For many first-year college students, living on campus in a residence hall or dormitory is required. After all, it’s usually a students’ first time living away from home, and a little support can be helpful. On-campus living often bridges that gap before moving out on their own, completely.

But by a college students’ second or third year, they’re probably ready to spread their wings a little and live off-campus, if possible. So, what is off-campus housing? Is off-campus housing cheaper than on-campus? And how do you find off-campus housing?

What is Considered Off-Campus Housing?

Off-campus housing is an apartment or house located close to the college but not technically on campus grounds. Students still have access to many services and resources of their college campus, including things like shuttle service to and from school and onsite dining halls or cafeterias.

Students living off-campus are responsible for finding and renting the apartment, signing the lease, paying the monthly rent (not usually covered by scholarships or student aid) and getting to and from class every day. They’re also independent and free of any on-campus housing rules and policies, such as curfews or restrictions on visitors.

On-campus housing, on the other hand, is located directly on the college grounds. Usually, this takes the form of a dormitory or residence hall, but on-campus apartments also exist. Living on campus allows students to easily connect with the college and all it offers, including places to eat, study, and socialize. On-campus residences also give students access to college services and resources, including a Resident Assistant (RA) who can help with any roommate issues or move a student to a new room if needed.

There is another option, which is commuting. That is living in a house or apartment further away from the college campus and driving or taking public transportation to and from school. Generally, this is an attractive option for students who want to continue living at home or older students who do not require the same level of support from campus resources and services.

Is Off-Campus Housing Cheaper Than On-Campus?

In most cases, off-campus housing is cheaper than living on campus. But this is because many of the typical living costs such as utilities, cable, internet, insurance, and food are included in the tuition bill.

For example, on-campus housing at the University of Maryland (UMD) for a four-month semester costs about $7,000-$11,000. When it comes to off-campus housing near UMD, the average rent for a one-bedroom apartment in nearby College Park is currently $1,533—just over $6,000 for the same four-month period. In Adelphi, another option for off-campus housing near UMD, the average monthly rent for a one-bedroom apartment is currently $1,285—roughly $5,000 for the semester.

Students who choose to live off-campus will have to pay for their own rent, utilities, and groceries, as well as purchase furniture (in most cases). However, they also have the ability to control costs by choosing a studio over a one-bedroom apartment, renting a furnished apartment, or by renting with roommates.

In addition, many off-campus apartment communities offer student specials, including rental discounts, free applications, no security deposit, or no credit checks with automatic approvals for graduate students at select universities.

How to Find Off-Campus Housing

If you are a student ready to take that leap, it is possible to find affordable housing. Here are seven tips to keep in mind when looking for off-campus housing.

  • Look at finances: The first step is to create a budget that includes rent, utilities, groceries, transportation, insurance, and other amenities. Don’t forget to include any furniture you may need to buy.
  • Identify must-haves: Now that you know how much you can spend, start making a list of apartment and community amenities you want or need.
  • Time it right: Looking for an affordable apartment at the beginning of the semester can be especially competitive and difficult. Try to line up your apartment well before the semester begins.
  • Ask around: If you are open to having a roommate, ask classmates if they know anyone looking to share an off-campus apartment or anyone moving who needs someone to take over their lease.
  • Check your paper: Your college newspaper or online news site will have listings for apartments nearby. In addition, websites like ForRentUniversity and CollegeStudentApartments can help you find apartments by college or city.
  • Look for exclusive housing: The Graduate Hills & Gardens apartments are a student-only apartment community brimming with community amenities. Located within walking distance of campus, this off-campus housing near UMD is exclusively for graduate students, making it a convenient and affordable location to live, study, and connect with your peers.
  • Go online: Not only can you browse apartment communities online, you can also look for roommates. Websites like ULoop and RoomSurf find and match roommates going to specific colleges.

Move Off-Campus with Southern Management

After a long day of classes, labs, studying, and working, college students just want a place to unwind, relax, and live by their own rules without having to worry about budgets and bills. Off-campus housing gives students independence, privacy, and – if they choose the right place – a little extra savings in their bank account.

What is considered off-campus housing? Southern Management has a variety of options for students throughout Maryland and Northern Virginia. The University of Maryland, Johns Hopkins, and George Washington University are just a few of the many local schools and universities that participate in Southern Management’s student housing program.

From great locations to fantastic amenities, students at every level will find plenty to love at Southern Management communities. Search for housing near your college or university, or contact us for specific questions or inquiries.