apartment-300Living off campus may seem frightening, but for many it is a wonderful experience. Off-campus housing provides the opportunity for students to get a taste for living on their own while earning more responsibility than the dorms offer.
So if you’re looking to venture into the world of off-campus housing, here are a few things you should consider.

1. LOCATION

When it comes to choosing a location, you should keep in mind what you pros you want out of it — like proximity to classes, whether or not you’ll need transportation and night life — and what cons are absolute deal-breakers.
Nikki McCoy — a senior college student who lives in a townhouse — says some of the downsides are “that the house being in a popular location is more expensive than some other locations. It is also on a busy road that gets a lot of traffic so it is louder and perhaps a bit more unsafe.”
Also, be mindful of who your future neighbors will be. While many of the people living around you will most likely be fellow students, some could also be families who live there year-round. “We have a neighbor who lives behind us who complains if we’re too noisy” says senior Matt Sciolaro. It is not always something that is avoidable, so bear that in mind.

2. RENT AND UTILITIES

One of the many new responsibilities that comes with living off campus is paying for rent and utlities. Whether you’re paying for it yourself or if your parents are, it is important for everyone involved to be communicating. Start an email thread that includes everyone who will be writing a check each month so everyone knows when to make sure money is in the account.
“We all split rent evenly” says Catie Wolff, who lives in a townhouse with six roommates. Wolff suggests creating a joint account with your roommates to make the often bumpy process a go a little more smoothly. “Having a house account helps us avoid confusing personal funds and ensures all bills are paid on time.”
As for utilities, most of their costs depend on how much you are using them. Some students prefer to each pay for one utility whereas others find it easier to have one pay for all utilities and have the rest of the roommates pay them back. Different strategies work for different people, just make sure to find one that works as quickly as possible.

3. WHEN TO APPLY

The golden rule to applying for off-campus housing? The earlier, the better. “I started looking the September of the year before I was going to be living in the house” says senior Pat Gianforte. “I signed my lease in October after looking at other houses.”
Looking for a place to live so far in advance may make you a little anxious or nervous, so pay attention to those feelings. You will know when you are ready to move off campus and if it doesn’t feel right, there’s no harm in waiting another year to take the plunge.

4. WHAT TYPE IS BEST FOR YOU

Throughout your search you should look at several different options such as apartments, townhouses, and houses. Apartments are more conducive for about 3 or 4 people whereas houses can hold nearly double that amount.
As with every other aspect of choosing a place to live, take into consideration the amount of responsibility that will come with it. College junior Chris Mule agrees that houses require more attention than an apartment would, but he says the good outweighs the bad. “I went with a house because it was less restrictive in general. Might involve a little more upkeep, but there’s also a lot more fun to be had, in my opinion” he says.

5. ROOMMATES

Living on your own is a bit of an undertaking and you will want to take on the task with people who are trustworthy and reliable. Senior Jackie Kanzler suggests finding roommates who have “similar interests and schedules, or else you will have a rough year ahead.”
Choose your roommates around your needs first and foremost, its okay if they aren’t your best friends. Living with roommates is all about finding a balance, so your friends aren’t always going to be the most compatible.

6. WHEN IS A GOOD TIME TO MOVE?

When the time comes to move in, many students suggest giving yourself enough time to take some of the stress out of the situation.
“A good tip is to move in a few days before the school year starts so you can get situated and comfortable with where you are living” says junior Zach Lebowitz. “Moving in and immediately having to accommodate yourself before school starts can be frustrating sometimes, so always make sure you have some time between move in day and the first day of classes”

7. LEASES & LANDLORDS

Leases can be tough, especially if you don’t understand what it says. Have a parent or even a lawyer look over your lease so you know exactly what your landlord wants and what you’re agreeing to. Communication is key, so ask as many questions as you need before signing.
Also, stick to the rules! Leases don’t bend and landlords don’t like having their words thrown back in their faces. “Just know what you’re getting into before you sign on the dotted line!” says Chris Mule. The sooner you put everything on the table with your landlord, the less room there is for any surprises later down the road.