It is about that time of year when juniors and seniors start to make plans whether they will live in the residence halls or move off-campus in a house with their friends next school year. I lived in the towers for 4 years and for my first year of grad school, I decided to move off-campus with a group of friends in a house nearby. I learned so many lessons from this experience that I would love to share with anyone who’s student is thinking about living off-campus.
What I wish I knew before I moved off-campus:
- Students who live in off-campus housing no matter how close to campus are considered commuter students! This means your student has access to another office with resources, clubs and activities to participate in. The Office of Commuting Student Services and Community Outreach is located on the second floor of the Student Center.
- Make sure your student knows their housemates. It is so important to really know who your student is going to be living with. Sometimes even a group of friends don’t truly know each other until they are sharing all of the same space all the time. With this, especially if living with friends, make sure your student is ready to have difficult and uncomfortable conversations about money, space, cleanliness, etc.
- Carefully review the rental agreement/lease with a trusted adult. This is the most important piece of advice I can give. Whether it is a parent, uncle, Hofstra staff member, etc. please encourage your student to review the rental document with someone who has prior knowledge and can help understand what exactly they are signing and what they are responsible for.
- Take pictures of everything before you move in and after you move out. Especially in houses off-campus where college students usually reside, there may be holes, paint chips and other issues that were not caused by your student. Make sure your student takes pictures of everything inside and outside to avoid responsibility and to ensure you can get your security deposit back at the end of the lease.
- Many off-campus leases will begin June 1. If your student plans to come home for the summer, they are responsible for the rent for their room throughout the summer even if they are not living in it from the date that their lease begins. Certain places do have options of subletting for periods of time, but this is specific to each landlord and is usually included in the rental information.
- Decide who will have the utilities in their name. Many off-campus houses do not include utilities. If this is the case, a student will need to take responsibility for putting the utility in their name (ex. Electricity, Gas, Water, Wifi, etc.) and collect the monthly payment from the house mates. I recommend establishing a way to collect the money like Venmo, Zelle or Cashapp where there is electronic proof that this was paid as well as a way to track what was being paid by writing it in the description. It is also important to make sure that the utilities are turned on to start when your lease begins, certain apartment complexes have fees associated with this.
- Request a copy of the lease and monthly receipts from the landlord. Encourage your student to keep all documents both physically and electronically for any and all payments and documents in case there is ever an issue, they will have the documentation to defend themselves as needed.
- Have a house meeting when everyone moves in. This is extremely important for setting boundaries, expectations for spaces and cleaning up. It all may seem like common sense, but it is very important to set expectations and be on the same page, even if a student is moving in with their best friends.
- Know “the basics” before living off campus. It is extremely important for students to have a basic understanding of how to fix certain things around the house like a clogged toilet or shower drain, and also what numbers to call if there is a water leak or the smell of gas. Please note that off-campus students don’t have access to services of our Public Safety in their houses and need to call 911 for any emergencies off campus.
- As much as your student thinks they’re going to cook everyday, they most likely won’t have time. With classes, internships, part-time jobs and clubs, it can be hard to cook every meal and find time to meal prep for the next day. There is always an option for the Commuter Meal Plan which is typically around $500 per semester. I highly recommend this to any busy student who spends a lot of time on campus.
- Label all of your food. If your student doesn’t want anyone else eating their food, encourage them to put their name on it. Some students are completely okay with sharing their food and some are not. My house had a different color sticker for each person. If there was no sticker, that was for anyone to take! I also recommend taking a trip to Costco or BJs to buy things in bulk like condiments where everyone can use it since you don’t want or need 5 different ketchups and mayos taking up space.
- Make a schedule for taking out the trash and recycling (both out of the house and also to and from the road for pickup.) You may think 18-22 year-olds don’t need a schedule to remember to take out the trash. After the first few weeks of classes when everyone is busy with their own schedules, the trash piles up quickly and I learned this the hard way. For my housemates and I, a weekly schedule was the best way to hold everyone accountable and also to be sure the trash is always taken out.
Hofstra is here for you and your student. In off-campus housing, there are no RAs to help solve roommate conflicts or RDs to report a plumbing problem to. However, there is ALWAYS someone at Hofstra that is willing to help your student. More information about the Office of Commuting Student Services and Community Outreach can be found here and as always, Parent and Family Programs is here to help however we can!
Graduate Assistant for Parent and Family Programs
Class of '19, '21