Student housing is one of the many hurdles college attendees must scale when preparing for school. To make that job easier, we have prepared this comprehensive guide with all the facets covered for you.
When attending college, there are two choices, to live on or off campus. There are benefits and drawbacks to both options. In the end, it comes down to personal preference and what matters most to you.
Table of Contents
- Living on Campus
- Why Choose Living on Campus? Pro’s & Con’s
- Living Off Campus
- Looking for an Apartment
- Handling Issues
- Renters Insurance
- Avoiding Scams
- How to Be a Good Neighbor or Roommate
- Laws in Your Neighborhood
- Additional Resources
Living on Campus
Why Choose Living on Campus? Pro’s & Con’s
Living on campus means living in a dormitory with other students. Some schools mandate that freshman live on campus the first year. Other colleges let the student and families choose.
There are a lot of positives to living on campus, especially if you are new to college or a transfer student. First, you instantly become part of a tight-knit community. When you live with other students, you get to know them very well. There is also a resident manager for each building or floor, so you have some built-in security and someone to ask for help if you need anything.
Additionally, campus life offers a lot of built-in amenities such as meals, access to the gym, medical services, security staff, quick commute to classrooms and the library. Being on a meal plan means you don’t have to worry about buying food or cooking.
Often the relationships you forge during college last a lifetime. Living on campus affords you the opportunity to make friendships and build community easily. You will also be tuned in to events and social gatherings that you might not be aware of if you lived off campus.
Because you are living on campus, and everything is closer, you will also be able to get more sleep each day. If you live off campus and have to commute, you will have to allow extra travel time to get to classes on time.
It is sometimes cheaper to live on campus, not having to pay rent, utilities or food bills.
There can also be a downside to living on campus. Vibrant campus life can be fun but also noisy and chaotic at times. If you are trying to study or need quiet time, it might be difficult to carve out living in a dormitory.
Other cons are sharing a room, so privacy and space are often issues. You will have to share a communal bathroom with many other students. That can be difficult for some people to get used to.
Less independence can also be a negative aspect of living in a dorm with dozens of other people. Even though you don’t live at home anymore, you still live with others.
Applying for Housing – What To know?
When applying for housing, it is best to consult your college website. Each school has its own deadline for applying and the forms you need can be downloaded directly from the site. Some colleges offer an orientation program before you sign up for dormitory housing to inform parents and students of the process and what to expect.
First-year students may have a more extended application process than returning students. Sometimes you can request to room with other people you know and other times; your dormitory assignment will be chosen for you.
What to Consider Before Moving In
Most dorm rooms supply a desk and chair, a bed, dresser and sometimes a closet. There won’t be much room for personal belongings so pack lightly. You also won’t have a ton of free time to read or entertain yourself and don’t need to bring everything you own.
Find out who your Resident Assistant (RA) is. They are your go-to person for questions, and if you need something, they will be able to steer you in the right direction.
Research or ask about the rules. Most dorms have certain hours that are designated as “quiet time.” Ask about appliances if you want to bring a hot plate or mini-fridge.
Common Housing Options for Living on Campus
Depending on the college, yours may offer a variety of living options.
Dormitories are large buildings designed to house a lot of people. It is communal living with shared common areas such as recreation rooms or kitchen spaces. Often floors will be gender-specific. For example, one floor might be all males and the next floor all females.
Many colleges also offer sorority or fraternity houses. These are generally large houses where a group of students live together. They also hold meetings, social gatherings and events related to their fraternity or sorority. They operate as a tight community with self-imposed rules and social mores.
STUDENT HOUSING COOPERATIVES
Student housing co-ops are privately owned homes where students live communally and share responsibility and also expenses. They are self-governing and mutually collaborative.
Family-style housing is for students with partners or children living with them. Some colleges offer reduced rent and other amenities for students who also have families but need to be on or near campus.
Living Off Campus
Why Choose Living Off Campus? Pro’s & Con’s
Living off campus includes some pros and cons to consider.
Living in your own private apartment affords you much more space and privacy. It will probably be quieter also so you can get plenty of rest and study in peace. You won’t have to share a bathroom with dozens of other people also, which is a big benefit.
You may also increase your social reach and meet new people outside of your college circle. You will even feel more independent and be able to stretch your legs as an adult.
You can also choose your roommate, and this might for some people be a big bonus. Living closely with someone you don’t get along with can be challenging.
The cost may be dependent on the school you choose. In some cases, it may be cheaper to live in an apartment, and in others, it might be more expensive. You will have to factor in food and utilities as well.
Having to commute to school and add in extra time to get to class on time is another thing to consider. It forces you to be more responsible, and it can add complexity to a potentially simple time of life.
You might start to feel isolated and detached from the community of school life.
What to Consider Before Moving In
Some of the things you need to ask yourself before moving into an off-campus apartment are questions like: How close is it to school and how busy is the commute during class hours? Is it cheaper to rent and can you afford it? What type of housing situation is right for you?
Things to Know
You can contact your college or the chamber of commerce for information about the area surrounding your school. You should also visit and talk to residents to get a feel for what would work best for your situation and what the neighborhood is like.
