How to Decide You're Ready to Move Off-Campus
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So you’ve spent two years living in dorms and you’re ready to fly the dorm life coop. Or maybe you’re getting more serious about your life goals and need an extended break from all the frequent freshman fun and parties. Perhaps undergrad housing culture is simply draining and you’re ready to cut the apron strings to move into a place that better suits your needs at this time in your life.
No matter the reason, moving off-campus is a major decision. Not to mention, there is a host of added costs and responsibilities. I think it is a smart move for schools to allow living on campus especially for the first one or two years of college life because most students are just entering the “real world” and taking care of one’s own place is a big responsibility many are not ready to handle on their own.
There is a reason dorm life is the way it is. Partly, it is the students, but the other side of that is the college culture in general. There is the good, the bad, and the ugly both on-campus and off-campus. If you dealt with loud roommates or friends down the hall, there’s no guarantee that wild parties won’t also happen with those who live right next door to your apartment. But the freedom of being away from hall monitors and resident assistants who are liable to report what you do might be worth it.
If you think you might be ready to handle living off-campus, here are some things to consider to help you decide whether to take the leap.
Nothing is simple — or is it?
College dorms are tailored to be simple for students. For one, you’re just beginning “adulting” which is a process. You can dress yourself and do your laundry, but can’t cook or pump air in a tire. So usually, the cost of college is more expensive because living space (including utilities) and meal plans are all rolled into one.
When you move off-campus, everything isn’t so simple. You have to be responsible for paying the rent each month on time, and missing a month or two can put you in great jeopardy of being evicted which can go on your credit record and hinder your prospects of getting another place.
Additionally, you have to be on top of the utilities – electricity, gas, water, heating, cable, Wi-Fi, insurance, and so on. Just typing it all out here feels overwhelming. Believe me, in real life, it is, but with some organization and budgeting at the outset, you can be ready to tackle these new responsibilities.
Money is never in fully supply
So, if you’re planning to move off-campus, even if you have great grandparents or parents who are willing to foot the bill for the first three months, you must consider the price of your new place. Depending on the part of the city you’re moving to, you could be spending more or less.
Consider doing some research and exploring the area before you officially move in. Ask friends, classmates, and even people you may know who already live in the apartment you want to live in how it works financially. Then decide what is best for you.
Do keep in mind that beyond the cost of rent or lease, there are the costs of utilities. Add it all up, leave yourself a little margin (for unforeseen or overlooked fees), and then create your budget to help in making your decision.
Sure, in your dorm, warming up pizza or bowls of ravioli in the microwave was the thing. You didn’t have time to cook, much less know how to do it. If you’re moving from a typical dorm to a cool apartment space, off-campus amenities can be golden.
With an apartment, you will live like an adult. After all, you’re paying adult money, right? Off-campus apartments these days come with mid-to-full size kitchens, full bathrooms for a one-bedroom place, and full and half bathrooms for a two-to-three-bedroom place.
Then there is ample amounts of storage, closet, and shelf space so you can spread out and have somewhere to put all your things. This is even better if you have no roommates to share it with.
When should I make all this happen?
Well, it depends on when you want to move out and be settled in your new place. The earlier you start the search, the better off you are going to be because most likely more students are going to be looking for a place off-campus later rather than sooner.
A good rule of thumb is to start looking six months to a year before you want to move in. Taking the summer months to search before the fall semester begins is also another option. Looking at a good number of places at one time can be overwhelming, but after several months, you will know which place feels right for you.
And if you’re going to have roommates, consider choosing ones with whom you share interests. Perhaps you may also have similar schedules, take the same classes, and are friends with some of the same people. This will help to cut down on misunderstandings. Above all, choose someone who is trustworthy and who understands the level of responsibility.
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