A Guide to Off-Campus Housing

Many college students choose to seek housing off campus, in a house or apartment, rather than in a dormitory. Read on to learn more about this choice and how it can shape your college experience.

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While many incoming college freshmen choose to live in dorms their first year, it is unusual for students to stay there throughout their entire college careers. Students often search for off-campus housing alternatives by their second or third year of study. It can be an intimidating process.

Before you can locate the ideal room, apartment, or house, you have to figure out what you can afford. If a whole apartment seems out of reach, consider renting a room. If that is too expensive, think about getting a roommate. There are a number of housing options available to fit most budgets. Some private companies even offer low-cost off-campus student housing designed specifically for college students. Rent will often include all monthly utilities and leases are frequently designed with the length of the school year in mind.

Once you know what you're looking for, refer to local newspapers, housing guides, or Internet-based housing directories. Often schools will host forums on their official websites allowing those in the community to post rooms, apartments and houses for rent. You can often search these listings by type, location, and monthly rent. Compile a list containing all viable possibilities, then schedule a viewing. It's often helpful to take along a friend or one of your parents when viewing a potential residence. A second pair of eyes might notice issues you don't, or ask questions that would have been overlooked otherwise. And you should look at several properties before committing to one.

There are a number of factors to consider when making a final housing decision. Consider not only the monthly rent, but factor in the amount of the required deposit (which is sometimes equal the a full month's rent and must be paid up front), all application fees and the cost of utilities. Review the lease to ensure that you can abide by all the rules and think transportation as well. Is the property near campus? If not, is it near a bus line?

Finally, one must consider roommates. It is rare for a student to live alone throughout college. It helps if you know the people you plan to live with to prevent unwanted surprises. If one must live with strangers, it helps to try to get to know them in some capacity before moving in. Even a simple phone conversation can help. Either way, it is important to establish some ground rules, such as how to handle dirty dishes, chores, or how to divide shared bills.

Whatever your off-campus housing goals, preparing yourself for the transition can make the experience less intimidating.

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