By Holly Simpson
Every year, a few Haverford students decide to leave the dorms and try living in housing areas surrounding campus. While the number of students living off-campus is not large, just 16 people last year, they live in a variety of different places for a variety of different reasons.
Living off-campus has its advantages and disadvantages. Candy Koh HC ’10 lives in an apartment near Bryn Mawr, and says that she moved off campus because she wanted to be able to cook her own food and have her own space. She says that her dorm freshmen year “was pretty terrible—and it got really noisy at odd hours.” Koh ate mostly micro-waved food that her mother sent her during her freshman year on campus.
She explains, “I can be social, but sometimes after a long day I like to retreat to my own space.” Living off-campus allows her to do this in ways that even HCA cannot.
However, she also says that living off-campus can get lonely. “People are so far away. Like if you’re sick, you are pretty much alone—there is no hall mate to stop by.”
Other students also said living off-campus can be hard in terms of staying in touch with friends. Dan Cianci, a sophomore who lives at home in Havertown, explains, “You’re not, obviously, on campus, so if someone calls you up and says, ‘hey, let’s hang out’, you have to have a car and be able to get there.” He says that despite the fact that he lives only seven minutes away, those are still seven minutes between him and campus.
Melissa McCartney HC ’09 lives a block away from campus and agrees with Cianci’s prespective.
“I would say probably five times a week I see someone who’s like, ‘I haven’t seen you in forever.’” Getting back on campus to do work or attend social events can also be challenging. McCartney says, “If you don’t put any effort into dragging yourself over here at ten at night, you’re not around.” Koh noted that she sometimes will not remember about the social events that become such a big deal for people living in the dorms, such as dances like Screw Your Roommate.
Cathy Fong, a junior who lives in Manayunk but will soon be moving to Bryn Mawr, said that she moved off-campus because she had been away for Haverford for two years and “coming back and living on-campus felt like a regression. The party scene doesn’t interest me anymore, and at best, dorm life is distracting.”
She felt that living on-campus would be a regression because she is very financially independent of her parents, paying her own rent, bills, and car payments, and doing her own taxes. She also fills out the various financial forms necessary for college. Living off-campus allows her to have her own space and feel more independent. She also has a queen-size bed, something you can’t get in dorms.
She said that one disadvantage of living off-campus is that her current house is 20-25 minutes away. “I don’t have time to run home to eat and then come back for the next class. When I leave the house in the morning, I leave super-prepared because I know I won’t have time to go home and change out of pajamas, and then run to work or an appointment or something. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing.” She said that one thing she does regret is not being able to take naps during the day. Her house is just too far away for that.
Students living off-campus say it is a good way to get in touch with life outside the bubble walls. McCartney comments that she gets into Philadelphia and the area surrounding Haverford much more, even though she still lives very close to campus. She explains, “You actually leave the house every day at least for classes, and then on your way back you think, what should I do? I think there’s an avoidance to leaving campus when you’re here, it’s almost like you’re stuck. But when you’re not, you’re like, ‘Okay!’”
Cianci agreed, saying, “There’s a whole other town, other place outside of Haverford.” All agree that one of the great things about living off-campus is that you get to experience just that—life off-campus.
There also may be economic advantages to living off-campus. Every year, each Haverford student pays $10,880 for room and board. Living at home or in an off-campus apartment can sometimes mitigate these costs. Cianci explains, “There’s a saving ten thousand dollars incentive, so I figure it’s worth trying.” McCartney also agreed, saying, “My sister lives in the area, so I live with my sister. It just works out financially for our family.” Melissa states the expense of housing as her main reason for moving. Koh, however, noted that when living off-campus students have to pay not only for rent but also for things like utilities and internet connection. She explained that when looking at the price of an apartment, these costs have to be considered as well.
The question of whether every student should consider living off-campus arises when talking to Koh, Cianci, Fong and McCartney. None of the students said they would recommend it for everyone, because it can be hard socially. However, they also said there are reasons to try it if you think it would be good for you.
Fong explains, “It’s certainly not for everyone. For some people, the campus life is as integral as the academic aspect to one’s college experience. But yes, I recommend it — if you are at a different point in your life [fiscally and otherwise], then you might be ready to be in a different place as well.” Living off-campus can also be a good way to get a different perspective of the Haverford community.
McCartney says, “There’s also something to be said for getting out there and into the world, and being out there, and being done enough with college to say, ‘I’m ready to live on my own.’” However, thinking about her senior year at Haverford, she also warned, “I think there’s something that’s going to be missed—by not being with your friends a lot.”
In the end, while all these students are having positive experiences with their moves to off-campus housing, all agree that it is an individual decision that must take into account social as well as financial factors, and may not be right for everybody.