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10 tips for surviving life off campus

| Megan Peterson,'16 mass communication graduate

In a world of study sessions and over-caffeinated drinks, Blugolds are the best people to tell you about the real UWEC experience. The CJ 491 class has written about their perspectives on all aspects of college life. These are their stories.

Like many college students, you may be ready to move off campus. Whether you want to live in a cute little one bedroom apartment, or a seven-bedroom house, make sure to consider these tips when searching for off-campus housing:

1. Can you afford it?: Sure, it seems like a glamorous life to live off-campus. Don’t you see all of those people who are biking to campus — or grabbing a cup of coffee at Racy’s or The Goat before classes? They’re awesome. However, what you probably don’t see is the way they stress over managing time between classes, homework, activities, internships, clubs, seeing friends and work — because the bills aren’t going to magically pay themselves. You have to consider the costs of cable, garbage, heat and water bills on top of that huge rent check you have to write out each month. While living off-campus can be really great, you have to be ready to financially commit.

2. Find some roommates: It’s hard to begin your search for off-campus housing without knowing who you’ll be living with. Will you live with your current roommate(s) — or maybe your partner from chem lab you really clicked with? Perhaps you’re in a club, and a few members are looking for another roommate. Either way, it’s important to find roommates you’ll be able to get along with. It makes the year much more enjoyable.

3. Start now: Begin your search for off-campus housing early. Usually landlords will begin listing rentals in the fall for the following year. The best rentals go quickly, so get to it! Many websites have rentals listed in the Eau Claire area: Zillow, Craigslist, the Student Senate Web page, etc.

4. Do your research: Make sure to research reviews of rental companies and/or landlords before setting up any showings. It’s important to have a dependable landlord with positive reviews. The Student Senate Web page has a Renter’s Guide tab with a listing of rental properties, the landlord of the property and ratings for the property.

5. Location, location, location: Your proximity to campus is a huge factor to consider when looking for a rental. If you plan to be within walking or biking distance, it’s important to begin looking for rentals early.

6. Give yourselves options: Make sure you and your roommate(s) set up multiple showings with different rental companies or landlords. Keep your options, and your minds, open by looking at a variety of listings. You might like an apartment above a business on Water Street, or maybe you’ll prefer a charming home with hardwood floors. Or maybe you have a pet and you need a pet-friendly rental. Regardless, have an open mind.

7. Read between the lines: Before signing any type of contract ever, you need to be a critical reader. This is especially important when signing a lease. Make sure you read it thoroughly and you fully understand what you’re signing. It’s important you are following this contract as best you can. If you don’t agree with something, then ask questions — or don’t sign it! This one is really important if you plan on having pets in your rental. Most landlords won’t allow it. However, there are a few rental companies and landlords that have pet-friendly properties.

8. Move-in day: Before you buy that sofa you found on sale and try to move it into your cramped apartment on move-in day, ask your landlord for the measurements of your rental. Unfortunately, I learned this the hard way. You’d think every standard door and stairwell would be able to fit a normal-size sofa, but you’d be wrong like I was. Another good idea is to talk to your roommates about who is bringing what. That way you can save money and avoid having three toasters, two beat-up blenders and four TVs when you can only afford having cable in the living room.

9. That bridge, though: The bridge is a lot easier to walk across than it is to trudge up the hill. With that said, the bridge gets INSANELY cold during the winter. Like, I’m talking a 20 degree difference when the wind is factored in! So make sure to bundle up during the winter months, starting with a good pair of boots and a very warm jacket.

10. Stay connected: Just because you don’t physically live on campus doesn’t mean you shouldn’t stay connected. You can still do your homework in the library and eat at Davies. Life doesn’t have to change all that much. It’s good to continue to go to campus events. You want to build your network during your time at UW-Eau Claire so you have lifelong connections after you graduate!