Living off campus feels like the first step to the real world, while still having the safety net of being near campus. Renting your first apartment is a big step and a huge deal to many college students. Apartment life comes with many freedoms and perks, but there are also several drawbacks to off-campus living. I lived in a dorm two for two years of my college career. Then I choose to move off campus for my junior year. The main thing I have learned from the transition to off-campus living is it is not what I expected it to be.
The most shocking reality of living off campus is how challenging food becomes. When you live in an apartment it is unlikely you will be on campus for all meals, which means campus dining is not efficient. Honestly, one of my main reasons I wanted an stay in an apartment was having access to a full kitchen and not having to rely on campus dining. However, the need to fit grocery shopping in your schedule can be overwhelming and not to mention the weekly cost. You also will have to learn how to buy for one (or if you are sharing with your roommates: multiple) to avoid wasting food. You will also have to make time prepare your meals and if your schedule only allows for an hour for lunch that can be challenging. Then there is also the temptation of fast food and eating out to avoid shopping (which can prove to be expensive and unhealthy.)
Not all apartments are equal. There are some apartments that are plagued with noisy renters. If you live in a noisy area, chances are filing a noise complaint with your management will not get you very far. Then you have some apartments that look great on the website; but in reality, those photos are from ten years ago. There are also some apartments that in neighborhoods with higher crime rates than the leasing office will mention.
Although, there are fewer rules when you live in an apartment and that can remove several inconveniences from your life. There is no quiet hour, you do not have to check your guests in and there is no RA looking over your shoulder.
You will have more space in an apartment and ability to personalize. You will have your own bedroom, possibly your own bathroom and an actual closet. You will also have a living space to share with far fewer people. Having to share common space with one or two roommates versus sharing with an entire floor is much simpler.
However, the bills feel like they are never-ending. Some management lets you bundle it in one set price, other's you will pay for utilities separately. When you are drowning in homework and studying, the last thing you want to think about is paying your water bill.
The commute can also be a struggle. The first few weeks feel like a nightmare, no matter how close you live. If you are taking public transportation, are you at the mercy of another driver and vehicle. They may not be on time or running properly every day. If you are driving to and from campus, you will need a parking permit. The permit is an additional cost to living off campus (and one most people forget to calculate.) You will leave your apartment thirty minutes to an hour early, only to spend forty minutes trying to find a parking space. But thankfully, after the first few weeks of school parking stops being a constant struggle.
Photo by Roberto Nickson (@g) on
Living in an apartment, means you have the option to rent in an animal-friendly location. Although, it will cost you (and likely monthly.) For some the cost is worth it, for others, it is not. Also, you will have to deal with inconsiderate pet owners who do not pick up after their pets which is less of an issue on campus.
You may not love your management. There will likely be a time when you place a maintenance request and are not satisfied with the response time. There are also times you will feel like they are do not care (because they have five hundred other residents and are overworked.)
Making friends on campus while living off campus is not as hard as you were told. It is very much possible to be connected to campus, while not living there. If you are willing to join clubs or volunteer, you will meet plenty of people. Living in the dorm is not the only way to be apart of campus life.
It is easier to feel at home in an apartment. You have your own space to personalize. You also have the ability to use banned items (extension cords, candles, waffle irons, etc). You also are not plagued with packing up and moving out for holiday breaks. You have the ability to invite more people over and host parties. Also, you can finally use those decorating and apartment inspiration pins from Pinterest you have been collecting since high school.
There are pros and cons to living off campus. A lot of it comes down to personal preferences about where you want to live, who you want to live with, how much space you want or are willing to sacrifice and so on. For me, the perks of living in an apartment outweigh any inconveniences that come from it. However, not everyone will enjoy off-campus living. When considering where you should live next year or next semester, remember to weigh your options and plan out expenses. Tour apartments ahead of time and do not fill pressured to sign immediately. Consider your commute on busy days and the added expense of gas. But most importantly, choose somewhere that feels like home.
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