A bird's eye view of South Bethlehem shows the horizon with the tops of buildings.

Guide to living off campus

For undergraduate students at Lehigh the first two years are typically spent living on campus. Your first year is spent in a dorm with a roommate, and this classic dorm lifestyle is an essential piece of the college experience. People typically make their first college friends in their residence halls. You will run into them in the hallways, bathrooms and lounges. After the first year, the options for housing open up a little bit. You can stay in the classic college dorms, move into on-campus apartment-style living, or move into a large house up on South Mountain. When you become an upperclassman the options open up even more. Many students at this point chose to migrate off campus. The process can seem daunting and stressful at first, because unlike on-campus housing, there is more personal responsibility and the gentle hand-holding of the school is gone. They do still offer resources to guide the process, but it’s more of a hands-off approach. 

The most important advice I have to give is to PLAN AHEAD! This will make the process all the better. The time to start thinking about living off campus is the fall before you plan to move. At first it may seem absurdly early to be thinking about the next year, but that will give you some wiggle room, and the longer you wait, the harder it gets. This approach gives you the most options because if you are looking to live in a house, the best ones are the first to go.  An apartment close to campus is also a great option. There are a variety with multiple buildings and companies to lease from. The pros of a house include a porch, yard and ability to live with more people. With an apartment, you may get some amenities in your building like a gym and laundry room, and you can live alone or with a smaller number of people. Starting the process early is the best way you can set yourself up to have a relatively stress-free time. 

The second most important lesson would be to make sure you and your new roommates share the same priorities. When looking at houses, there are many things to consider. It can be tricky if one person is aiming for the lowest price point while others are looking for the best amenities or security. It also makes the process easier if your roommates are responsible because looking for a house takes work, and if one person is not pulling their weight it can create tension that could complicate living together. 

Another essential is to use your peers as resources. When you come to college you meet a lot of new people and it is beneficial to have a diverse network when looking for advice. Being friends with an upperclassman will pay off! Lehigh put together a list from students of their advice for living off campus. Every company with houses to lease from will list the best they have to offer online, but you want to talk to upperclassmen who have experience living off campus to see if they liked their house, or if there were any issues. Ask around to see who likes their landlord and who doesn't. This is where you will get the best recommendations. 

As someone who lives off campus, I can say that even though the process may feel like a lot, especially because you have to start so early, the pay off is there. The independence of living off campus is a nice stepping stone before joining the real world after graduation day. Off campus housing also gives you the opportunity to stay in the area over the summer whether you are working nearby or just want to spend some extra time on Lehigh’s gorgeous campus. With a good group of people and proper planning, you can set yourself up for a great year in an off-campus house or apartment!