So the housing lottery went out, you diligently filled out the roommate questionnaire, and you submitted your application in a timely fashion. Fast-forward a couple of days later and you get an email in your inbox. Your lottery number has arrived! You just can’t wait to move into a suite or one of those coveted Livingston Apartments. You excitedly click the email to get your number because there’s no way it can be bad.
Oh. You take a few minutes to let it sink in. Okay. First things first, consult the people you’re going to room with next year. Maybe one of them was luckier. I mean, you only need one good number. You find out that the highest number you can procure from your roommates is in the 8,000s. Okay, so maybe you won’t get a Livingston Apartment. Or any apartment, really. BUT, a Busch Suite is definitely still an option, right? You find out later that the cutoff for the Busch Suites was somewhere in the 1,000s. And that’s including everyone who had the same amount of reverse seniority points as you.
You take a deep breath. Alright, living in one of the College Avenue River Dorms or the Livingston Quads is still an option. You had a lot of fun living in a dorm your first year, it’ll be just like that! However, now your roommates are split on a decision: half of them are considering the dorms and the other half are considering commuting. Commuting is definitely not an option for you. And besides, you don’t want to split up from your friends. You turn to an option you’ve been hearing about from all the upperclassmen:
It’s important to stress that not finding on-campus housing is not a big deal! Rutgers is a huge university with over 40,000 students. It would be virtually impossible to find Rutgers housing for each and every student. Lucky for you, you are one of many students looking into off-campus housing, whether it’s need-based or by choice. When looking into off-campus housing, there are a lot of things to consider. So to help you out, here are a few things to look into:
Apartment or House?
This is the very first thing you should consider. Do you and your roommates want to live in an apartment or a house? There are pros and cons to both options:
- More security (you’ll need a card, key, or access pin to let you enter the building)
- Utilities are usually included
- The space is generally nice and clean (hardwood floors, carpets, etc.)
- Rent can get expensive, especially if the building is close to campus
- You can’t have a lot of roommates to off-set the cost of rent, even though you know it’s possible to fit two extra people in that tiny space
- You have to live with neighbors that may not be college students (you will risk noise complaints because your non-college neighbors will definitely not want to hear your loud music or the incessant laughter of all your friends)
- You have your own space and you have a lot of freedom to play around with it (most landlords don’t mind you painting walls and adding decorative touches so long as it’s returned to its original form before you move out)
- You can live with a lot more people to off-set the cost of rent because houses are generally bigger
- There are more houses than apartments, which means it’s probably easier to find a house than an apartment
- Houses can be on the older side and have likely suffered some wear-and-tear from the college students that have lived there before you
- There’s not as much security as with apartments. However, it’s important to remember to practice basic safety measures anywhere you are
- Things break. Hopefully you have a landlord that takes care of everything but if not, expect to learn a lot about handy work
Finding Available Living Spaces
The next thing to do is to start researching spaces that are available to rent. The most ideal thing you can do is talk to upperclassmen and see if they’re moving out at the end of the year, or know of anyone who is vacating. That way, not only do you know the people who previously lived in the house, but you can also ask a ton of questions and get answers from a firsthand source. You can also post on the numerous Rutgers Facebook pages as well to look for people who will be moving out of their houses. Students are generally very helpful when it comes to that as they went through the same thing as well. If you don’t know any upperclassmen who live off-campus, Rutgers has a ton of resources to help you find a place to live. One of the best ones you can use is provided by Rutgers itself! You can log onto ruoffcampus.rutgers.edu to find a list of available spaces and contact phone numbers.
Distance from Campus
Another thing to consider is how far you’re willing to live from campus. If you’re lucky, a house close to campus will be vacating or is already open. However, that’s not always the case as those houses are the most coveted spaces and are gone well before the housing lottery even goes out. Not to mention, they’re a bit pricier than houses that are further away from campus. If the houses or apartments close to campus are a bit out of your price range, don’t be afraid to venture a little further out. A lot of students live as far as a 15 minute walk away from campus.
Prepare to Compromise
When you go out looking for off-campus housing, just be prepared to learn that you’re most likely not going to get everything you’re looking for. You’re not going to get the beautiful house close to campus with a landlord that caters to your every whim. Maybe you’ll find a beautiful house with a great landlord but it’s a 20 minute walk away from campus. Or maybe, you’ll find a decent house, close to campus, with a landlord you’ll never actually meet. You might not find the holy grail of houses, but that’s just part of the experience.
If you’re still on the fence about off-campus housing, here’s what I’ll say: it won’t be perfect and you’ll likely come across some aggravations along the way. However, it’s a learning experience that teaches you invaluable lessons about responsibility and gives you your first taste of what living out in the real world is like. Not to mention the incredible memories (just maybe not at the time) you make along the way. Isn’t that what college is all about?
By Ruchika Devalapalli