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A College Student’s Guide to Off-Campus Housing

A young African American college student looks at the camera smiling. Other students are in the background talking, but blurred.Did you know that in the US there are 17.5 million undergrads and 4.3 million grad students enrolled in colleges? Despite the current COVID-19 pandemic, there are many students who have chosen to study this year. If you’re one of those students, you might be considering getting off-campus housing. And, if you are, chances are you have many questions such as:
  • Can I afford off-campus housing?
  • How far from campus can I realistically live?
  • How do I decide if it’s the right place for me?
  • How do I find the right roommates?
 
It’s stressful to think about these questions, especially right now, when you also have to worry about your safety and health on top of everything else during the current pandemic. That’s why we’ve put together this guide. In it, we’ll cover all the steps you’ll want to take and questions to ask when it comes to finding the right off-campus housing right here in Frederick, MD.
 
That way, you can focus on what matters most: studying and enjoying college life. Read on to learn more.
 

Research On-Campus Housing Requirements

Many universities have on-campus housing requirements for undergrads, especially during the first few years of college. This is required because it adds to the student experience, fostering a sense of community among students, especially ones who are new to the school.
 
However, you may feel that at this point you want a bit more independence. Maybe you and a few other friends want to rent a house where you can have a bit more space, privacy, and fun.
But there’s no point in looking for a place if your college requires you to stay on-campus.
 
Go to the campus housing office, and ask about what these rules are. Even if students are required to continue paying for housing through the college, some colleges offer off-campus housing through their system. If that’s the case, then you can still have the off-campus housing experience, but with everything set up by your college. This means you won’t have to worry as much about finding the right place for you—but it might also be pricier, since housing through a university usually is.
Keep in mind, too, that many schools might have changed their on-campus housing requirements this year because of the current pandemic. Because of safety and health concerns, they might have adapted the rules so that you’re allowed to go off-campus even if you usually aren’t.
 

Budget for Off-Campus Housing

If you’re allowed to go off-campus, then it’s time to start thinking about the logistic considerations of making it happen. The first you’ll want to deal with is budgeting for off-campus housing.
 
We know. Budgeting isn’t fun. But it’s necessary.
 
The bright side? Off-campus housing is usually cheaper than on-campus housing. Whether your parents are helping you out with accommodations, or you’re working through school, it’s good news for anyone paying. 
 
To get started, put together an Excel or Google Drive sheet, and record how much you usually spend a month. Include how much you spend when you’re going out, textbooks, coffees you buy at the local cafe when studying, and any other regular costs. This will give you an idea of how much you spend per month outside of housing. Now, take a look at some of the off-campus housing that interests you.
 
Add the monthly rent to your budget (by averaging the price of the choices you like), the deposit, and calculate how much utilities such as gas and electricity might be. If WiFi isn’t included, remember to add that too, if you’re planning on doing schoolwork from home.
Once you’ve done all this, you’ll know how much money you’d be spending every month while paying for off-campus housing. If you can’t currently afford this amount, then you’ll want to find creative ways to save.
 
For example, don’t buy so many coffees, or switch to buying used textbooks.
 
If it’s still not affordable, then you have three options: (1) find some cheaper options for off-campus housing, (2) save a bit of money before you make this change, or (3) find a roommate. Keep in mind that we’ve also got a guide to budgeting blog post here that you can check out.
 

Start Looking

Once you know how much you can afford to pay for off-campus housing, it’s time to start looking. Research campus classifieds, as well as a database of off-campus housing, if your college has one. Post on Facebook too, and any online communities related to your school, to find out if there are any students looking for a roommate, whether they have a free room at their house or are looking for an additional person to find a house or apartment with.
Once you’ve found student apartments, off-campus apartments, or houses that interest you, get in touch with the person or company renting out the company to visit these places. When you visit, ask yourself these questions as you walk around:
  • Can I see myself living here? What about in this neighborhood?
  • What are the pros of living here? What about the cons?
  • Is this place close enough to campus that I’d be able to make my early morning classes in time?
 
Additionally, you’ll want to ask the person giving you your tour questions about the apartment or house while they show you around. Ask about how they prefer you pay rent (cash or online?), and if there’s a chance of your rent going up. Ask if they require renter's insurance, and if there’s a deposit or any additional fees. Ask about the lease terms and read the lease thoroughly if they provide you with a copy.
 
Additionally, ask logistic questions such as whether there’s parking available, if there are guest or pet policies, and if you can make changes to the apartment or home while living there.
You’ll also want to ask, because of the COVID-19 Pandemic, about whether the place will be deep-cleaned before you move in. Especially if you’re moving in after other renters have been living there, it’s better to be safe than sorry.
 
Remember to not get carried away when you find the perfect place. If there’s somewhere you really love, give yourself to make the decision with your head, not with your heart, by giving yourself some time to consider the decision before signing a lease.
 

Additional Budget-Related Considerations

Once you’ve looked at a few off-campus housing options, you might find that there are considerations you have to think about given budgeting limits. First of all, you need to think about whether you need a roommate so you can afford living where you want to.
 

Choosing the Right Roommate

If you already have a friend in mind you’d like to live with, that’s great! Before you decide to move in together, make sure there aren’t any personal issues that might actually make it difficult to live together, or habits that make you incompatible as roommates. After all, you don’t want to lose a close friend just because you live together!
 
If you don’t have someone in mind, then you need to think about what you’re looking for in a roommate. Do you want them to have common interests with you? Would you prefer if they’re a student, too? What about habits and schedules? Will their music taste irritate you?
 
Be aware of how you live your life, and how you will both be most productive and have the most fun while living off-campus. Once you’ve thought about this, you’ll have a good idea of the kind of person you prefer to live with.
 

Location

If you find that many off-campus apartments or student apartments are out of your price range, then you may need to reconsider the location of where you live. Generally speaking, options close to campus or near the center of town are going to be pricier. By being flexible about your location, and being okay with a long walk, bus ride, or short drive to campus, you can save a lot of money.
 

Have More Questions?

Do you have more questions about off-campus housing? Maybe you’re still unsure about the best places to find the right apartment or house for you, or you want to understand how leases work a bit better.
 
Whatever your questions might be, we’re happy to answer them. Here at Prospect Hall Apartments, we’re experts in off-campus housing for students, and we’re here to help. Visit our contact us page to learn more.
 

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