Is It Worth It? A Guide To Affordable Off-Campus Living

The hood. I live in it. And despite what your over-protective parent or concerned great aunt might tell you, it’s not bad at all!

Your typical American university is usually either a secluded campus area away from the city, or it is basically it’s OWN city within a larger city. Even commuter colleges have some renting facilities where students can choose to live. No matter what type of campus your University has,  golden rule of housing is the closer you live to campus, the more money you spend on your rent. And here is another golden rule – most students are below-zero-poor*.

*below-zero-poor = adj. Living off loans and debts. (syn. poor AF – above fathoming). (Also, I just made it up).

Gradually we understand the reasons anyone, myself included, would choose to live in less developed urban areas…


You can afford a much larger space and much more privacy for far less than you would pay on campus property or its immediate surroundings. While the urban life might not be for everyone, students (and especially local youth) will choose affordability over quality any day of the week. As a current urban resident, I have some first-hand experience with the ups and downs of living off-campus and believe me – I’ve been asked every question IN THE BOOK.

Is it dangerous?

affordable off-campus living

It depends. Although it would be highly irresponsible of me to claim all urban areas are completely safe, it is also true that not all affordable urban neighborhoods are filled with crime. It is important to know your city well. You will find higher than average crime areas in big cities but no small town is crime free. Find areas that are experiencing revitalization (opening community centers and local businesses). These neighborhoods have budget friendly rent while flourishing into safer and better parts of town. Keep your search only within areas you find appropriate, use your common sense, be open and ready to evaluate all pros and cons with each single house/apartment you visit. Check out the unit during the daytime AND at night so you know how the street lighting situation is, what types of people are living in the area, etc.

What is it like?

Personally, I believe living in urban neighborhood was one of the smarter choices I have made so far. I really enjoy the vibe of my neighborhood. I love the diversity and enjoy visiting every single local business from the tiny coffee house to the independent grocery store, from Little Abuelita’s taco place to my local library. Every now and then there is a community event organized for a cause or just very random and spontaneous gatherings of people barbecuing, playing soccer or a couple next door just yelling, throwing clothes of the window and other forms of street entertainment. Never a dull moment! And that’s just way I like it.

affordable off-campus living - sofia vergara

Does it make commuting a pain in the butt?

If you are going to live in the USA (outside of a big city like NYC, Chicago, or DC) chances are you won’t get around anywhere without a car. In smaller cities bus schedules tend to be unreliable due to heavy traffic. So basically chances are you’re gonna need to get a car. Who is going to get those groceries in the middle of blizardocapocalipsegeddon by bike? Yeah, I didn’t think so.

affordable off-campus living - weather

Also, once you get to campus, you do not need to commute back and forth because US campuses offer everything students need from dawn till way past your bedtime. Life of an American student is typically very busy with little time to spare outside school. It is nice to have a crib to go to right after class, but it might also actually spare you of many opportunities to casually socialize with classmates or students at the library.

As you can see, living further away from campus can have its serious advantages.

Is it really worth it?

Check your numbers well before you make your decision. In my case, the difference went into hundreds, and who wouldn’t want extra hundred bucks every month to spend on something more pleasurable than rent and basic student survival? So my answer is yes, but be always sure to check with your college on subsidized student housing options, ask locals for opinions, find friends who might be looking for roommates.

Images: Unsplash (1), giphy

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Marketa is a writer and teacher from the Czech Republic and is working towards fluency in six languages. She has her Masters in Education and is currently attending the University of Indiana to further her studies.

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