Insight and tips from two recent grads.
By T.K. Brady and Charlie Brady
Moving off campus is a big step. It’s probably your college student’s first real foray into what recent grads begrudgingly refer to as “adulting.” Your child will now be cooking, cleaning and, most important, bill-paying all on their own. Sure, you may be dropping rent money into their bank account every month, but it’s still on your kid to remember to pay their landlord. (Yes, they have a landlord now. No, you may not Facebook-stalk said landlord.)
Before you panic, know that moving off-campus is a great way for your child to gain experience living like an adult before they have their own apartment and health insurance. We learned to set calendar reminders to pay rent each month and which apps are best for grocery lists. Most important, we learned how to actually find an apartment and sign a lease on our own — a fundamental part of fully moving out into the real world.
If you’re still feeling stressed about the transition your child is about to make, or just want to know what to anticipate, here’s how to manage expectations this move-in day.
It’s not going to be pretty Off-campus housing isn’t known for aesthetics — at least when we were in school. Rooms are generally small, floors have seen better days and the kitchen appliances are nothing to write home about. If your kid has laundry facilities in their apartment or house, consider them lucky. That said, it’s all part of the experience. Your child will figure out how they want to spruce up the place. That’s not on you.
Hand-me-downs are strongly encouraged When it comes to kitchen appliances, consider this your opportunity to replace some of your worn out products. Between classes, clubs and friends, your kid probably won’t be spending too much time cooking, so they don’t need a state-of-the-art cookware set or a quesadilla maker (microwave works fine for this job). Not to mention, roommates may handle items differently than you and your child. Anything you don’t want messed with should stay home.
Make a budget Hopefully you’ve done this already, but if not, there’s no time like the present to talk about money with your college student. It’s important to clarify who’s paying for what (think: rent, groceries, electricity, TV and internet). Are you planning to cut your kid a check each month? Give them a lump sum each semester? You’ll want to talk about this before they step into their new life as a tenant.
Talk about bills This may be your child’s first foray into paying bills. You’ll likely need to explain how to set up automatic bill pay and how much they can expect their electric and water bills to be each month.
College kids aren’t always great packers There’s a good chance you’ll find a water bottle mixed in with bath towels and notebooks in one box. Try not to turn this into a teachable moment about how to pack up your life. This is a time to focus on helping your kid unpack and get themselves somewhat set up in their new space.
Remind your kid to clean Your kid is probably accustomed to assigned chores at home or having someone pick up after them. This is no longer the norm. They’re 100% responsible for cleaning their own toilet and making sure the trash is taken out on a (semi) regular basis. (Seriously, we’ve seen what happens when you go a whole semester having never taken out the trash – ever heard of compost?)
Renter’s insurance is a must Sure, you have a responsible child who isn’t going to turn on the stove with a rogue Tupperware container inside, but that doesn’t mean their roommates won’t. (True story.) Prepare for the worst and hope for the best. Make sure your kid’s possessions (including their laptop, wallet, passport and any jewelry) are accounted for in case of an emergency.
Off campus means being part of a community Your child is now part of a larger community beyond their college campus. That means they might live next to local families, encounter the homeless on a regular basis and deal with the police instead of public safety. It’s worth noting that any underage drinking charges off campus will be handled by local authorities, not campus security. If your kid is partying (and they probably are), make sure you iterate this to them.
Get a shovel If your student is living in an area of the country where it snows, they may be responsible for cleaning their own walkway or driveway. A snow shovel is a key purchase that’s often forgotten during summer move-in. You and your child will be happy that you remembered come finals week.
Know your child’s legal rights It’s unfortunate, but occasionally it happens that a roommate stops paying rent. If you’re lucky, your child and their roommates have all signed their own leases on a per-room basis to avoid being affected by a sudden eviction. (Once again, true story.) Most likely this isn’t the case. Know how you and your child would handle a roommate not paying their rent. Who would make up the difference? Would you sue? Having a plan of action ahead of time will make this conversation less painful if the event ever does occur.
Share your advice about off- campus living in the comments section below.
T.K. Brady is a senior editor at FoodNetwork.com. Charlie Brady is a senior specialist, Product Development and Innovation at Mastercard. They are both proud graduates of The Ohio State University.