Living off-campus for the first time is exciting, but it can be daunting as well. All too often, the excitement reins supreme until the realities kick in and difficulties surface as a result of not going in with your eyes wide open. This should be a wonderful time in your life - and relatively stress-free save for any academic pressures; just think things through and take responsibility for living independently.
1. Don’t rush in - consider all aspects
You may be so excited to live independently that you will practically take the first housing option that you come across, but don’t. There is lots to consider, and it pays to take some extra time to consider what is really important.
When choosing where to live, there is much to consider, including:
Proximity and travel options to campus
Convenience to amenities, such as grocery stores
Accommodation security - does it feature card access systems and apartment complex security cameras? It’s vital that you choose a housing option in which you feel safe
Furnishings and what you will need to provide to make it liveable
Is the accommodation in line with your sustainability values?
2. Fully understand your lease agreement
Be sure to carefully read through every word of your lease - however boring that may be; the tricky items are often in the smaller print.
So, before signing any lease, make sure you clearly understand all of the contents and are willing to agree to them. Pay particular attention to any stipulations regarding instructions for rent payments, security deposits, maintenance, and any other additional fees. Also, make sure you are comfortable with any rules outlining lease termination, parking, trash removal, pet policies, and anything else that may affect your lifestyle while at the property.
3. Get to grips with your transport options
When planning to live independently, it’s essential to consider your transportation options and ensure that you have a reliable way to get around, including trips to and from your campus.
If you have a car, you of course need to factor any running costs into your budget and ensure that parking options at your new accommodation will allow for your vehicle - you don’t want to be constantly parking illegally or questionably and worrying about fines or theft.
If you are opting for public transport then make sure that the bus line or subway is easily accessible between your accommodation and campus. Additionally, consider the safety aspects when planning the route you will take and the time of day you may be traveling - walking from a station to home via dark, isolated stretches of road are, of course, ill-advised. If transport to and from campus is tricky, see if you can plan car-pooling with fellow students who live near-by.
4. Consider renter’s insurance
If you previously lived in dorm accommodation, your belongings may have been included in your parent’s home contents insurance, but now you’re going off-campus, you will need your own.
Renters insurance (which many apartment complexes require you to get) is a good way to go for peace of mind. Renters insurance can cover your personal belongings from theft, as well as damage from fire or water. These insurance policies can also provide you with personal liability protection in the event that someone is injured while at your rental.
5. Improve your kitchen skills
No more home-cooked meals or canteen dinners - it’s time to fend for yourself in the food department! For some, this is a welcome challenge; for others, it’s near-on the end of the world, especially when it comes to nutrition.
Now that you will be preparing your own meals, it’s time to get organized - make meal plans, write shopping lists according to them, make sure you include plenty of healthy options, and ensure that what you plan to cook is budget-friendly. Take-outs can still be enjoyed as a treat, but most days will likely now require you to cook something.
Of course, if you’re a student about to live off-campus you don’t need to be reminded to have fun - but the real takeaway is that, the more organized you are, the more you can relax and enjoy this new adventure.
Living on your own (away from home and dorms) can be a big adjustment, as suddenly there is a lot more to consider. That is why it pays to be organized, proactive and well-informed - get your ducks in a row when it comes to finances, day-to-day logistics and safety, so you can get on with enjoying life and thriving academically with the peace of mind that everything is in order.