The many benefits of living off campus

September 28, 2018

When I found out my housing lottery number for my senior year at Brandeis, I was crushed. It’s a typical scenario—getting an abysmal number, checking with your friends to see if anyone has a number good enough to pull everyone into a suite, assessing your on-campus housing options. And then, as slowly but surely all the Grads are filled, you turn your sights away from the residence halls and consider off-campus housing. But despite my hesitation at first, now that I’m off campus, I couldn’t be happier with my decision or more grateful for that bad lottery number.

Living off campus has many perks. I’ve come to really appreciate having a separation between school and home, campus and personal life. It’s a great feeling to leave class and have somewhere to go home to, rather than just heading back to a dorm room. It’s also nice to not spend so much time on campus. I feel like I spend my day more wisely and don’t waste as much time, because once I finish classes and my job, I can leave. While I enjoy campus life, I appreciate getting a break from Brandeis; going home off campus puts me in a different mindset and makes me less stressed because it’s removed from the on-campus bubble of schoolwork and extracurricular commitments.

For me, one of the biggest benefits is not having a meal plan. It is markedly cheaper to cook for yourself than eat on campus. While it’s an adjustment to schedule time into your day to grocery shop and cook, it’s worth it. You’re not at the mercy of Sodexo’s menu and have much more freedom in your diet. It’s also healthier to cook your own meals and not eat food high in oils or preservatives. I don’t think the commuter meal plans are worth it. Meal points are inflated dollars, so you’d spend more money with the on-campus points price than you would in a grocery store. I’d rather grocery shop off campus where my money will go further, than use a commuter meal plan just for the convenience of the dining halls. It’s not hard to pack a lunch in your backpack. And if you have a busy day and want to grab coffee or a snack on campus, you can do so, but those purchases won’t be worth the cost of a meal plan.

Living off campus is also often cheaper in terms of housing costs. Monthly rent for an off-campus house or apartment can easily be lower than the price of Brandeis housing. Especially if the previous tenants were students, the kitchen will already have appliances, and you can cheaply buy furniture they used the year before.

One possible difficulty is transportation to and from campus if you don’t have a car, but, again, this isn’t something so difficult to justify staying on campus. The Waltham BranVan can help you get to and from campus, and while Brandeis itself seems uphill both ways, Waltham is relatively flat, so you could bike to school and then chain your bike at the bottom of the hill.

Living off campus is a great transition between college and post-grad life. It’s a way to dip your toes into adulting while still a student, preparing you for the responsibilities of the real world. You and your roommates will have to negotiate chores like taking out the trash, doing the dishes and cleaning the bathroom, tasks that you don’t give a second thought to on campus but are a simple part of adult life. You’ll also think more about the water and electricity you use (or waste) when you have to pay the bills every month.

On the simplest level, living off campus affords you more freedom. You don’t have to sleep in a twin bed or wear flip-flops in the shower. You can light a candle or put an air conditioner in your window without having to worry about room inspections. You can be a student on campus but feel more like an adult at home.

To anyone contemplating off-campus housing, or planning ahead for an unlucky lottery result, I highly recommend it. It’s fun to live off campus with a group of friends, is cheaper in the long run and gives you a taste for life after college.

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