If it hasn’t happened already, expect a call soon from your teen about a deposit for next year’s housing. 

Though it may seem like your college freshman barely started their second semester, they’re already being asked to make decisions about next year’s housing. Here are some things to discuss before they make any decisions.

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Picking a roommate A roommate doesn’t have to be a best friend, but can be. Your teen and their roommate(s) may choose to stick together next year, even though they don’t spend a lot of time together outside of the room. They’ve found a way to make the arrangement work, so be supportive, especially if you haven’t heard too many serious complaints about the current roommate(s). The decision is probably a good one.

A new roommate, or set of roommates, means your teen could be living with people you’ve never met. My kids chose new roommates because they had different housing interests from their freshman roommates. We’d heard the names of the new kids pretty regularly, so we were comfortable with their choices.

For the student having trouble selecting a roommate, give some guidance. Compromising a little helps. They should be able to deal with a roommate who’s messier or neater than they are, but not necessarily someone on probation for underage drinking. Learning to live with people you’ve only known for a short time is a life skill.

Living on- or off-campus When our daughter told us she planned to live off-campus her sophomore year, we were less than enthusiastic. There are pros and cons to each option and it depends upon your student, the cost and the roommates they choose.

College housing On-campus is the most reassuring for parents because it feels safer, and costs are fixed. Depending upon the college, there can be several options: doubles, triples, suites and even apartments. Assignments are usually based upon a lottery system that can include the total academic credits and GPA of each roommate.

Research the costs of your teen’s various options on the college’s residence life site. Your financial situation can influence the choices so talk with your student about this sooner rather than later. Review meal plans to find a more reasonable one for next year. The savings can offset the higher room fee.

Upperclassmen dorms are often on a different part of campus than freshman housing. Before your student and their future roommates sign up, they should take into account where they will be taking most of their classes and determine how far from those buildings they want to be. 

The off-campus option We eventually came around with our daughter because she didn’t like dining hall food and likes to cook, the apartment complex was dorm-like (someone at the front desk), each person was responsible for paying her part of the rent directly to the housing agency and her future roommates needed to live off-campus to save money. Once she received answers to our list of questions from the building manager, we gave in and she, and we, signed the lease.


If your student is talking about living in a house with 5-10 kids, set up a parent meeting by conference call or email to discuss how rent and utilities get paid, and damages are covered. Though more complex, it can work.

Some colleges have an off-campus housing office that provides lists of reputable landlords, offers lease and legal advice and, at our daughter’s school, hands out free window security alarms. We looked at that last one as an added safety measure.

Fraternity and sorority housing Students who join Greek life are sometimes required to live in the house for at least a year. Find out your student’s options and what living there entails, particularly cost.

Living single Don’t be dismayed if your teen wants to live alone next year. It may simply mean they like their privacy. Remember, most kids these days grow up with their own bedroom and some don’t adjust well to sharing.

The RA option If your teen wants to live alone and can handle responsibility, they should consider becoming an RA (resident advisor), an upperclassman in charge of students on a particular floor in a dorm. An RA usually receives reduced or free housing fees—helpful for a mature kid who wants to save money.

The back-up plan Sometimes students don’t get the arrangement they request. Help yours be prepared in case they’re assigned a four-person suite when there are five of them.

Please share your thoughts on college housing in the comments section below.