College Housing Planning: On- or Off-Campus, and What Is Best For You

apartment roommates off campus housing

Students at universities across the country have finally gotten settled into their dorm rooms and apartments! So good news! It’s time to start thinking and planning about where to live next year. College housing is planned way in advance, so with a good idea of your wants and needs, you can get this done easily!

Second only to the college application process, figuring out college housing can be difficult. You need to decide your plan of action before the end of fall semester for next year to come. Many apartment complexes and rental agencies require leases to be signed just after January 1 for a summer occupancy, which means you need to start looking if you’re thinking you want to move out of university housing.

But let’s break down all the various options out there, and see what might fit your plans and finances best.

On-Campus: Pros and Cons

Living on campus is, well, easy. Bills are paid for in one lump sum, utilities are hooked up easily, food and classes are close by, and with the addition of cohort-focused dorms at many universities, you’re close to other students who are studying or working towards the same goals, providing a good network and an ready-made support system. Also good to keep in mind is that, for the most part, on-campus housing is usually the cheapest option, once you consider utilities and all the extras needed for an apartment (things like parking passes, decor, and transportation costs are usually under-budgeted). But for all the ease of on-campus living, there’s also a lack of privacy. How does dorm life impact your studies? Would having more of your own space make you a better student in the long run?

Off-Campus: Pros and Cons

That first apartment or college house just sizzles with freedom, but with the freedom comes more responsibility. Finding trustworthy roommates can be an emotional and personal process, or you can leave it up to the apartment complex to place you in a unit, much like you may have done when living on-campus. You need to consider safety and transportation issues, as well as food costs, if you decide not to keep a meal plan on campus. While the dining hall might not be the best food all the time, it’s at least cooked for you!

Other considerations: Who is going to pay the electric bill and clean the toilet? You need to research how much it costs to heat that adorable perfect pre-war cottage! Can you find a place that has rooms large enough to split (which could really reduce costs)? There’s also what to do with your apartment during the summer, as leases are for a full calendar year, not semesters. Consider these points when thinking about off-campus.

College Housing Planning

Do you want to stay on campus? Look up when your university will ask you to commit to on-campus housing and housing contract is due. There will be a link or a calendar on the Residence Life or Housing website specific to your school. But remember this point: Some schools don’t guarantee housing for all upperclassmen.

RELATED: Parent College Coach Tips: Off-Campus Housing 101

Do you want to make the leap into an apartment? Start looking at complexes and researching rental agencies in the October/November time-frame. They’ll be trying to pair you with spaces as they know they’ll have them, and you can be first in line. Doing this with people who you think would make good roommates can be very helpful — you’ll get some insight into their responsibility levels and organizational skills!

During all of this, talk to your parents and get a good grasp of your finances, and what you are capable of affording. Figure out what your priorities are for your space: Privacy? Freedom? Easy access to everything? Make your decisions responsibly!

Some other great resources we found online:

Updated February 13, 2020

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