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Off-Campus 101: Tips for Living on Your Own

As we adjust to a relatively “normal” life back on campus, we are also learning a lot about our new living situations. This learning curve is especially pronounced for students living off campus. For many people living off campus, this is the first time in their lives where they are living on their own with no supervision from family or even residential assistants. There are many things that people do not tell you when you decide to live on your own—you have to communicate with a landlord, adhere to neighborhood and community rules, and keep track of many small things, like knowing when garbage pick up day is. Here are some tricks and tips regarding the things that people do not tell you when living off campus. For juniors or seniors, you may have already encountered them, but for anyone thinking about an off-campus set-up in the future, it’s never too early to get the inside scoop.

Grocery shopping becomes a skill: it takes strategy and time to perfect. 

Without the simplicity and ease of walking over to your nearest dining hall on campus, those who live off campus typically have to buy groceries, even if you purchase an on-campus meal plan. If you are someone who is planning on making the majority of your meals at home, you have to be strategic about budgeting and spacing. You will most likely be sharing refrigerator, freezer, and pantry space with your roommates. I recommend equally dividing up shelves early on, so that you know where your food is, ensuring you don’t overbuy or let food go bad. College Life Made Easy and Spoon University provide some meal ideas, coupon resources, and list ideas in order to make the most out of your grocery shopping experience. Stocking up on freezer goods like frozen vegetables or microwaveable dinners—Trader Joe’s is great for this—is also key to getting good meals when you’re tight on time.

Dividing and paying bills become a test of responsibility. 

When living on campus, all your room and board fees are included in your tuition payment. Once you move off campus, there are several other bills that you would not typically account for when living in a dorm. Aside from rent, this can include electricity, WiFi and cable, heat, water, and renter’s insurance, all depending on your landlord and whether you live in a house or an apartment. With this, you and your roommates have to decide who is taking responsibility for making sure that bills are paid monthly, as well as fairly distributing the costs. Establishing a system early makes the process as seamless as possible and ensures that you won’t be scrambling to track down payments from your roommates at the last minute.

The need for cleaning and chores becomes increasingly apparent when you are living in your own home. 

When you make the transition to college, you soon realize that keeping up with cleaning and chores is a must, even when you probably don’t have anyone nagging you to do them. Living in a shared space usually means there is more space to keep clean, but the famous saying, “many hands make light work” is definitely also applicable. Creating a schedule, or a chore chart, can help you and your roommates hold each other accountable for keeping your living space clean. Chores can include wiping down surfaces, taking out the garbage, sweeping, mopping, vacuuming, reorganizing pantries, cleaning the fridge, and many others. The most important thing is that everyone knows their role and knows how they can lend a helping hand.

Parking spots become scarce,  requiring maturity and deliberation to see who can bring a car 

When students decide to make the move off campus, they typically assume that they now have a secure parking spot for their car as well. Unfortunately, when living in the near suburbs of Boston, parking tends to be tight, scarce, and strict. Most houses that have eight to 13 tenants in them—which is often the norm off campus—likely will not have the space for everyone to bring cars. Therefore, all roommates should sit down and have a conversation about who can bring a car, who needs one on the basis of academic commitments or jobs, and whether they would be willing to share, as examples. Additionally, those with Massachusetts license plates are eligible to apply for street parking permits, which allow you to park on Foster St., South St., and more. 

For juniors, you must account for roommates going abroad and subletting far in advance. 

With so many BC students traveling abroad each year during their junior year, sublets and switching leases come into play. Some students may only be looking to live off campus for one semester rather than two, which is something the household as a whole must account for as those going abroad may either look to sublet to someone. This may mean that people you are not familiar with end up subletting a room in your home, which is something that all members of the household should first agree to.

Featured Graphic by Olivia Charbonneau / Heights Editor 

September 26, 2021

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