Housing 101: Deciding Where to Live Next Fall

A collection of photos showcase the exteriors of various residential dorms and apartments on campus and the interior of a dorm room in Seaton Hall. “If you have any slight hesitation if you need to do this process, don’t make an assumption,” Mattson said about the room selection process (Photo illustration courtesy of Community Living).

Choosing where and who to live with on campus can be incredibly stressful. There are a lot of things to consider, especially if it’s your first time making the decision. According to the Manager of Housing Operations Andrew Mattson, the top three things to consider are: environmental, social and financial factors. 

Environmental

Community Living Assistant and Orlando junior, Dejanay Robinson, said she asks herself several questions before deciding where to live.

“What do I want my environment to be? Do I want to be in a place where there will be substances? Do I want to be in a very loud area? Do I want to be by myself most of the time? Do I want to be close to a bathroom? Do I want to be walking extremely far from campus?” Robinson said.

To Robinson, it’s important to “think about the environment you want around you.” 

For Mattson, the environmental factor goes beyond selecting a building.

“Don’t be so tied down to the building,” Mattson said. “Where you live should make you better as a student.”

Robinson said it’s important to think about your values when choosing the community you surround yourself with.

“If you value peace and quiet, then pick something or someone where you know you’re going to get that,” Robinson said. “Think about your lowest, your bad days; what is going to help you thrive when you’re at that low point?”

Social

To Robinson, values are equally important when choosing the people you want to live with. When considering possible roommates, Robinson said to think about you and your potential roommate’s schedules.

“If you know that you are going to be getting up at 5 a.m. and you have someone who is a light sleeper that won’t be getting up until 10 a.m. – don’t choose them as a roommate,” Robinson said.

For those struggling to find people to live with, Robinson said it’s important to “talk to the people around you.” She suggests starting with people who live in areas near you; the people in your hallway.

“If you can find someone where you guys have very similar schedules and you can discuss issues,” Robinson said. “Then I feel like you have a solid foundation right there.”

Mattson said a good place to start is to think about similar interests and values.

“Think about the people that you know, who have maybe a similar value system or interest where your values could align,” Mattson said. “You already have common ground that you could build a roommate relationship on even if you’re not going to be close friends.”

If students are still struggling to find people to live with, they can create a unique user profile through E-Rez Life that lists different roommate preferences, choosing what is visible to others.

“Having the form done is the critical piece,” Mattson said. “That extra information is key, especially if maybe you’re already a second-year or junior, and your answers from back when you were a first-year maybe aren’t true anymore.”

Financial

Director of Financial Aid, Trevor Markovich said it’s crucial to go through a “thorough thought process” about your housing budget.

“The biggest piece for students to think about is: what can they afford?” Markovich said. “Who is your support system? And what type of decision can you make as a group?”

Markovich said a good thing to think about is the past academic year and future tuition increases.

“If you struggled this year – let’s say for a freshman – to make those financial payments, adding $1,000 because your buddies want to live in the Octagon house probably isn’t a smart move,” Markovich said.

Mattson said it’s also important to think about expenses that don’t show up in your student account. He added that a common misconception is that apartments are cheaper than residence halls because you aren’t required to have a meal plan.

“If you’re in one of our residence halls, where a meal plan is required, both your food costs – at least those associated with your meal plan – and your housing are both on your student account, loans can be applied to both,” Mattson said. “Whereas if you’re in an apartment, your housing cost is increased, your food cost might be a little bit lower, it might come out in total about the same, but all of that is managing your cash flow.”

“The worst thing that can ever happen is we hear ‘I moved in an apartment so I can drop my meal plan, I can save a little bit of money’ but, now you don’t know where your next meal is coming from,” Markovich said. “I’m not saying that happens all the time, but those are the worst stories that we hear.”

This applies to students who choose to pay for a meal plan as well. The 21-swipe meal plan and 15-swipe meal plan only differ by $250, Markovich said.

“Make the decision about your meal plan based on your needs, not a money factor. Because the dollar amount is so minuscule, the last thing I want is a student burning through 15 meals and not being able to eat on the weekends” Markovich said.

Ultimately, for both Mattson and Markovich, the most important things for students to consider are budget and cash flow.

“The biggest advice that I would often give is to think about: Do I have cash flow while I’m at college? To manage cooking for myself and whatever other things I might care about,” Mattson said. “As a whole group: are you all prepared for that?”

Markovich said to think about wants versus needs when choosing between living in a residence hall or apartment. 

“I wish everybody could live in an apartment in Munger, but everyone’s financial situation is a little bit different, and you may have to live in the dorms for four years because that’s what you can afford,” Markovich said.

From a financial aid perspective, Markovich said your overall aid will not change unless you decide to live off campus in non-college housing.

Markovich said that you can live in an apartment, like Munger, which is still part of college housing even though it’s not close to campus “and your aid stays the same.” He added that students who choose “more expensive housing” can use certain loans to cover those costs.

“If their parents do a (Parent) PLUS loan, or the student does a private loan, those can be used to cover those cost differences,” Markovich said.

Final Piece of Advice

“(Make) sure you’re always talking to someone. Whether that be your CA and you’re getting advice from them personally or your current roommate,” Robinson said. “For people who have already been through this process, or really for anyone, you’ve had a roommate this year so you know what you like and don’t like from that experience.”

Mattson said that all E-Rez life questions can be directed to living@albion.edu and specific building questions can be directed to that building’s Area Coordinator.

Editor’s Note – 10:26 a.m. Friday, Feb. 16 Trevor Markovich was quoted as saying “You can live in Munger, though it’s not technically on campus, and your aid stays the same,” Markovich said. This is not entirely true and has been clarified. The original publication of this article was at 9 a.m. on Friday, Feb. 16.

About Bella Bakeman 51 Articles
Bella Bakeman is a junior from Berkley, Michigan. She is majoring in English with a Secondary Education Concentration and minoring in Political Science. Bella seeks to bring both joy and justice to her readers. She can be found with a camera around her neck, notebook in hand and pen in her pocket. Contact Bella via email at INB10@albion.edu.

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