Although we all describe the initial move to college as “living on your own,” that’s really an illusion of sorts. Sure, you may be living without your parents, but it takes a lot more than that to be seriously independent. The dorms may offer you a place of your own, but let’s face it – they still shelter you from some big responsibilities that truly living on your own entails.
Of course, no one lives in the dorms forever. It’s fun for awhile, but eventually you get fed up with the cramped space and loud floormates and are ready to move on. Students even recognize the aspects of an actually independent living residence that their dorm lacks. This is highlighted when they express their desire for a spacious living room to host social gatherings, a fully-equipped kitchen to keep them from the dining hall, a bathroom they don’t have to share with 30 other people, and of course their own room. And hey, a porch or balcony would be nice, too. The possibilities seem limitless and the ideas grow, leading a student to feel so anxious and excited about apartment life that they barely give any bit of substantial thought to the not-so-fun obligations involved.
Don’t get blind-sighted by the responsibilities of off-campus living. Prepare yourself by paying attention to the following notes:
1. You will have to clean – really clean. If you thought sweeping or vacuuming your dorm room floor once in awhile was what it takes to keep a home tidy, be ready for a rude awakening. Suddenly, the years you spent watching your parents spend hours on end scrubbing the bathroom floors and kitchen counters are going to make a lot of sense. They weren’t just being nit-picky, these tasks need to be done! At least, they need to be done if you don’t want bugs and weird smells taking over your place. And the type of cleaning necessary to accomplish those goals is serious, not something you can coast your way through. Particularly the kitchen and bathroom will need the most consistent attention. Toilets need to be cleaned and dirty dishes need to be washed before things get bothersome. Additionally, throughout the entire place, it’s amazing how quickly dust and dirt accumulate. Don’t forget about taking out the inevitably overflowing trash either. As you can see, great discipline in this department is required to keep yourself safe from a filthy living environment, so buy those sponges and rubber gloves and learn how to use them!
2. Maintenance is required. There are two parts to this. One: you will need to pay attention to how things are working and make sure you’re taking care of them properly. This can range from light-bulbs going out, to batteries failing, to your closet door being jammed, to your microwave breaking. There’s no R.A. down the hall with items on hand or a dorm lobby convenience store downstairs. It’ll be up to you and only you to get a store and find the right tools or items you need. You will typically want to try your best to solve these problems yourself because otherwise, you’ll have to pay a certain service to fix them, which brings us to the second part of this: calling and dealing with landlords and maintenance workers. Dealing with making the necessary series of calls, scheduling appointments, being there for the appointments in the midst of your busy class schedule, and then paying the most likely overcharged bill is not a fun or simple process. However, these are just random day-to-day issues that unfortunately can’t be avoided and must be addressed.
3. Rent and bills. Speaking of ridiculously high maintenance bills, those won’t be the only checks you’ll have to write out. The bills you receive may vary depending on the kind of package your landlord offers – i.e. something cable or internet may be included in rent. But let’s pay attention to that last word – rent. Odds are the more services your landlord provides, the higher your rent will be. So, either way, you are paying a lot of money for off-campus living. Electricity, heat, cable, internet, and any other services you would like will no longer be luxuries for you; they are now things you need to actively pay for. You’re going to feel a lot more pressure to save money, and more importantly, get these various payments made in a timely manner. If you are late turning in a rent check or paying a bill, the aftermath is not going to be pretty.
4. Location is not always ideal. Unlike the dorms, apartments will not be so conveniently placed to accommodate your daily routine throughout campus. This shouldn’t be too surprising since they are, in fact, referred to as off-campus living. But living so directly on campus your freshman year is bound to spoil you and not leave in the mindset to fully digest what it will really be like to have to make so many long walks. Granted, some off-campus apartments/house are closer to campus than others, and you may get lucky, but even then you will have to adjust accordingly. Make sure you get a solid idea of approximately how long it will take you to get to various academic buildings from your place of residence. This is absolutely necessary for you to be able to get to classes on time, set your alarm at an appropriate hour, and go about your normal schedule with no issues.
5. Socialization will not be as easy. In the dorms, friends were just a few steps down the hallway. Even if you just wanted to be around people regardless of who they were, you could head downstairs to one of the common areas and feel comfortable. Once you’re living off-campus, social opportunities won’t be so easily nearby. Outside of your roommates and neighbors, you’ll have to make an extra effort to see your friends who may live more than a few blocks away. None of this is to say you won’t be able to see anyone anymore, it’s just a clarification that you’ll have to actively get outside of your living space more in order to be around people (besides in your classes). Otherwise, you could very easily fall into a trap of isolating yourself.
Living off-campus certainly comes with a lot of the perks you desire, but these responsibilities must be taken into account as well. As long as you move in with a mature manner to handle all of this, you will have a successful off-campus living experience.