Christy Nolan—In my last post, I talked about what my experience was like living on campus. However, as a senior, my most recent Brockport experiences have taken place off campus, specifically on Monroe Ave, where I currently reside.
My first thought when moving into my house early last year was, “Finally…Independence!” This thought might seem a little off-base considering most of us would consider just moving to college and away from home as the first real independence that many of us face. But living off campus is different, and it’s not for everyone; and “independence” doesn’t always mean “better”.
Let’s back track a little bit…
In October of my sophomore year, I had officially signed a lease to live in a house with my friends off campus the following fall. If this seems early, that’s because it is. To be adjusting to second-year life while planning for third-year life, without fully knowing the events that were going to unfold in between, can be worrisome. However, in order to get a good place in a small college town like Brockport, you have to be willing to search as early as possible, whether you actually feel ready to unfold that chapter of your college career and life or not. I have found that many of my friends who signed leases later into the school year lived further from campus than they wanted to, in houses that are pricier than they would have liked, with landlords that they were less comfortable turning to with questions and issues.
By signing in October, I received what I believe to be one of the nicest off-campus houses I have since seen, at a reasonable price of $2030/semester.
By the time the following September came around, I was more than excited to get out of the dorms and enjoy a new side to college life: the “independent” upperclassman experience that I had watched others take part in with envy.
To be clear, living off campus is fundamentally awesome. However, there are positives to living in each scenario.
Some benefits to living on campus include:
- Access to school-given supplies; including toilet paper, project supplies, cleaning supplies, garbage bags, kitchen essentials, vacuum, etc.
- Everything is included in one cost; i.e. utility costs (gas, electric, cable, wifi)
- You are closer to many school resources such as the Drake Library, dining halls, computer labs, SERC, classes, etc.
- You have built-in mediators, friends, resources, and mentors in your RAs and RDs
- The dorms are more reliable when it comes to winter preparation; i.e. a call doesn’t need to be made for salted front steps or a plowed area to park your car
- Safe Ride can drive you to and from your dorm late at night
- You get to see friends you don’t live with fairly often
- Dorm rooms and buildings come fully furnished
Some benefits to living off campus include:
- You have the option of living somewhere at a lower cost
- You have more freedom to make noise at hours and at levels that are only contingent upon the preferences of your friends (and sometimes neighbors)
- You have more freedom to decorate to your own liking
- You have the opportunity to live closer to town
- You get a better chance to live with people of your choosing
- You have the opportunity to have more, roommate-free space to yourself
- You only pay for what you use; bills are lower if you rarely use lights, cook, turn on the heat, etc.
- NO MORE twin xl beds (unless you buy one)
There are important things to note if you plan to live off campus that I wish I had known before taking that step, including:
- I wish I knew what goes into utility costs. Although the cost of rent in my house was far less than the cost of dorming, utility costs are not included in my biannual payment. Some landlords include utilities in rent payments. If you wish to live off campus but know you are bad at paying bills, making deadlines, or saving money for small-scale payments outside of the large ones, MAKE SURE UTILITIES ARE INCLUDED before signing a lease.
- I have three other roommates, and I do not make enough to have a large payment taken out of my account every month, so we put one bill in each of their accounts (gas, electric, cable/wifi). When the time comes, we split the bill in four even parts and send our fair share to the Venmo account (safe payment transfer app that attaches bank account to Facebook friends’) of whomever’s name the bill is under. That person then pays the bill before or when it is due. I have found this to be the easiest way to pay bills with roommates. The costs of these utility bills can be ridiculous depending on the packages you subscribe to and the amount of resources you use, so make sure communication is open both with the companies you pay and with your roommates as to how much you plan to spend per month.
- Not every apartment gives you a washer and dryer. If you are unwilling to walk or drive to the laundromat once a week, if you like to re-wear the same (clean) articles of clothing, or if you aren’t willing to spend $5-10 a week (plus the cost of supplies) on laundry ($2 per load in the washer, $.25 for every 6 mins in the dryer), MAKE SURE YOUR HOUSE HAS LAUNDRY. In Brockport, some houses have free laundry, some have laundry you have to pay for (reducing a commute), and some don’t have any at all. Your best bet to getting a washer in your off-campus home is by living in an off-campus apartment like The Crossings or The College Suites. If you look into an off-campus house that happens to include laundry, be sure to ask your potential landlord about the cost of having a washer and dryer… primarily if you are responsible for paying the water and electric bills that a laundry system can feed on. This can be pricey.
- Smaller costs WILL add up, too; i.e. toilet paper, paper towels, kitchen supplies, cleaning supplies, furniture costs, water filters, etc.
- Meal plans are different off campus. I personally buy my own food at the grocery store but have $500 Dining Dollars in my account to spend on coffee or Union lunches in passing. There are a variety of eating options, but many choose to opt out of meal plans because it can be pricey, the dining halls can be a far commute from home, and the meal times with the best options don’t always correlate with busy student schedules.
- There is so much more responsibility (and not fun responsibility, either) when living completely on your own. For example: if your toilet leaks and your landlord can’t make it over, it’s up to you to fix that leak. Chances are your off-campus house won’t be shiny and new, and problems will arise at some point.
- Along with that, communication with your landlord is ESSENTIAL! Throughout your stay you rely on this one person with all household issues that you do not know how to control. Bad stuff happens, these houses are old, and winter is brutal. It is important to remember that YOU are paying this person for where you live and it is THEIR responsibility to keep it livable. However, landlords have a tendency to run on their own time frames or have multiple tenants elsewhere, so if something extreme happens like a broken thermostat or a busted pipe, make sure you let them know ASAP. It is your right to demand better, but you have to be willing to bring issues to your landlord’s attention. If you aren’t willing to communicate with your landlord, DO NOT MOVE OFF CAMPUS.
- If you don’t know or like your neighbors, you better figure it out. I live in a downstairs apartment. Every Thursday last year, my upstairs neighbors would throw parties, and my front stoop, front hallway, and lawn would be flooded with people that I did not know. With paper-thin walls, it was impossible to sleep until they quieted down, even with ear plugs and NyQuil (believe me, I tried). Sometimes, this meant 2 a.m., sometimes I got lucky and they’d stop around 12. With my house being old and their living room being crowded, my roommates and I were always afraid people were going to bust through the ceiling. Additionally, my roommates with cars always had a problem getting my neighbors to park in a place that didn’t limit the ability for everyone to move their own vehicles.
After a year in my house, I did end up re-signing my lease for a second year and didn’t have to worry about looking elsewhere (my upstairs neighbors also moved out and quiet, wonderful friends took their place, which was awesome). Unfortunately, this is not the case for everyone. Although it is rare for those who live off campus to want to move back on campus (after looking at price, “independence”), it is not rare for students to be unhappy with their off-campus selections. After a full school year, you learn what your money is worth. Many may also have issues with friends after the level of togetherness that living with someone can cause, or from being further from the company of friends (who do not live a room over) than one would like after getting used to the ever-crowded world of college dorm living during years prior. Others may just want better costs or more space.
Where you live can truly affect the way in which you experience college. Brockport is a wonderful place, so it is important to choose a living situation that allows you to take the most from your time here. Both options are fun, livable, and arguably worth it. However, there is probably an option that is better for you, so make sure you know exactly what you may be getting yourself into before you’re stuck somewhere you feel you don’t belong!