Benefits of Moving Off Campus
Whether for social or financial reasons, or just wanting more space and independence, deciding to move off campus is a debate many students have after spending some time in student housing. There are benefits and challenges to off-campus housing; it is a decision to weigh carefully.
Space. Once you’ve grown tired of your XL twin size bed, the most obvious benefit of moving out of the dorm is gaining the space to spread out. A nearby home or apartment may offer the opportunity for you to have a private bedroom or bathroom and more independence in your coming and going.
Amenities. Access to a kitchen is right at your fingertips, allowing you to prepare meals at your own convenience. Many universities are surrounded by beautiful new buildings with high-end amenities like an on-site gym, coffee shops, and party rooms.
Independence. There are no resident advisors, quiet hours, or rules regulating your comings and goings in private housing. Gaining independence comes with some added responsibilities. It’s up to you to determine your priorities in student life. If you are ready to spread your wings and are confident living off campus won’t impact your academic goals it may be time to consider off-campus life.
Costs Considerations: Living Off Campus
Rent. First and foremost, off campus housing will require a residential lease agreement. In some states, there are age, income, and credit requirements that determine eligibility for a lease. Oftentimes a co-signing parent is a more attractive rental candidate than a student alone. Make sure all parties are aware of and comfortable with their responsibilities according to the terms of your lease. If you or your family aren’t comfortable with the terms of the lease, the idea of moving off campus may be a non-starter.
Deposits, fees, and utilities. Sharing the cost of a home or apartment with other students may at first seem less expensive than paying traditional room and board fees. Be sure, however, to include all costs when determining what you will really pay to live off campus. Deposits, rent, furniture, food, utilities (that means electric, internet, WIFI and sometimes even snow removal) all add up. Additionally, off-campus housing is more likely to incur an annual expenses. If you are unable to sublet the space during summer months, you will be obligated to the monthly expenses even though you are not there.
FAFSA. Before committing to moving off campus, review your FAFSA offer. In some cases, housing monies are offered only if a student remains in official student housing. Be careful not to make a decision that will impact your financial aid package.
Increased responsibilities. Although the dorm room amenities may not have been top notch, students are generally not responsible for the heavy cleaning of their space or the bathrooms. Chores, grocery/cooking responsibilities and yes, taking out the garbage all come with independent living. Moving off campus will force the need for greater balance between life skills and academic requirements. If an increase in daily responsibilities will impact your ability to successfully navigate your workload, it might be necessary to re-commit to dorm life.
Tips for Living Off Campus
7 Tips for Successfully Living Off Campus
- Consider your roommates carefully. Be sure your goals, responsibilities and preferences are aligned.
- Compare multiple apartments and carefully review each lease agreement. See more than the sales model; ask if you can see the actual apartment you are considering.
- Carefully evaluate the safety of each apartment for location as well as protection of personal property. Add an additional lock to your personal space if it helps you feel more comfortable.
- Document the condition of the apartment at move-in. Create a photo folder that you can easily reference if your security deposit is called into question.
- Build a new monthly budget worksheet based on actual costs of moving off campus.
- Evaluate campus meal plan options. If you are eligible to purchase a meal plan select one that supports only the meal times you expect to be dining on campus. Increase the amount of discounted “dining dollars” or campus cash so that you can eat at nearby locations for a discounted amount.
- Figure out subletting early. There are always individuals who are looking to stay on campus during summer months. Get a jump start on your competition by posting availability well before you plan to move out.
Off Campus Roommate Questions
Use these questions to guide your search for a roommate to share an off-campus house or apartment.
- What are you willing to pay as your share of rent?
- How are you willing to divide rent? Evenly per person, by room depending on number of occupants or by size of room?
- Are you willing to put your name on the lease, security deposit, and/or utilities?
- How much do you care about upkeep/ cleanliness?
- How do you suggest we manage chores/ responsibilities?
- Would you rather buy food and supplies separately or together?
- Are you willing to contribute to shared furnishings- living room, kitchen, TV?
- Do you or would you like to have a pet?
- Is there a significant other that will be visiting? How often?
Off Campus Landlord Questions
Make sure you ask and understand the answers to these questions before signing a lease agreement.
- When paying rent, should there be one check or checks from each tenant?
- What are the specific requirements as to the return of the security deposit?
- What utilities are included in the rent?
- Is there a parking space? Is there an additional fee for the space?
- If the last month is not a full month, will rent be prorated?
- Where is the laundry facility?
- Who should be contacted for household maintenance issues?
- When is lease renewal expected?
- Is there a sublet process?
- Are there any move-in/ move out fees or time restrictions?
Off-Campus Living & Financial Aid
Will Moving Off-Campus Impact my College Loans and Scholarships?
Many students wonder if moving off campus will impact their eligibility for financial aid. In most cases, eligibility is not impacted but the financial amount could be altered. The financial aid award is based on an estimated room and board budget. Some schools assume students will pay less for off-campus housing, therefore the amount of aid is reduced. If the university estimates the cost of off-campus housing to be higher, the student may be offered a higher loan amount than they had previously received. Students should use the school’s estimated expenses for room and board as a basis for budgeting off-campus living expenses.
Scholarships: If using scholarship funds, the total scholarship amount awarded is applied toward tuition first. Any remaining funds are then refunded to the student to be applied toward off campus housing. Students who budget their housing costs to approximate dorm costs need to remember that those funds must cover rent, but now must also be used to pay for things that were previously included in the dorm such as deposits, utilities and furniture. A student who reduces their housing costs by moving off-campus might be able to stretch scholarship dollars to pay for text books, food and other off-campus necessities.
Loans: If the financial aid package consists of loans, the student may be offered the option to borrow more to cover increased living expenses. Students should be very careful about accepting increased loan funds. If the actual costs of moving off campus are not higher than in previous years, the student may be using borrowed funds to pay for discretionary expenses. Each dollar spent will need to be repaid with interest after graduation.
It is very important to verify the process that occurs at your school. To avoid making a costly mistake, it is wise to contact a financial aid adviser at your college or university to guide your decision making.
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