Featured Column, Features, Column

Dear Shannon: Should I Live Off-Campus?

Hi Shannon!

Long-time reader, first-time writer. I was just popping around my Agora Portal, and I realized that I actually was granted four years of housing this whole time! A lot of my junior friends are in the same boat, weirdly enough, but they’re still debating whether to live on campus or not. They all want the experience of living off, and ResLife says it’s cheaper, but I’m not completely sold on either of those things. What’s a girl to do?

-Hopefully not homeless in the future


First of all, what an effective way of minimizing confusion and writing fewer words by abbreviating your pseudonym. It is one of my favorite parts of being an advice columnist these days, besides the thrill of getting an email from someone seeking advice. Google exists now, girl! You could go anywhere for this answer and you still took the time to write this. But I digress. I will boil this down to two words: Stay on.

If you happen to be blessed by the fickle gods at the Office of Residential Life, you don’t mess with it. Living off campus is a fresh hell disguised as a learning experience. Your friends who are not so lucky will be stuck in a housing limbo for months, and even longer if you’re a transfer student, who aren’t notified of their housing placement until weeks before the school year starts. I was granted my appeal two days after I signed my lease.

There’s nothing wrong with living off campus when you’re a junior, I suppose, besides the fact that I operate under the old-fashioned idea that colleges should provide adequate housing for the number of people they have on campus. I don’t know, that’s just me. I also get, however, that Boston College is uniquely situated between the suburbs and the city of Boston, which is used as both a selling point and an excuse. In this case, it means that there’s not enough room for new BC buildings, which means schlepping from your apartment to campus as a junior is pretty much a given for most people. But if you have the choice? You’d be crazy not to take BC up on its offer.

BC treats living off campus as a great experience that will teach you a lot about how things operate in the real world. This is untrue for many reasons, but one of the biggest ones BC students face is that we are not regular people in the real world. We are straddling the line between college students who’d rather eat a slice of pizza from Pino’s off the ground and established adults with 401(k) accounts. It’s the real-life purgatory. Because of that, people can treat you like garbage. Have a problem with your fridge? Someone parked in your spot? Your house that’s legally only supposed to house four people breaks a hole in the deck window? Good luck getting in contact with anyone or having your issue ever get fixed. My building is almost entirely BC students and our landlord takes days to reply to an email. I once heard a kid say that he would be charged $100 if he called his landlord between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. I kind of wish I was his landlord, because I would never have to do any work, ever.

The Off-Campus Office also defines “experience” not as something you gain through learning and controlled exposure, but something akin to a Sim being dropped in the middle of a bathroom with the appliances turned toward the walls. You gain experience by complaining to all of your friends and getting your parents involved because no adult will take you seriously because they know you aren’t paying the rent. When I got my apartment, I thought everything would be pretty simple once I moved in, but then you have to coordinate payments, and get things fixed, and someone has to be there for the cable provider to come, and anyone can literally walk in at any time to check that the heat works in the beginning of September when it’s 90 degrees outside. The “experience” you gain is limited to the experience that people will walk all over you if you aren’t the one signing the checks. So really, nothing like what it will be when you’re an adult with a job and you live on your own.

And then there’s the line that BC parades out about living off campus being cheaper than living on* (*in some cases, a kind of legal term that means that BC doesn’t really have to be truthful on this point). My experience isn’t typical to everyone else—I’m a senior who transferred to BC two years ago, so there aren’t four or five other seniors I know with whom I could get a house on Algonquin. I have one roommate, who is both a junior and a joy, but that means that our options were limited to one- or two-bedroom apartments, which can be very expensive. Living off campus is cheaper if you pile six or seven people into a house (sometimes illegally, depending on where the house is), but that’s not a lifestyle for everyone. Maybe you hated living in an eight-person suite in 90, or you don’t have a ton of friends that don’t have housing or that you’d want to live with. Your year would be miserable, but so affordable at $700 a month, not including utilities, food, internet, trips to the grocery store because you don’t have a big meal plan, the meal plan you might get because you still have to eat when you’re on campus sometimes … It adds up in a way that makes it seem like it’s not a completely accurate statement for everyone, and that’s where the asterisk comes in.

Off campus, on the whole, is gross. You’re probably living in an old, creaky house with no carpets, and if there are carpets, they’re covered in the hair of the past 30 residents and the dregs of 100 Natty Lights. Your floors will never not be sticky. You will live in fear that your carbon monoxide alarms don’t actually work, and you will wake up in the middle of the night wondering if you turned off the gas oven. It will smell disgusting. You will pass out on a couch that has been home to a thousand asses, and what can you do about it? The previous renter charged  you $150 for the entire furniture “set.” On the other hand, 90 and Stayer are palaces. Brick walls that allow for easy Command strip removal! A sizeable common room with more than one light so you don’t end up sitting in the dark at 6 p.m.! A shower that you may have to wear shoes in, but dammit if you clog it with all your roommates’ hair, you will still get some help. You realize now that this is the lap of luxury.

In my youth two years ago, the most terrifying “on-campus” housing prospect was Greycliff. It was so far! You had to pass the graveyard! Only the most cursed among us were banished to live there! The thought of Greycliff always conjured an image of a kitschy lightning strike over the building, followed by a dramatic dun dun dun! Somehow everyone knows at least one person who lives there, even though there’s room for 40 people.

And yet now, 2000 is two blocks farther, and people love it. It’s like living off campus, but without any of the inconvenience. Not too far from Club Kirk and your friends on Foster, but none of the hassle of rent payments and landlords who seem like their only job is to give you anxiety. It is truly the best of both worlds.

Good luck in your decision making (but if you don’t choose to live on campus don’t come crying to me about it),


Featured Image by Meg Dolan / Heights Editor

October 15, 2017