HOUSING UPDATE: Making the Move: Off- Campus Expenses, Experiences and Advice

Written by: Jasmine Glover

October 23, 2017

Going to college is like living in a world that has multiple worlds within it. There’s the work world that involves going to class, networking with students and professors, and gaining internships that may one day turn into a career. The social world includes free time for mingling with friends, going to various functions on campus, and enjoying the “college experience”. Then there is the clashing of two worlds: on- campus living and off- campus living.

Both worlds are needed to suit your well- being; however, living on- campus may come with limitations that will excite the off- campus lifestyle without revealing all its truths. After much research and interviews it can be concluded that the world of living off- campus is better than staying in a dorm.

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Among the number of questions that are asked about making the move off- campus one includes: Is it cheaper to live off- campus than on- campus? When totaling up the various fees to stay in a dorm, a student’s head may start to spin out of control especially if they are paying with loans or out of pocket. One should take into consideration the cost of classes, housing, meal plans, mail, and more.

Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University student Akia Smith suggests that it is cheaper to live off- campus. “My first two years of college I lived in The Village (an on-campus dorm) and that was about $3,700 a semester. I also had a full meal plan that was another $2,000 along with buying books and a lot of other stuff. Living in University Courtyard is cheaper because I only pay for rent, utilities, food and gas.”

Although for some people it may be cheaper to live off- campus there are still bills that are needed to get paid and that can be a hassle too. The questions of how and where the money will come from must be thought about. Apartments that are deemed student off- campus housing will work payment plans with the student through a financial aid deferment. A financial aid deferment is a document that will allow the student to have an extended date to pay for their bills. However, there are some students who do not receive financial aid and must pay out of pocket for everything like Rhianna Salters who attends Tallahassee Community College.

Salter’s stated, “Sometimes it’s hard to tell which is cheaper until you sit down and really map out the expenses. I know that it is a big difference because when you’re staying on campus everything is paid at once. But living off- campus you have to pay in increments and now you are really seeing that you’re spending money, especially if it’s coming out of your pocket. But it is cheaper, for me, to live off campus because now I’m paying $3,000 oppose to $6,000.”


Coming to college many students here the phrase “the college experience”, but what exactly is that experience and can a student get it while staying off- campus? The experience could stem from the excitement of living in a new city, the stress of tackling multitudes of work at once, the happiness of making new friends, the freedom of being away from your home rules or the homesick feeling that comes after being apart from family for months at a time. Many students feel like they have gained a piece of their experience because they lived on campus for a year or so.

Smith stated that, “without living on campus I wouldn’t have known about the different events that were going on or the different organizations that I could join. Living in a dorm helps; but, it’s not something that I would want to do my whole four years of college because I wouldn’t feel the freedom I do now that I am off- campus.” Salter elaborated on this topic of freedom by saying, “I’d rather be off- campus than staying on because I really like the freedom that is given because if I really want something I can go out and get it. Staying on campus limits that freedom.”

Salter went on to say, “People say that when you go to college, that’s your chance to experience life and become an adult; but, I feel like you’re not really an adult until you stay off campus and have to provide for yourself.” Although there are many that have gained the college experience from living on campus there are some students that feels a void from this. Kareem Ross, a junior at FAMU, feels that he missed out on the “full experience” because he lived in University Courtyard Apartments since his freshman year.

“I think I missed out on a lot because I was off- campus three years. I think I would have joined more organizations, participated in more events, and met more of my professors even though I’m fully engaged in my work. I feel like if I would have stayed on campus I would feel more like a student because coming to my apartment right after school made me feel disconnected to the student life,” Ross stated.



The Merriam- Webster dictionary defines networking as the exchange of information or services among individuals. The act of networking and interacting with people are valuable skills for the college student to have when making new friendships or establish life- long connections. Living among other students in the dorm can make it easier to do this since the Resident Assistant, or RA, establishes a safe community among the residents to help those who may be shy or feel alone to branch out to other people.

Building friendships can also be established through roommates. In many dorms, the students must share a room with another person and they will see each other daily depending on their schedules. This, too, can help connect with others living on campus because both students can lead each other to mutual friendships that may develop over time.

However, making connections may not come as easy to the students when living in their first apartment complex or house. Salter stated, “It was easier to network when I was living in the dorms. Here you’re not forced to interact with people; but, in the dorms, you definitely have too because you see these people every single day.” Outside of campus the students cannot look for a RA to help with the interaction process with roommates or the people in the neighborhood. It will be up the them to use their networking skills to establish relationships in and outside of the house.

Ross views on networking doesn’t depend on if you are on campus or off, but on who you are as a person. He stated, “It may be easier but everyone isn’t friendly or interactive so you can’t base the interactions you have with someone from being on campus or off. It all depends on you. The type of person you are, like are you open with people or closed off? It all depends on your personality.”

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Before making any decision, it is best to do research on the topic, develop a list of pros and cons, and ask for advice from people that have been in similar situations. Deciding to live off- campus can be tough. There are many factors to include such as paying bills on time each month, commuting from home to school, getting to know new roommates, becoming familiar with the neighborhood, and so much more.

Smith’s advice is simply to have personal transportation from home to school and anywhere around the city that you may need to go. “The best advice that I would give a sophomore, or anyone else, that was thinking about moving off- campus is to make sure that they have a car. Having a car will help you get to class on time because other ways can hinder you from getting there like buses running late, roommates with no cars or different schedules, taking Uber will start to add up and no one wants to walk to campus all the time. So, having your own car is very important.”

While interviewing Salter, there were factors that she desired to have known lot more about before making the move off- campus. “If anything, there are two things that I wish I would have known beforehand. One is that you really have to have money to the side to buy your own groceries every month because you need food in the house. And two, is that you have to keep up with the payments on utilities so that you will have a functioning house.”

Although Ross does not regret not being able to live in one of the dorms, his number one advice for anyone looking to live in an apartment is to first enjoy living on campus. “Live and create a foundation that lets you know the do’s and don’ts of college and what you’re good at versus what your downfalls maybe. Doing that will help you get it out the way early while you’re on campus because you’re learning yourself and it’s going to help you become more responsible quicker when you move off- campus.”


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