Off-Campus Living: Are You Ready?

By Heather R. Johnson

Many undergrads can’t wait to get out of college dorms and into their own apartments. Before you pack up and sign a lease, think about the responsibilities and lifestyle changes that come with apartment living. In particular, consider these important questions before making your move.

Can You Pay the Bills?

When you live off campus, you must pay deposits and monthly fees for basics like rent and utilities as well as luxuries like cable and internet services. You are responsible for buying your own food and making your own meals, which means purchasing cooking utensils and basic kitchen essentials. Ali Wenzke, moving expert and founder of the blog “The Art of Happy Moving,” suggests students do a cost analysis.

“Compare the cost of room and board with apartment expenses. Write everything down, including the cost of furnishings, laundry, and other things you spend money on every day.”

Depending on where you attend college, sharing an apartment with a friend or two might cost less than living on campus. Create budgets using different scenarios to determine the best option.

Can You Handle the Freedom?

When you live in your own apartment, you won’t have a resident advisor enforcing a curfew and monitoring who goes in and out of your room. You also won’t have to wait for the community bathroom. These luxuries of space and privacy suit many students well, but others thrive on the built-in community and structure provided by dorm life. Think about whether you want to live outside the school bubble.

On the other hand, off-campus living allows you to build your own community.

“A big part of college is forming relationships, building friendships, and having those impromptu get-togethers. Off campus, you can pick the friends you want to live with and form deeper relationships with them. And you can have game night while sitting on your couch instead of on your bed.” – Ali Wenzke, The Art of Happy Moving

What Do You Need to Succeed?

Although social life is a big part of college, the purpose is to get an education. On campus, it’s a challenge to study for a chemistry exam with people chattering in the hallways and a TV-addicted roommate in your personal space.

Off campus, you can create a quiet place to study with more room. You may not have the library a few steps away, but you can still visit between or after classes or hit an internet café to conduct research if you can’t pay for internet service.

What Do You Need to Be Comfortable?

If you moved from your parents’ house into the dorm, you probably don’t have much furniture. Fortunately, it’s possible to furnish your apartment without resorting to milk crates and cinder blocks. Some student housing and student-focused lifestyle housing options offer furnished apartments, which are a good option if you are an international student or plan to move around a lot.

If you choose an unfurnished apartment, you make all the decorating choices, but keep your budget in mind. Look for free furniture listed on online classifieds and social media, and be sure to ask friends who are graduating or moving if they have furniture they don’t need.

Temporary Furniture Rental

For a simple solution, rent furniture and split the cost with your roommates. CORT Furniture Rental delivers and sets up stylish furniture and accessories that instantly make your new pad feel like home. Choose to outfit only your living room, or furnish your whole apartment. When it’s time to leave for the summer, CORT picks everything up. No heavy lifting required.

Moving into your first apartment means finally living under your own rules. There’s a lot to consider, but the rewards are worth it when you’re ready. As Wenzke says:

“The increased responsibility makes you feel proud you can handle being on your own.”

Heather Johnson is a freelance writer based in the San Francisco Bay Area. Her experience includes legal, technology, home and garden, small business, real estate, health/healthcare, energy, and general interest topics. She has written for consumer, trade, and custom publications, as well as for companies and individuals, for more than 15 years.