Housing for College Students
Finding a place to stay can be hard when you’re a college student. First, you think it’s simple; you’ll just stay in a dorm. Then, you discover your college has various options. Not only that, but each option has different advantages and drawbacks, some of them rather complicated.
You have to figure out the logistics of how to apply for and pay for whichever option you choose. Below is an overview of the most common student housing options and what you can get out of each one. You’ll also find important questions to ask as you look for housing, helping you avoid common pitfalls.
Types of Student Housing
Most student housing falls into on campus or off campus. On-campus housing includes several different kinds of buildings depending on which college students attend, such as:
- Your simplest option is to stay in a residence hall (also known as a dormitory), which has multi-person rooms you’ll share with roommates. You’ll have to share your living space, including a communal laundry room, but you’ll be close to most of the student body and have the best access to the social scene.
- If you become part of a recognized Greek organization (a fraternity or sorority with a chapter at your college), you may get to stay in buildings reserved for its members. You can build strong connections to your fellow tenants while getting a bit more privacy than in a residence hall.
- You may also be able to live in student apartments, which are apartment buildings on campus reserved for student use. These apartments give you a more conventional living space, including a kitchen and living room. As a result, you’ll get even more privacy.
Off-campus housing is not connected or affiliated with the school. Living arrangements will depend on what’s near your school and how much you can pay. Some options you may consider include:
- It’s easiest and most affordable to stay with family or friends. You can ask friends or family living nearby to your school if you can stay with them. You can also find someone who needs a live-in nanny or assistant. You may have to balance a work schedule with your studying, but this arrangement will be much simpler and cheaper than renting a place.
- If you can’t find a family to stay with, try renting an apartment or a room within a larger house. Either way, you’ll get more privacy, probably have access to your own kitchen and learn to start paying your own bills.
- Your last off-campus option is to try renting a full-sized house. Your rent will be higher than an apartment, but if you can find other students to live with you and split the rent, you may be able to cover it. You’ll also get more space and privacy than any other off-campus housing and learn how to take care of your own home.
Pros and Cons of On-Campus Living
With on-campus housing, you don’t have to handle so many logistics. You live on campus property, so don’t have to figure out how to commute to classes. You’ll also find it’s much easier to connect with your college’s culture (e.g., sports events, parties and student clubs) if you live on college property.
Your college charges you for any living costs, including meals and utilities, in one big payment before each semester starts, so you don’t have to keep track of multiple bills. Most on-campus housing includes cleaning services, so you don’t have to worry about cleaning your toilet or washing your windows.
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On the other hand, most on-campus housing doesn’t give you a lot of privacy. Residence halls and most Greek housing are designed for communal use, so it’s hard to find places where you know no one will come by and interrupt whatever you’re doing.
Unless you get a student apartment, you’ll have to leave your living space any time you want to eat or need to clean your clothes. While eating in cafeterias and using communal laundry rooms aren’t terrible experiences, you still have to share them with lots of other students, which can be tiring.
Pros and Cons of Off-Campus Living
With off-campus housing, you can save money and build some life skills. You’ll generally pay less to rent a place than you will to live in a residence hall or student apartment.
You also get more control over who enters your living space and who you interact with every day. In most cases, you’ll have to do your own cleaning, finances and possibly cooking, which are things you’ll have to learn how to do in a few years anyway.
However, living off campus means you have to pay for multiple bills (i.e., rent, electricity, other utility bills as well as cable and internet) over time. You also have to commute to your college, which is especially hard if you cannot find a living space close to campus. Handling your own cooking and cleaning means you really have to step up your responsibilities and juggle them with schoolwork.
How to Find On-Campus College Housing
Start by checking your college’s website. You’ll likely find a list of all the residence halls and other on-campus housing options available as well as resources and tips for finding affordable apartments near campus.
Look for information like if you can live off campus if you’re a freshman or sophomore, if you can become a Resident Advisor (which usually means reduced rent) and what amenities (such as private bathrooms) different buildings have. Keep in mind that “senior housing” may be for the elderly instead of seniors in college.
Also, don’t forget to look at smaller details, such as how far different housing options are from various locations on campus. You’ll want to live somewhere near the gym if you play sports or have a physical education class.
As soon as you’ve got all that information figured out and know what you want, get a housing application from the college website, fill it out and send it as soon as possible. In many cases, you send this application to your college’s admissions office.
If you’re part of a Greek organization or planning to join one that has a chapter on campus, look for the chapter’s contact information. Then apply to join the organization or let the chapter know that you’re coming to campus. Having done that, apply for a spot in their housing as fast as possible. Rooms tend to be limited and available spots fill up fast.
How to Find Off-Campus College Housing
Chances are your college’s website has information about off-campus options. Pay particular attention to any web forums or web pages that mention affordable apartments or rental homes near campus or tips about the fastest ways to commute back and forth from campus. If you can’t find any recommended housing through your college website, check websites like CollegeCribz, College Rentals or even Craigslist.
Once you’ve found something affordable, contact the landlord and ask what documents you need to apply and what kind of lease to sign. The documents likely include proof of employment, credit history and references. Check your lease agreement for details like whether your roommate can co-sign the lease and yet leave if things don’t work out.
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