Fair Housing Notice
Familiarize yourself with the Fair Housing Law. The federal law prohibits renters from discrimination. The law reads: “It is illegal to Discriminate Against Any Person Because of Race, Color, Religion, Sex, Handicap, Familial Status, or National Origin.”
It is essential to know your rights in case you need to file a complaint if you are a victim of landlord discrimination.
Leases can vary in length of time and rules. Be sure to read your lease carefully before you sign it. You also want to make sure you comply with all the rules or you risk being evicted.
Most renters require a security deposit which they will hold in escrow until the end of your lease. This deposit is to cover any damages you make to the place while you are living there. If you leave the apartment in the same condition as you found it, your security deposit will be returned to you after you move out.
If You Decide to Move Out
Breaking a lease can be costly. If you have to move out because you cannot afford to live there or for other reasons, read your rental agreement carefully to find out what penalties you will incur and how much money it will cost. You will most likely lose your security deposit also.
If Your Landlord Wants You to Move Out
If your landlord decides to evict you, they must first give you adequate notice, so you have time to move out. You can try to work out whatever grievance has caused them to evict you, or you can just move out. If you do not leave the premises, they can sue you and involve the police.
Looking for an Apartment
Looking for an apartment can be a daunting task, but if you follow these steps, it can be more straightforward and less stressful.
First, figure out how much you can afford on a monthly basis. Consider not just rent but additional expenses like cable, electric, heat, and water.
Second, choose the specific area where you want to live. Use Google maps to see how close it is to campus and what routes you will take.
Next, search online to find apartments in your area and price range. Evaluate the number of bedrooms, amenities, number of bathrooms and what type of lease it carries. Prioritize your list of wants and figure out which apartments best fit your needs.
Call to inquire about the selected places and see if you can view them in person. Find the one you like best and put down a deposit to hold it.
Finally, sign the lease and move in.
Housing Search Questions
Some critical questions to ask when you are searching for off-campus housing are:
- What kind of heat does the place have? Electric heat can be very costly.
- What is the lease term and what are the consequences of breaking it?
- Where and how do you pay for rent? Will you receive receipts?
- What is the parking situation?
- Who do you contact for repairs or an emergency?
- Is there an onsite manager?
Don’t forget to also ask about the neighborhood, nearby stores, and landlord inspections.
Renting a place to live can sometimes result in issues that you have to deal with. Most of the time things will go as planned, but occasionally you may have to face a challenging situation.
The Most Common Issues Students Face
The most common issue that students face when renting while in college are complaints of repairs not completed. This issue could be a result of poor communication between landlord and tenant, but it can be frustrating.
Other annoying issues would be problems with neighbors who are noisy, rude or destructive. If the neighbors are also tenants, then the landlord may be able to help. Otherwise, it could be a difficult fix.
Although most landlords are above board, some may try to withhold the security deposit after the end of the lease without a good reason. There are laws in most states prohibiting this, but you will have to contact the police or a lawyer to find out more.
If you have a problem with your landlord that you are having trouble resolving, follow the steps below:
- First, call the landlord directly to discuss it.
- If that doesn’t work, then ask for an in-person meeting.
- If they still won’t resolve the problem, put your complaint in writing.
- If they continue to ignore your pleas, then you can bring your issue to the housing department of the town you live in, to investigate and resolve for you.
Renters insurance is an inexpensive way to protect your belongings when you live in a home that you do not own. It covers your personal items for things like fire, theft, storm damage, vandalism, and riots. It is something to consider especially if you have any valuables.
When searching for a place to rent, always be aware of scams. Watch out for anyone who only deals in cash. Don’t ever rent a home that you haven’t seen first. Always sign a professional, typed lease. Do a little research on the property to make sure you are in fact dealing with the owner or their representative. A little research can save you a ton of headaches later.
How to Be a Good Neighbor or Roommate
Being a good neighbor or roommate is essential in making the rental arrangement work. Respect the privacy of your neighbors or roommate. Be polite but also quiet. No one likes noisy neighbors, and they may call the police if you are too loud on a regular basis. If you plan on living with a roommate, work out a plan for shared bathroom time and kitchen rules. Communication is the best way to ensure you are a good roommate.
Laws in Your Neighborhood
You can contact the town offices in your new location to familiarize yourself with the local laws, so you don’t get into any trouble doing something that you were not aware of was against the law.
Typical Local Laws and Ordinances
Every town is different and local cities have different ordinances that you may not know about. Drive around to get used to signage and road rules. They can differ widely from place to place. Pay particular attention to speed limits and roundabouts. The local law enforcement can supply you with resources pertaining to the area.
Below are some helpful resources and links to use when deciding to live on or off campus.
- Comprehensive Guide to College Housing: https://www.onlinecolleges.net/for-students/student-housing-guide/
- Find Student Apartments Near Your College – https://campuscribz.com/#
- Find the Best Renter’s Insurance – https://www.nerdwallet.com/blog/insurance/find-best-renters-insurance/
- Renting an Off Campus Apartment with Very Little Income – https://studentloanhero.com/featured/renting-an-off-campus-apartment-without-income/
- Figure Out How Much Rent You Can Afford – https://www.kiplinger.com/article/spending/T050-C006-S001-cost-of-living-reality-check.html
- Choosing the Right Roommate – https://www.collegechoice.net/college-life-3/how-do-i-pick-a-good-roommate/