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
- 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
Graduate Assistant for Parent and Family Programs
Class of '19, '21