It’s that time in the semester when a young person’s thoughts turn to the idyllic prospect of moving off campus next year. As the person ultimately responsible for the life of our students outside the classroom, I personally take comfort in the story I tell myself every evening: that all our SHU students are tucked cozily in their residence hall rooms (the fantasy includes an 11 p.m. bedtime as well!). Now that we have increased the number of beds on campus, there’s more room for everyone. Keeping our students on campus is my preference.
Of course, I also have to concede that many students see the chance to live off campus as a natural progression of their independence and self-responsibility. My own son, who graduated last year, lived off campus for his senior year. And even though I worried more, he saved some money and learned life skills. Now that he’s graduated and living on his own about 800 miles away, he has the coping skills to be alone. It’s not for everyone, but for some students, it’s a chance to establish a credit record (when you are responsible for the utility bill in your name), learn to cope with adversity (when the pipes freezes), and figure out how to budget your money and manage your monthly obligations. For some, it’s the logical next step before graduation. But before any of your students make the leap, I hope it’s something that you give a lot of thought to as a family.
Before your students sign their names to the dotted line of a lease, we have a resource for them. Our online tutorial walks students through the process of finding an off-campus residence and alerts them to the questions they should ask and the pitfalls they may encounter.
My first concern for all our students is their safety. We have two transportation services at Seton Hall – our shuttle, Shufly; and, our night-time service, Safe Ride. Students who are looking at off-campus housing should be referring to our Safe Ride zone to make sure the apartment or house they choose for next year is inside this map. If they choose a property within this wide zone, they can be assured that late at night they can get a ride home to their residence. Students who decide for whatever reason to live outside the Safe Ride zone should be thinking now about their transportation needs, especially after dark.
Students also want to make sure that their choice of housing is safe, in good repair and warm. They need to ask about hidden charges: water, utilities, internet and cable.
Finances also come in to play. Students promise their parents that their living arrangements will be cheaper than living in the residence halls, but it’s a little more complicated. Rent has to be paid all 12-months of a lease. Whose name is on the lease and how much rent security do you need to pony up? You might never see that money again. Then, there’s the monthly gas, electric, cable, internet, and water. How is that going to be paid and whose name is on those bills? It can be cheaper, but you have to plan ahead.
Students who live off campus are then commuters to the university and, most importantly, residents of a town (usually South Orange). They need to remember their obligation to be good neighbors. No one wants a noisy, disruptive gaggle of students in the house next door. If our students are old enough to live independently, they have to be responsible enough to consider their neighbors.
All of these issues should be hashed out before taking the big step of moving off campus. I hope I have given you a framework for an important heart-to-heart conversation.