How to Help Your Student Find the Best Off-Campus Housing
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By: Rhiannon Winner, Uloop News
Most colleges and universities require students to live on campus with a meal plan throughout their freshman year. You can rest easy if your student is heading into their first year of college, but what if they’re an upperclassman with permission to live off campus?
The thought of having your student thrust into the world of short-term housing situations can be scary, but if you educate and involve yourself in the process, you can help alleviate that fear. Chances are, your student is just as worried about finding good housing as you are!
Although you might be inclined to start looking up listings right away, what is most important is your student. They need to take the lead in the hunt for housing, with you as their sidekick. Don’t do everything for them, no matter how much you want to.
Finding a place to live is a real-world skill your student needs to develop, and of course you can help, but don’t impede upon the process more than you need to. Maybe even more importantly, you and your student need to work as a team. Make sure that you sit down together and go over your expectations. Let them make their own choices, but talk about budgetary and other constraints up front. House hunting is going to go a lot more smoothly if everyone is clear about the expectations.
If your student is planning on living with someone else or with a group of housemates, it’s important to involve them in the process as well. Your student and their friends will probably begin research and tour locations themselves, but don’t be afraid to offer advice to the other students, too. If you think there’s a problem with a location, vocalize your concerns.
Encourage your student’s friends to be upfront about expectations with each other, just as you were with your student. If they’re going to be living together for at least a semester, then it’s best to get things flowing smoothly right off the bat.
Don’t be afraid to ask other people how to find good housing. If you happen to know someone in the town, ask them where students tend to live. Encourage your student to ask other students about popular off-campus housing options. Doing research on your own can turn up some great locations, but talking to people who have actually lived in an area will give you a more accurate impression of it.
In that same vein, particularly at larger colleges and universities, there are often Facebook or other social media sites with groups for off-campus housing. Students can share their own experiences, ask questions, offer advice, or provide opportunities they know of. If your student has a social media account (and realistically, they probably do) ask them to check out some of these groups.
If you also have a social media account and the group is open for public viewing, it might be a good idea to look through it yourself. Two sets of eyes are more likely to find the best advice and opportunities.
It doesn’t matter if the apartment or house you’ve found seems perfect. If it’s unworkable because it’s too far from campus, costs too much, or has any other major flaws, you don’t want it for your student. It’s important to take a step back and be realistic instead of rushing into a housing decision. It’s better to settle for your student’s second or third choice housing option than to realize that they’re going to need to walk two miles to campus every day.
Start your search early
Especially if you’re going to a big school, there are only so many good housing options in close proximity to the campus. Starting your search early is essential if you want to find the perfect off-campus housing situation.
That said, don’t feel pressured into committing to a place just because you fear you might not have any other choices. Yes, you’ll be in trouble if you wait to start your search. But you’ll have just as many problems, if not more, if you blindly commit to a housing option because you’re afraid. The reason it’s important to start early is because housing options will come and go over the months leading up to the start of the semester, and the earlier you start, the more housing options you’ll see. That increases the chances of you and your student finding the best option for them. As long as you’re not still shopping in the eleventh hour, starting the search process early doesn’t necessarily mean you have to commit early too.
Saying that you should “start early” is advice often given, but it’s sort of vague. To tentatively provide a start date for your search, you may want to begin in late January or early February if you’re looking for housing for the upcoming academic year. You can start even earlier or a bit later, but as long as you’ve secured your student’s housing situation at least a couple of months before they move in, you’re on the right track.
The search for off-campus housing can seem intimidating, but as long as you work together with your student, you’re sure to find something you’ll both love. Once you find the perfect place, make sure to consider these 7 housing pitfalls before signing the lease!