If you’ve watched a lot of movies about college students before, you probably think that living in a campus dorm is essential to the university experience. However, restrictions like curfews and the late-night ruckus from frat parties have pushed people to stay in rented houses and apartments outside the school proper. If you’re still not sure about living off-campus, take a look at its benefits and the skills you need to survive the experience.

But First, the Benefits

While off-campus housing may seem daunting because you need to be more independent and responsible, its benefits are just too good to pass up.

  • It’s More Affordable – While living off-campus requires you to walk or commute to your class, it’s easier on the wallet than your university’s dorms. According to a recent report by the Business Insider and real estate site Trulia, off-campus, two-bedroom apartment costs can be up to 69% more affordable than on-campus accommodation, depending on which university you’re studying in.
  • It’s More Private – While you still need to get a roommate to lower your cut of the rent, you’ll have more space for yourself when you live in an off-campus apartment or house. You don’t have to wait in line in the public bathroom. And if you do get a two-bedroom space with your roommate, you get to have a room all to yourself to do your schoolwork in peace.
  • You’re Your Own Boss – While you’re still away from your parents in an on-campus room, you still have to adhere to certain rules like curfews, early quiet hours, and/or a no pet policy. You get to have more freedom in an off-campus apartment. You can have fun nights out without worrying about sneaking into your room after. Plus, apartment and house landlords are more forgiving when it comes to pets, so you don’t have to leave your fur baby behind when you move.

Skills You’ll Need to Survive

budgeting

Off-campus living isn’t all fun and freedom. Because you’re living alone for the first time, you need to step up and be more responsible. Here are the skills you need to develop.

  • Budgeting – You don’t want to end up spending all your money on a daily Starbucks run and not have enough for an important textbook. List down all your expenses like groceries, rent, transportation, your international college student health insurance, and utilities, in an Excel sheet and plan how much you’ll spend on each of them every week or month. Once you have a clear idea of what your total expenses are. Do your best to stick to that amount, and you won’t have to worry about an empty wallet again.
  • Meal Planning – If you want healthier and more affordable food than what the nearby fast food restaurants offer, you need to take advantage of your apartment or house’s kitchen and plan your meals. All you need to do is to find recipes online, get the ingredients from your local grocery store, and cook a portion that will last you a week. You may want to put each day’s portion in their own container too, so you just need to pop them in the microwave if you’re in a rush.
  • Time Management – One of the minor drawbacks of living off campus is that you often have to take the bus or walk quite far to get to class. And if you forgot to bring something important, you’ll need to take that commute again. Like your budget, you should also have a list of classes and their timeslots on your notebook or phone. This way, you can plan your sleep (and nap) schedule out and avoid panic-filled sprints to class.

The perks of off-campus living are enticing but they can’t be enjoyed without being responsible. Hone the skills listed here, and you’ll be more comfortable in your home away from home. And once you’ve mastered them, you won’t have any problems living alone once you’ve graduated.