Your Guide to Making Off-Campus Housing “Home”

off-campus-housing-guideAre you considering living off campus instead of in the dorms? Going off to college can be an exciting and anxious time for young adults. But you can take some of the stress out of moving and settling into your new place by being prepared. Here are a few tips for living off campus to help get you and your parents started.

Selecting Your New Apartment

Not just any apartment will do if you choose to live off campus. There are certain things you need to consider for off-campus student housing. The more you know about the apartment and the rules and regulations the better able you’ll be to find the best one for you.

5 Elements to Consider When Choosing Off-Campus Housing

Let’s take a look at the important things you must consider when choosing an off-campus apartment.


How close the apartment is to your campus is an important factor if you must walk to school or take public transportation. You’ll need to know the bus routes in the area and the time it’ll take you to get to campus each day. Besides your proximity to the school, you’ll also want to consider how close you are to other places such as:

  • Grocery store
  • Laundromat
  • Local library


You must choose a place that charges a monthly, or sometimes semester, rent within your budget. Don’t forget about other costs:

  • Heat (Electricity or Gas)
  • Security deposit
  • Late fees (rent and/or utilities)
  • Electric
  • Water/sewer
  • Cable TV
  • Internet
  • Garbage collection
  • Groceries

Most students who live off-campus have roommates, so you need to sit down with your new roommates, add up the monthly costs and divide them by the number of roomies. This way you’ll know what it will cost each of you to live in the apartment. Living off campus is not always more expensive than living in the dorm when you have roommates to share the expense.


It’s better to live with people you know. If you have friends that are also going off to the same college and don’t want to live in the dorm, ask them about sharing an off-campus apartment and the expenses. You can feel safer and more comfortable living on your own for the first time with people you already know and trust.

Learn More About Splitting Bills With Roommates

If you are more comfortable living solo, off-campus housing is a great solution.  Typically, there are plenty of off-campus studio and one bedroom apartment options available.


What else does your apartment have to offer? Consider the amenities: a pool, an onsite gym, and walking or bike trails. If your apartment does not offer some of these options, are you close enough to take advantage of the pool or gym on campus? This is something to keep in mind.


How safe is your new place? This is your first time living alone and your safety is important for you and an important issue for your parents. Here’s what you should consider:

  • Does your apartment have deadbolt locks?
  • Does the door to your apartment have a peep hole?
  • Are the locks changed when one tenant moves out and new one moves in?
  • Are there secure locks on all windows and any sliding glass doors?
  • Do you have a parking space near your apartment entrance?
  • Are the halls and stairwells well lit?
  • Is the apartment in a gated community?

If you don’t have a deadbolt but want to rent the apartment, find out if you can have one installed, and if you’ll have to pay for it yourself.

Of course locks aren’t the only safety concern to consider – is the area that you are looking to move to safe?  Will you be doing a lot of walking to or from your apartment?  Talk to locals or other students who know the area well to get their feedback on the location you are considering.  Most importantly, trust your instinct.  If a location doesn’t feel safe to you, it probably isn’t.


Living off campus means you’ll need to know the parking rules for where you live. (If you or a roommate owns a car) Here are some things you need to know about parking:

  • Will there be a charge for parking? If so, how much?
  • How many parking spaces are there per apartment?
  • Can guests park in the apartment lot, or is there a designated area for guest parking?
  • What if someone parks in your space? Will the apartment management handle it?


There are other things you’ll need to know about the apartment before signing the lease:

  • Do I need to provide renter’s insurance?
  • Can visitors stay and for how long?
  • Who do I call for emergency or after-hours repairs?
  • Is there a Laundromat on site and if not, where it the closest one?
  • Does the lease automatically terminate after one year or does it automatically renew?

Furnishing Your New Place

Off-campus student housing requires a little more budgeting than the dorms.  You’ll need more furnishings for an apartment than you would a dorm room, but there’s a trade-off: the freedom you’ll have in decorating your new place.

If you decide to rent an apartment that is not furnished, you’ll need to buy or rent furniture. Even if it comes furnished, it may not have some of the things you need, like a desk for late night study sessions.

Furniture Rental Package for Students

You and your roommates must consider furniture needs when determining the overall cost of your new place. You have a few options:

  • You can all go in together to buy some new furniture and sell it when you move or finish college.
  • You can rent furniture and split the monthly costs to do so.
  • You can each buy a piece of furniture for the apartment.

Whether you choose to rent or buy, Interior Furniture Resources offer you the options of renting and purchasing new and previously rented furniture. IFR also special rental packages and discounts for college students.

Whether you need a complete set of furniture or you just need one piece, you can find quality furniture at an affordable price. There are advantages to each option, so which one is right for you?


If it’s within your budget, buying the furniture means you’ll own it for good. Whether you purchase a piece of furniture or an entire living room suite, IFR offers:3-IFR-Offers

  • Low prices well below retail everyday
  • Help with manufacturer warranties should your new items need to be repaired after purchase
  • Financing options for qualified buyers
  • Up to 70% off regular retail on previously leased furniture in their Clearance Center


If buying new furniture is not in your budget but you can afford monthly payments, you can rent what you need. IFR has benefits for renters, too!

