Is Off-Campus Housing a Good Idea?

Sara Lindberg Updated on April 18, 2018

Does the idea of living in a spacious apartment or sharing a large house with a bunch of your friends sound pretty tantalizing?

If you’re eager to get out of your crowded college dorm, you might be thinking about off-campus housing. With all of the freedom and space that comes with truly being on your own, you may be ready to sign on the dotted line right now. 

But if is off-campus really a good idea? Let's talk about some factors you should consider. 

Is off-campus housing cheaper? 

Good question. How about this for an answer: yes and no.

How much you spend on off-camps housing compared to living in a dorm or campus apartments depends on you. If you’re willing to live frugally, you may be able to save a buck or two. But if you decide to go all out, you might find yourself racking up some serious debt.

Furnishings

Take furniture, for example. If you live in a dorm or campus apartment, there’s a good chance your living space came with furniture. Sure, it might not be the best you’ve ever had, but it’s there and you didn’t have to go out and buy it. 

If you move off-campus, get ready to spend some money on furnishings like a bed, couch, kitchen table, and chairs.

Granted, some apartments and houses are furnished—but expect to have those costs reflected in your monthly rent. 

Transportation

If you’re far enough away from campus that you need to drive to class, make sure to include gas and parking in your overall expenses. 

Utilities

And because “adulting” requires you to be responsible for all costs associated with daily living, don’t forget about cable, internet, power, heat, water, garbage, etc. 

You may luck out and end up with a landlord that covers utilities, but if you don’t, get ready to shell out more money each month. 

Food

The one area you may be able to save money on is food. If you’re not a big eater, the campus meal plans often cost more than what you would normally spend on food.  

So if you’re a smart shopper, you can eat cheaper while living off campus. 

For starters, only buy what you can eat, and consider sharing expenses with your roommate on bulk food and other products. Plus, you can limit the amount of fast food you buy. 

It’s also a good idea to set a food budget and stick to it. The first time you run out of money before the end of the month will be a big wake-up call. Being hungry at school is not fun.

See also: 7 Things Most College Students Forget to Budget For

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Is off-campus housing safe?

This is probably the first question your parents will ask you. And depending on the location of your college, this answer could range from "relatively safe" to "extremely dangerous."

Before you decide to move to an off-campus location, you need to consider the following questions:

  • What is the distance to campus?
  • How many street lights are in the area?
  • What are the demographics of the neighborhood?
  • How close is parking to where you’re going to live?
  • If you’re considering an apartment, what is the access to your particular living space (i.e., is there a secure entry before getting to your apartment)?
  • If you’re located in the city and plan on using public transportation, how safe is it at night? 
  • How close are the nearest police station and fire department? 
  • What are the crime statistics tell you? 
  • What is the reputation of the area you're considering? Ask other students, as well as college staff. People who have been employed at your school for a long may be a wealth of information.

While not exhaustive, this list does address some of the main safety issues you need to consider before making a final decision. By the way, be prepared to have answers, because your parents will expect you to know all of this information. 

Is off-campus housing better for your GPA?

Now, this is a good question and one you’re not likely to find any real data on. So, let’s take a look at the opportunities/resources you may be losing or gaining if you move off-campus. 

For starters, moving off-campus will likely increase your commute to class. If you’re used to a short walk from your dorm to class, having to drive, walk, or bike a longer distance could mean you skip class more—which is not good for your GPA. 

Also, living away from campus limits your access to the library, tutoring center, and other academic resources. If you rely on these services, you better have a plan that addresses how you’re going to continue using these on-campus resources. Because if you don’t, your GPA may suffer. 

And then there’s the issue of less supervision. When you live in a dorm, there is more accountability. Sure, you still need to get yourself to class and study, but it’s a lot harder to hide out for any length of time.  

If you’re an independent self-starter, living off-campus may not be an issue. But if you tend to balk at your school responsibilities, living off-campus may not be good for your GPA. 

However, if you crave the privacy that comes from living off-campus (as long as you only have a few roommates), you may find that your study habits improve. And this could have a positive impact on your GPA.

See also: The Introvert’s Guide to Dorm Living

About the Author
Sara Lindberg

Sara Lindberg, B.S., M.Ed., is a freelance writer specializing in business, finance, health, and wellness. She holds a Bachelor's of Science degree in Exercise Science and a Master's Degree in Counseling. When she’s not writing, Sara can be found at the gym lifting weights, running the back roads to train for her next half-marathon, and spending time with her husband and two children. Read more by Sara Lindberg

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