?
- Do you have or will you need a job?
- How many roommates will you have?
- Do you have money saved up?
The cost of living adds up, even for those not in college. That’s why a lot of kids get help from their parents to pay for it. It’s important to be honest with yourself and to start planning ahead during the spring semester before you have to pick a place and sign a leasing agreement. The last thing you want is to legally agree to pay for something you can’t afford.
Ask your parents if they can help. Start thinking about potential roommates and how many you want to have. Get a summer job back home to help build up a savings account for when you go back to school. Part of growing up is learning that life is about more than the present.
2. Pick Your Apartment Roommates Carefully
You’ve built up a group of friends while at college, you should live with your closest ones, right? Let’s slow down real quick. Being a great friend and being a great roommate don’t always correlate. Pay attention to your friends’ dorm rooms when thinking about potential roommates. Is it covered in dirty clothes and trash? Is it too clean? What are their habits? If they stay up all night, will that disrupt what time you go to bed? These are a few things to consider.
In all honesty, your best friend probably isn’t the best choice for being a roommate. At home, you see your parents and siblings every day, and arguments emerge. That will be true with your roommates as well. Especially because college students aren’t great at keeping up on daily chores and you’ll be sharing kitchen space and laundry room area.
We’re not saying don’t live with your friends because it can be a very enjoyable experience. Consider all the aspects and what will make your living off campus experience the best for you.
Your best friend isn’t always the best roommate
3. Research Local College Apartments and Off-Campus Housing
When starting your research for off-campus housing, know what you’re looking for. There are different types of college housing to choose from. Every college town has student and traditional apartments.
Student apartments are obviously catered with students in mind. Typically, these are priced out by the bedroom, meaning you’ll only have to worry about your room. These apartments usually offer two- to six-bedroom apartments, depending on how many roommates you want. The more rooms, the less your payment is. These generally come with private bathrooms, but a shared living space, kitchen, and in-unit washer and dryer.
Depending on the apartment, the utilities are either included in the rent or you must worry about one part, like the electricity. These apartments also come fully furnished most of the time. You’ll have a bed, a dresser, and possibly a desk and chair. There are amenities as well. Apartments will have their own gym, swimming pools, ping pong tables, and even study rooms. They also try to keep a dorm-esque atmosphere by planning weekly events to help connect with the community.
There will also be traditional apartment complexes around your school, but won’t be the closest option to school. These are the grown-up version of student apartments. You’ll have to pass a background and credit check when you apply for an apartment. You might need a cosigner, especially if you don’t have any credit. There is usually a set rate for the whole apartment that you’ll need to split it between your roommates. You also won’t be living around students only. If you like the dorm feel and want to try to make more friends, the student apartments might be the best choice for you.
People also buy and invest in houses around campus to rent them to students for a decent price as well. Regardless of the housing you pick, make sure you visit it and ask plenty of questions. If you run into people that currently live there, ask them questions because they’ll have the best answers for you.
4. Get Ready for College Cooking Off Campus
Living off campus means that the dining hall isn’t a few steps away. You’ll also need to learn how to cook on your own because you can’t live off ramen noodles and fast food. There are many ways to make quick and easy food while in college, it’s a lot easier to do so living off campus than it was in the dorm. At a dormitory, there are strict rules against cooking appliances. In an apartment, there’s a stove and oven to use. Toasters and air fryers are allowed in apartments making cooking a breeze. The fridge and freezer available also provide a space for more food options to be stored in your living space.
The dining hall and a meal plan can still be used. If you still live close by campus or schedule your classes around breakfast, lunch, or dinner time, use those as well. Schools offer different plans to choose from, pick according to how much you’ll use the dining hall. We promise you won’t starve, even if you can only make cereal or peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. If you can’t cook, try these five easy meals anyone can make.
5. Living at Home While in College
Students will stay at home while attending college to help save money. Although, there are cons to this as well. Being back home, especially if it’s rent-free, means you’ll have expectations to help around the house and have chores again. Unlike high school, college classes vary in schedule, only meeting two or three times a week for an hour or two. There are also more cancelations too. As your schedule changes, it’s vital to communicate your schedule with your parents and siblings to let them know when you’re going to be home.
Even though you’ll be living at home, don’t spend all your time there. You still want to take in the college experience, and it’ll be healthier for all your relationships to balance your time at home and school. We recommend these ideas to enjoy campus while you live at home:
- Leave a gap between classes long enough to stay on campus, but short enough that you can’t go home
- Make time to see friends that live on campus or at a nearby apartment
- Find your favorite study spot on campus
- Use the on-campus amenities that are still available to you: gym, pool, dining hall, etc.
- Join an organization or club to get you busy outside of class
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