You may be exploring the idea of living off-campus because you want to or because you need to. By following these tips, you can make sure you're making the most of your search and considering all of the factors that will effect your new life away from campus.
Figure out Your Finances
Knowing how much you can afford to pay, and whether or not living off-campus will be cheaper than living on-campus, is perhaps the most crucial information you need to know. Make sure you've thought about the following:
- Where will my money come from? Will I pay my rent from student loans? A job?
- Do I have enough cash up front to be able to pay a deposit and (possibly) first and last month's rent?
- What will it cost me to commute? Park on campus? Buy my own food? Do I need to keep my on-campus meal plan?
- How much will my utilities cost?
- How much can I afford for rent?
Start Looking at Listings
Once you've figured out how to pay for your apartment, and what your budget is, you can start looking. Often times, your on-campus housing office has information about off-campus apartments. Landlords will provide information to your school because they know students are interested in learning about off-campus rentals. Ask your friends if they know of anyone who will be leaving their apartments, and where the good places are to live. Explore joining a fraternity or sorority if it's appealing to you; Greek organizations frequently have off-campus houses that their members can live in.
Keep in Mind What a "Year" Means
To you, a "year" may be from August to August, since that's when your academic year begins. To your landlord, however, it may mean January to January or even June to June. Before you sign any lease, think through where you'll be over the next 12 months. If your lease starts this fall, will you indeed still be in the area next summer (when you'll have to make rent payments regardless)? If your lease starts this June, will you indeed be around enough during the summer to justify what you'll pay in rent?
Set Yourself Up to Still Be Connected to Campus
You may be excited now about not having to be on campus all of the time. But as life in your off-campus apartment progresses next year, you may find yourself more and more removed from the everyday on-campus happenings you took for granted. Make sure you are involved in at least one or two clubs, organizations, etc. so that you don't begin to drift too far away from your campus community. You may end up feeling isolated and stressed if you don't maintain your ties.
Don't Overlook the Safety Factor
Life as a college student often runs on a pretty unusual schedule. You may be used to staying at the library until 11:00 p.m., going grocery shopping at all hours of the night, and not thinking twice about the front door of your hall being propped open. However, the context for all of these factors shifts dramatically if you're off campus. Will you still feel safe leaving the library late at night if you have to walk, alone, to a quiet apartment with no one around? Keeping these important factors in mind will help in making sure your off-campus apartment is all you wanted and more.