All you need to know about off-campus living

Living on campus can be really great. You are within walking distance of all classes, surrounded by friends or new people to meet and are able to gorge yourself on the endless supply of food at the dining halls. On-campus living is an essential part of the college experience, one that can be very rewarding and unique. But living on-campus can also not be that great. It can be very easy to tire of the cramped rooms, noisy neighbors, lack of privacy and the controlled environment.

Oswego State requires all entering freshman to live on-campus for four semesters, plenty of time to experience both the best and worst of dorm living. If after this you have found that the worst aspects outweigh the best, or are just looking for something new, living off-campus can be a great alternative.

Off-campus living can provide students the privacy, freedom and space sorely lacking from on-campus life. It’s an entirely different lifestyle and can completely change the way that college is experienced. Making the switch, however, can be very difficult and there is a lot to consider when making this decision.

It is extremely important to think hard about whether or not moving off-campus is right for you. Don’t think only of the parties you will throw, or the time you can spend with your significant other without a roommate in the room. Think about the nights you will be loaded with homework but will still have to cook dinner, the sink full of dirty dishes that will greet you each morning, the unhealthy percentage of meals that you will be eating, cereals with names like Fruit Rounds or Rice Squares and the crisp 60 degree temperature that you will maintain in your house during the winter to keep bills down. Off-campus living comes with many new responsibilities. It is really a first encounter with independent, adult life. If these new responsibilities sound like too much, then don’t do it. Off-campus living is not something to go into half-heartedly. If you believe that you will quickly get sick of your new household duties, then stay on-campus. Better to be safe than to sign a year-long lease for a lifestyle that you don’t want.

If you decide that off-campus living is right for you, the next step is to find the right people to live with. Make sure that each person you plan to live with is as committed as you are. If they seem unsure, or are on shaky ground academically, it would be best to find others more steadfast in their interest. You don’t want to end up frantically searching for someone to replace your housemate who changed their mind or dropped out before fall. It is also important not to simply round up your closest friends and start looking for houses. While living with people you get along with is important, it is also worth considering how you think each person will handle the responsibilities of taking care of a house. If your friend is inconsistent with basic dorm room tasks, such as taking out the trash and keeping the floor clear, they probably won’t suddenly change enough of their lifestyle to take care of their new household tasks. Also, discuss with your future housemates what they expect out of the house. If one friend wants to throw massive parties each weekend, but you aren’t comfortable with the idea of so many strangers in the house, there is likely to be a conflict. Discuss these things now, because they are sure to come up. Remember that if this will be where you live, it should be a place of comfort. A key component of this comfort will be your trust in the people that you live with.

Once you have found people you want to live with, you can start looking at houses. Classified ads with landlord’s contact information can be found in The Oswegonian and Palladium Times. The Student Association provides a list of all known student rental properties, along with how to contact each landlord. Start looking as soon as possible to ensure you get to look at the best possible houses before other students. That being said, absolutely do not sign the lease for the first house you see. It is easy to get sucked into the belief that you will lose out on a house if you don’t jump on it right away. A good landlord will give you time to see more houses and weigh your options. If you feel pressured by a landlord just to sign the lease, it probably is a bad sign for relations with them going forward. There are 388 potential student rental properties on the Student Association list, don’t let the fear of losing one of them cause you to make a rash decision. Take the time to see as many houses as you can while taking pictures and good notes on each. Examine the house closely for damage and ask the landlord any questions that come to mind. Try to speak with one of the house’s current residents without the landlord around, sothat you can learn of any serious problems with the house or landlord. In your decision, consider things like parking, proximity to campus or the bars (depending on your priorities), whether the neighbors are students or Oswego residents and, of course, the price. After a week or so of searching, you and your housemates should have three or four houses that fit your needs to choose from. Sit down, talk it out and pick the house or apartment that fits your needs best.

When you have picked that house, the next step is signing the lease, which could be rather intimidating. You should actually read the lease; don’t just email it home or skim through. It is crucial to understand each part of the lease. With knowledge of each provision, conflicts with the landlord that could result in a loss of security deposit or a strained relationship are more easily avoided.

So you have your future rental home, the stressful part is over and you can now relax. Over the next few months, start looking out for whatever free or discounted home furnishings you can get your hands on. Especially look during the end of each semester, when there are plenty of graduating or transferring students with old furniture that they would love for you to take off their hands. And be sure to try to enjoy the rest of your time on campus. This may seem hard with the allure of having your own house or apartment next semester, but trust me, there are many aspects of living on-campus that you should enjoy now because they will be missed.