When students move off campus, they are often faced with a variety of new responsibilities, such as paying rent on time, keeping up with utility bills and performing basic maintenance such as changing a lightbulb or plunging a toilet.
Renting a house or apartment off campus can be a major transition for many college students. In a dorm, students have access to more resources, such as community events and Resident Assistants (RAs).
The Coordinator of Student and Community Relations at Keene State College Robin Picard said the most important thing for students to know who are moving off campus is to advocate for themselves and be wise consumers.
Although the transition can be difficult for some, Picard said, “Living off campus can be a wonderful experience.”
KSC senior Stephen Zale moved off campus his junior year and has been living in the same apartment ever since. Zale said, “When you come home to your apartment, you actually get away from school. In a dorm, it felt like I was just sitting there, waiting to go to my next class. In my apartment, I can make myself coffee; I can make myself tea; I can turn on the TV; [and] I can unwind easier than when I was on campus all the time.”
Zale said he did a lot of searching when choosing an apartment, like looking for a decent price with a lot of space that was within walking-distance of campus.
When students are picking their off-campus house or apartment, Picard asks the question, “What are your expectations?” She said there are a number of different neighborhoods that should be considered when the students think about the lifestyles they have.
Picard said many students think they have to sign leases in October, also adding, “Enrollment is down… students can take their time and be thoughtful to make a better housing choice.”
Although living off campus can be great, Picard encourages students to consider the various obstacles they may encounter when renting an apartment or house.
She has noticed off-campus students having trouble with time management. She said not only do they have to find time to shop and cook, they also can sometimes struggle with getting to class on time if they have to walk or drive a far distance.
Picard said living off campus may also negatively impact student involvement, noting that students may not want to come back to campus in the evening once they have gone home after their classes or work.
There is also a different financial situation to consider. “While rent may be cheaper, there are other fees,” said Picard, referring to things like utility bills, parking spaces, fines for violating the landlord’s rules and buying groceries or going out to eat.
Mitchell Greenwald, principal broker of Greenwald Realty, differs from Picard and said it is more cost-effective to be in an apartment.
Greenwald estimated that Greenwald Realty has about 200 student tenants and said, “We try to provide more support and guidance.” [Full disclosure: Greenwald is the writer’s landlord.]
Being a KSC alumnus, Greenwald said he understands the transition in independence and the confusion students can feel, and said, “Now you’re on your own, but you’re not really on your own.” Although the transition can be tough, Greenwald said he wants students to know that when they commit to an apartment or house, there is more accountability between tenants. Greenwald said that when roommates sign the lease together, “You’re married for the year.” When living off campus, the tenant is stuck with their apartment or house for the year unless he or she want to suffer the financial penalties of breaking the lease, unlike in the dorms, where the student can request to change rooms.
Although students can choose where they want to live based on who they want to be around, Picard encourages students to adjust to community living regardless of who their neighbors are. “Start by smiling and saying hello to your neighbors,” said Picard. “If students reach out to their neighbors… it would go a long way.”
Picard said there will be an off-campus orientation next fall as students move into their apartments. She also said she would like students to make and send her brief videos on students’ top three tips for moving off campus that she can post on the KSC website.
Abbygail Vasas can be contacted at email@example.com