  • You can rent a complete package or by the piece
  • You can rent for as long as you need (one month or more!)
  • Choose from home and office furniture as well as electronics, accessories and more

Discuss furniture options with your roommates to decide what you’ll need. You can also save money by buying or renting furniture that serves more than one purpose. Here are some ideas:

  • Sleeper sofas that can serve as a couch and a bed
  • Ottomans that can also double as storage and coffee tables
  • Indoor/outdoor rugs, because they are more stain resistant (they can also cover up ugly carpeting)
  • Stacking or folding chairs for guests
  • Storage baskets, cubes and bins for clothes and other items

View Our Furniture Rental Packages

The safest way to buy used or previously rented furniture is to browse furniture stores like IFR that offer high-quality furniture at great prices. Plus, the IFR team can help you choose the furniture you need and get it to you in as little as 48 hours.

Make Your Apartment Your Own

Living off campus gives you more opportunity to decorate and show off your own style. You have more room, so you can create whatever atmosphere helps you and your roommate(s) relax and study.

This means your off-campus apartment becomes more than just a dorm room to sleep and study — it becomes a place to entertain friends, or relax and feel at home, even when you are miles away from your parent’s home.

You can put together your own unique look and even create a bedroom sanctuary when you need to get away and relax.

Keep in mind that the furniture you choose can make your new place “home.” If you are considering living off campus, consider IFR for your furnishing needs. You can rent and still stay within your budget and IFR’s professional, non-commissioned team is there to guide you, so you can make the best furniture selection for you. You won’t be pressured into buying any furnishings you don’t want or need because your satisfaction, is the IFR team’s goal.

buy-in-bulkBuying Groceries and Planning Meals

Living off campus means you and your roommates will be responsible for grocery shopping and meal planning and preparation. You won’t be restricted to a hot plate, microwave or mini-fridge — you’ll have a full kitchen. You’ll be cooking a lot more for yourself. It’s not likely you’ll be able to afford to eat out or order pizza every night.

It’ll be up to you and your roommates to decide if you’ll pool your resources and pitch in on groceries or if each of you will buy your own. Either way you’ll have to consider the cost of food when calculating your monthly budget. Here are some good food-related tips for off-campus student housing:

  • Buy in Bulk when you can. This is a good idea if you plan for you and your roommate(s) to all pitch in to the grocery budget. You can buy meats in bulk, separate them in meal size portions and freeze them.
  • Have staples on hand. Bread, rice, cereal, milk, frozen dinners and canned foods help you make quick easy meals when you’re short on time.
  • Learn to cook. If you don’t know how to make simple things, like scrambled eggs, rice or instant mashed potatoes, ask your parents to teach you some cooking basics. You can also buy cookbooks tailored to college students.
  • Learn about food safety. You need to understand food safety guidelines so that you and you roommate(s) don’t get sick from food borne illnesses.

If you and roommate(s) decide to buy groceries separately, you must set boundaries and rules about eating each other’s food. If you find that your roommate is not staying within those boundaries, politely remind him or her of the food rules you’ve both agreed to. If this becomes a problem, consider investing in a mini-fridge to keep in your bedroom, so your food is kept separate and there is no confusion about what items belong to you.

Even though living on your own gives you freedom to prepare your own meals and eat what you like, don’t forget to think like your mom from time to time and add in some nutritious fruits and vegetables into your meal planning.

Enjoy Your New Journey!

Moving out of your parent’s home, living off campus and attending college are all new experiences, but you should enjoy this new journey. And you can as long as you take the time to plan, prepare and budget wisely.

Once you get settled into your new place, get to know your roommate(s) and surround yourself with some cozy new furnishings, you’ll appreciate the advantages of living off campus:

  • Sharing rent and doing your own cooking can actually save you money when compared to living in the dorm.
  • Living on your own helps you become a more responsible adult and escape the partying and noise that often comes with dorm life.
  • Living on your own helps you establish a good rental history.
  • College housing often closes during the summer or major holidays, so having your own off-campus apartment allows you to stay, take summer classes and choose whether or not you want to travel home during holidays.
  • You get to interact with a more diverse group of people rather than be solely surrounded by other college students.

You can use this guide to living off campus to determine if you’re ready for the responsibilities of living on your own. When making that decision, consider what aspects of college life are important to you. You and your parents can sit down and go over the pros and cons of living off and on campus. You should also check with your chosen college for any regulations for off-campus students.

If you decide that off-campus living is right for you, feel free to contact IFR and discover the great deals and rental options the IFR team has for your off-campus apartment. Make sure you mention you are a college student for your student discount.

View Our Discounted Student Furniture Rental Package

If you planning to live off campus in the Harrisburg, PA or the surrounding areas of Central & Northern Pennsylvania, Northern Maryland or Northern Delaware, take a look the IFR website to browse furniture rental packages or items for sale. IFR’s professional installation services make furniture buying easy with no heavy lifting.