Living Off-Campus

After the second year in the College, some students may choose to live in off-campus housing. For students contemplating a move off-campus, living outside of the Residence Halls requires thoughtful and deliberate money management. From finding an apartment to paying rent on time—and on a monthly basis—the financial aspect of living off-campus is significant. Choosing to live off-campus will put all of your budgetingsaving, and financial planning skills to the test.

Modifications to Your Student Cost of Attendance

Every student receiving financial aid has a Cost of Attendance component to their financial aid package, an estimate amount of the educational costs for one year, which includes estimates for tuition, fees, books, and living costs during the nine-month academic year. (See the current cost of attendance here.)

Choosing to move off-campus will impact your financial aid package. The University of Chicago meets 100% of a student's demonstrated need and calculates that need by subtracting a family's financial contribution from the cost of attendance. (See the current cost of attendance here.) Because the off-campus cost of attendance/student budget is lower, the University is using a lower budget to determine your demonstrated need and ultimately to package grants and scholarships.

Modifications to Your Student Bill

When you live on-campus, your tuition, fees, housing, and food are all direct costs that appear on the Bursar bill at the beginning of each quarter. Books and personal expenses are the only indirect costs students in on-campus housing will need to budget. But for students living off-campus, room and board fees are refigured into an off-campus maintenance estimate that does not appear on the Bursar's bill. This means food, lodging, books, and personal expenses are all indirect costs the off-campus student must meet by using smart budgeting and spending throughout the year.

Preparing for a Successful Life Off-Campus

The key to making a smooth transition to a successful life off-campus is to prepare mentally and financially for the fundamental changes that come with a life outside of the dorms.

  • Plan to pay rent on time: Before you start looking for apartments, you should recalculate your monthly plan to ensure the nine-month financial aid package you receive will last the entire 12-month calendar year. Also, think through where you will be over the next 12 months. Are you planning to travel abroad? Do you have an internship out of town? Plan in advance ways to meet your rent obligation if you are spending months away from the apartment you are renting.

  • Calculate your rent range in advance: Want to live near campus? Hoping to own a pet? Contemplating living alone? These are all quality-of-life considerations that will impact your rent price. Figuring out your finances in advance will help shape your apartment search and expectations. Make sure to think through the following:

    • Quickly calculate how much rent you can afford before checking apartment listings. You should seek apartments that cost as much as (or less than) nine months of on-campus housing.

    • Don't forget to account for possible living costs beyond rent: gas, electricity, water bill, trash fees, cable/phone/internet, etc.

    • Do you have enough money up front to pay a deposit and (possibly) first and last month's rent?

  • Furnishings: Do you need furniture like a bed, sofa, or kitchen table? What about kitchen utensils, plates, and silverware? These are all items that the student living off-campus must now provide for themselves. While it is possible to purchase all of these things pretty cheaply, remember to ask parents, older siblings, and peers for “donations” first.

  • Food: Once you have moved off-campus, you will be responsible for all of your food shopping and cooking. (UChicago does offer a dining hall meal plan for off-campus students but it is very small and not intended to be a primary food source.) Try to develop a few cooking skills—and a small cache of easy recipes— before you move off-campus. After you have moved and started doing your own food shopping, look online and in local papers for coupons and sales. Don't forget to comparison shop to take advantage of the best deals.

  • Budgeting time: You will need to make time for traveling to campus, cleaning your apartment, food shopping, meal planning and preparation once you move out of the residence halls. Be honest with yourself about how much work it takes to maintain a home while in school and budget the time for it.

  • Maintaining your social life: Once you move off-campus, the built-in socializing and campus involvement that comes with the House system and the dining halls is removed. You will probably need to make more of an effort to maintain your same level of involvement in campus activities and events. Be sure to stay involved with one or two student organizations to stay connected with the campus community.

Living Off-Campus