Off-campus living has been one of the most enriching experiences of my years in college. Not only did I get a taste of being on my own, but I also got to learn a little bit about being an adult— bills, commutes and finally getting to turn the thermostat down when it’s too hot.
It can be overwhelming to try and tackle this experience as an 18 or 19-year-old in the middle of class schedules, job searches and everything else, so here are some tips to live the best off-campus life.
1. Pick a Place You Like
My apartment is 20 minutes off-campus, but I would much rather be here than somewhere close in a cramped sardine can. I knew I would likely be picking an apartment complex I’d spend the rest of my college years at, and wanted to find a place that I wanted to go home to every day. So, find an apartment that makes you smile, and not one that you’re just trying to stick out for a semester or two.
2. Background Check Those Roommates
When it comes to the off-campus apartment life, you’ll be picking your own roommates. If they’re not friends, then definitely meet up beforehand and talk to them. You’re going to be spending so much time with this person, and sleeping across the hall from them at night. Make sure they’re bearable. I have heard an abundance of roommate horror stories and trust me when I say you don’t want to be the one having to tell them.
3. Research Locations
When picking a place, check out the area. Try to find somewhere in a nice area with a grocery store and some of your favorite places nearby. This is your main location so it’s always nice to have everything you need around. Beyond that, it’s good to try and find safer areas to put some roots down in for the next few years.
4. Figure Out Your Budget
The biggest reason I chose not to live in West Campus was affordability. I’d much rather commute to school every morning than spend $1,200 a month for a shoebox. It was outside my budget and even with my student loans, I probably wouldn’t have been able to do it. By figuring out what I could afford I was able to find a nice place within my budget.
5. Don’t Isolate
Living off-campus can feel isolating sometimes because you’re so far away from the action and, a lot of the time, your friends. Don’t let the distance isolate you from campus. Join clubs and make time to see the people you care about. Sometimes it’s a 10 to 20 minute drive, but it’s worth it to get the socialization you need to have an enjoyable college experience.
6. Plan For The Commute
Make sure you know how long the drive to campus is with morning traffic so that you’re not running down Speedway to get to class on time. And even more important, make sure you have a parking plan! Sign up for a parking pass and try to pick a place that’s convenient for you. If all else fails, you can always find room in one of the garages on campus or find some street parking nearby. If you don’t have a car, be sure to check out bus routes or, if you’re close enough, the time it takes to walk to class.
Finding a place to live can be tough, but the place you go home to everyday is supposed to be your escape from the rollercoaster of college, so make sure you’re investing the proper amount of time in finding it. Find a place that makes you feel happy, so when you’re cramming for midterms at three in the morning you’ll at least have some comfort in the fact you’re doing it in a safe, inviting space.