Choosing who to live with is important but choosing where to live can prove to be even more crucial. The structure of your living arrangements can greatly affect the overall experience of your college years. It’s important to do some research to know what kind of living arrangement you’re getting yourself into before signing a lease.
My sophomore year, while I was attending Penn State’s Altoona campus, I opted to move from the dorms to an off-campus house. My parents were not too found of this idea since I would be living in a house with seven other people but the $375 monthly rent was too good to turn down. I had to pay for monthly amenities but I had my own bedroom and campus was less than a ten minute walk. However, the simple pleasures the house had to offer quickly lost their luster. My bedroom wasn’t well insulated and the heat stopped working by early December. Even with the help of duct tape and saran wrap, the room was still uncomfortably cold.
Our landlord promised to salt and shovel the driveway but he did not live locally and most mornings my housemates and I would slip and stumble our way to class.
Additionally, housing eight different personalities under one roof is very challenging. We had difficulty picking a cleaning day and very few house mates took responsibility for picking up after themselves. Also, whenever an expensive bill came in, we were each quick to point the figure at one another.
These small issues stacked up on one another and created tension among friends. I should have heeded my parents’ advice and chose a smaller living arrangement with only one or two friends. While living in the house was by far my worst college living arrangement, there was a silver lining: I improved my time management skills.
When I first decided to live off-campus, I was a bit concerned I would lose motivation to attend classes and events on campus but in fact my grades and attendance improved because I gave myself more time to walk to campus. In the winter, I tried to limit my time walking in the cold. Instead of returning to my house in between classes, I chose to go to the library. My productivity increased as I was able to resist the temptation to take a nap or watch television. An important lesson I learned from living in an off-campus house was a little independence went a long way.
While I didn’t enjoy living in a large house with several roommates, I decided living in an off-campus was the ideal decision for me. Junior year I lived at the Grove apartments which is roughly twenty minutes off-campus. Again, I had to give myself more time to get to campus which helped me get an earlier start to my day but relying on CATA’s bus schedule can be tricky. Since the Grove is far off-campus, the bus schedule was very limited and I had to plan my day around the CATA schedule. I knew very early into my junior year that I wanted to live closer to campus.
Finally, as a senior I have hit the off-campus living arrangement just right. The Graduate is the perfect location for me as it’s not too far from campus or downtown attractions. I have also learned how to scope out ideal study locations in the downtown area.
While I have experienced the good, the bad and the ugly of living arrangements, I am happy to know the right questions to ask when I look for an apartment or house in the future.
To read the article which was originally published on The Daily Collegian, click here.