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Living Off Campus in College: Parents, Help Your Student Prepare

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If your student is living off campus, you may need furniture.

If your student is living off campus, you may need furniture.

Students may be in favor of living off campus in college for a variety of reasons, including saving money, having more freedom, and having more space. I tried it once back when I was a student, and found it wasn't for me. But, I learned some valuable lessons that I will pass on to my daughter, should she decide to live off campus.

Helping your student prepare for life off campus can go a long way toward making it a successful transition. Here are some tips:

- Check out off-campus housing options and neighborhoods. Before you sign any contracts, make sure that what your student thinks is cool meets your expectations for safety and price.

- Look at the options for getting out of the contract. What if the arrangement doesn't work out? How hard is it to break the lease? Can your student find someone else to take his/her place without being charged for leaving early?

- Decide whether an on-campus meal plan or doing their own cooking makes more sense. Does your student know how to cook more than just mac and cheese? Does he or she like to cook? Will classes allow for meals at home, or would it work better to grab a quick bite on campus? Make sure to evaluate the cost of groceries against the cost of on-campus meal plan options. If you go the cooking route, make sure to set a budget for weekly grocery purchases. In my personal experience, hungry college students in a big grocery store can easily get out of control!

- Evaluate the options for laundry. When I lived off campus, I had to find a local laundromat because the apartment didn't have washers and dryers.

- Put roommate agreements in writing. My daughter's on-campus dorm requires roommates to sign a contract after talking through and agreeing on dorm room rules. This should be done with off-campus roommates, too. The option to switch roommates gets a little harder when a lease has been signed on an apartment for the whole school year.

- Make sure your student has all the supplies he or she needs. Living in an apartment or rental house is a little different than a dorm. Your student will need kitchen supplies, furnishings, cleaning supplies, and possibly a fan or room air conditioner.

Following these tips can help make off-campus housing a great experience. With proper preparation, living off campus in college can make for an easier transition into life after college.

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