I like to compare dorm life to ice cream sandwiches — great in theory, but in practice, just messy.
There’s only so many gossip sessions, late-night baking adventures, fights over keeping the room clean and accidentally walking in on one another with a date that one freshman can take. So it’s not at all surprising that many Drexel students are desperate to be freed of that two-year residency requirement and be able to rent a place off-campus by sophomore year.
There are a lot of benefits to living off campus. You get flexibility with where you live and with whom and with how many people. You’re not restricted to same-gender housing and there’s no guest policy to worry about. You can definitely save a lot of money, and you and your roommates can make your own decisions about how to split rent and bills. Plus, you don’t have to worry about elevators breaking down.
These are all great reasons, and if these are your priorities, then I’d encourage you to go for it and find off campus housing. But there are a few things you should keep in mind before you do.
In and around University City, landlords know that a lot of the people renting from them will be students with no experience of living anywhere other than their parents’ home or a dorm, and these landlords also know this means they’ll be more likely to get away with charging too much for rent or not disclosing all of the problems with a place. Of course, not all landlords are like this, which is why I support off-campus housing, but I also support doing a lot of research on your new home.
First off, try to go with someone when looking round a potential apartment. Whether it’s your future roommate or just a friend you bribed to come along, having a second person makes you twice as likely to notice any problems (or good things!) or think of questions to ask.
If it’s possible, you should try to talk to someone other than the person trying to convince you to sign the lease. Ask if you can get the contact information of someone who’s living there now (if a current resident is trying to sublet to you, ask to talk to one of their roommates, if they have them.) If what this second person says matches up with what you were told while looking at the place, then it looks like you’ve found a great apartment.
Don’t underestimate the small things. Every question is important. What’s the best convenience store nearby? Does the heating work well or do the windows have poor insulation? How loud are the neighbors? Are the buses in the area good and on time? Are there a lot of bugs in the house?
College is really stressful, and everyone deserves a bed they can come back to at the end of the day and collapse into — a place that really feels like home. Living in a place where you feel uncomfortable can have an impact on mental health and productivity (two areas which most of us already struggle with, let’s be real) which makes this an important decision.
Whatever’s the right place for you, you owe it to yourself to put some effort into finding it.