You pretty much learn how to be an adult while you're in college, and much of that transition happens while you figure out how to prepare for living off-campus. For most of us, living off-campus is the first time we experience living in a house or apartment that's not our parents'. That's a pretty big deal, and there are some major things that you're going to need to figure out. Don't worry, you can definitely handle it — but it is going to take some adjusting.
From social dynamics to travel time, things change when you're no longer living in the dorms. True, you're going to have to be a lot more responsible for taking care of yourself, but on the flip side, you're also going to have a lot more freedom. A little give, a little take, right?
While there's no amount of planning that can prepare you for the surprises that are bound to pop up during your first year living on your own, there is some preparation you can do that can help things to go smoothly. Some of it is mental, some of it is practical, and all of it is useful. You'll get the hang of everything quickly, but a few pointers never hurt anybody.
1. Figure out how you're getting to campus.
When you live on-campus, you can easily roll out of bed and be in your 8 a.m. lecture five minutes later. Such is not the case with living off-campus. If you're going to be driving, make sure you have all the proper permits. You'll also want to scope out the parking situation at your college during the weekdays, because sometimes it can still be difficult to find a parking spot even with your parking permit. Alternatively, if you're going to be taking public transportation, know your route and any alternative routes that might come in handy. Buses run late (and early), so be sure to always leave a safe window of time so that you're not late to class.
2. Understand that you're going to be cooking for yourself.
You might have complained about the dining halls while you were living on-campus, but now that you're off, you're going to be missing them big time. It's a real luxury to be able to step into a cafeteria and pick up sushi, breakfast burritos, and packed salads whenever you want. When you're living off-campus, you actually have to think ahead when you're doing your grocery shopping. Make yourself a meal plan for the week so that you won't end up purchasing ingredients that you're not even going to use. Also be sure to set aside time during your busy schedule to do some cooking. Making multiple portions of your favorite meals to freeze for the week is a wonderful way to go.
3. You're going to have to make an effort to see your friends.
While you lived on-campus you literally ate, slept, and went to class with your friends. You were with them 24/7. Once you're off-campus, that changes. You're actually going to have to set aside time to see your friends. It's not that you're going to be lonely all the time, but realize that you can't just walk down the dorm hall asking who wants to go get dinner. Instead, you'll have to set up a meeting time and place to see your friends. On the plus side, you'll probably have a lot more peace and quiet than you did living in the residential halls.
4. Have a reliable system for paying the bills.
From rent to wifi and electricity to gas, moving off-campus means you're going to handle all of the bills on your own. If you're going to be living with roommates, try to set up some sort of calendar in one of the shared rooms (kitchen or living room) so that there's no excuse for anybody to not be on time with their payment. It's a smart idea to divvy up the responsibility between roommates so that one person doesn't get stuck doing all the paperwork. Put each member of your household in charge of one utility and bill. That way you'll all be contributing your time as equally as your money.
5. Make sure you do everything you need to do on campus before you leave.
A late night trip to the library is a total pain if you're living off-campus, as is an early morning run around the track. Instead, try to plan your days effectively so that you only have to get yourself to campus once a day. Travel time adds up, so make sure you're not having to commute to campus multiple times a day. All you really have to do is plan ahead. Think of any books you might need for the week, have your assignments ready to be printed, and be prepared to go to office hours in advance, instead of in a last-minute rush.
6. Try to schedule your classes close together.
On that same note, it's always wise to try to schedule your classes close together during the day. There's nothing worse than having an 8 a.m. class and an 8 p.m. class on the same day with nothing scheduled in between. If you really can't help it (which happens!), then try to use your time between classes as effectively as possible while remaining on-campus. Find a couple cafes, libraries, and study lounges on-campus that you know will be open and available to use between your courses.
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