Office of Residential Life hosts off-campus housing resource fair, discusses options for students

The Office of Residential Life and Learning is pictured on Oct. 22, 2019. Ann Marie Burke / The Tufts Daily

Residential Life (ResLife) hosted an off-campus housing resource fair on Oct. 21. While first-years and sophomores are required to have on-campus housing, juniors and seniors are not guaranteed university housing and must either acquire on-campus housing with a high lottery number or search for off-campus options in the neighborhoods surrounding Tufts.

Angy Sosa, the assistant director for residential operations, said that the fair connected Tufts students with various groups that could help in the search for off-campus housing, including realtors and property management companies.

According to Sosa, a number of Tufts departments, including ResLife, the Financial Aid Office and the Office of Government and Community Relations also attended the fair. These groups provided resources and a university perspective to students seeking off-campus housing.

“The representative from the Office of Government and Community Relations was there to give students an idea of what living in a neighborhood is like, as opposed to living in a residential hall … while the financial aid representative informed students on how their financial aid package would potentially cover off-campus housing,” Sosa said.

Sosa said a big reason for the creation of her position a year ago was to help reduce the general stress of searching for off-campus housing and act as Tufts’ representative for students considering off-campus housing.

“I think there’s been a historical panic that’s been passed down from year to year,” Sosa said. “One of the things that me and my team have been trying to push out there is like, ‘Let’s calm down. Let’s make sure that everybody understands what they’re getting into before jumping into this.’”

Sosa said this panic leads many sophomores to sign a lease for their junior year early in the fall semester.

“A lot of times, one of the things that we’re seeing is our sophomores … come into their sophomore year prepared to sign leases right away,” Sosa said. “And that’s not something they should be doing.”

According to Sosa, the general policy of ResLife is to preach patience and caution to students seeking off-campus housing.

There are a number of reasons why students shouldn’t rush into signing leases, according to Sosa, one of which is because the process is a significant decision that is a new experience for many students. Furthermore, many landlords put pressure on students to sign a lease early on in the process.

“Landlord[s] will kind of say, ‘if you don’t sign this, I’m going to find someone else,’” Sosa said. “And that can be really stressful for a lot of people, and I think [that’s] because our students are panicked in ensuring that they have housing.”

According to Sosa, another reason students shouldn’t rush when it comes to signing a lease is that friendships frequently change in college. This could become problematic when a student signs a lease with a group with whom they are no longer close.

“I’ve run into several situations — both on campus and off campus — where relationships have changed within [a] group,” Sosa said. “So, you’ve signed the lease to live in the space with ‘x’ number of people, and your relationship is no longer the same, [or] you don’t get along with this group, but you’ve signed the lease for a year.”

According to Sosa, a significant reason why students panic about finding off-campus housing is because they think everyone else is locking into a house and they won’t have a place to live. While some sophomores do sign leases right away, many wait until later in the academic year before committing to signing a lease.

“I think a lot of people hear a lot of stories of everybody signing a lease right now,” Sosa said. “Not everybody is signing a lease right now.”

On the other hand, if a student knows that they’ve found the perfect place, there’s nothing wrong with signing the lease and locking in right away, according to Sosa.

“If you find the space that you’re like, ‘100%, this is it, the price is right, the location’s perfect, my parents are down, my friends are down, [and] we know we’re going to be best friends forever,’ by all means, if that’s how you if you feel comfortable doing that, go right ahead,” Sosa said.

According to an email from the Office of Financial Aid sent by Amy Piantedosi, a financial aid counselor, students who live off campus and are on financial aid will have their off-campus housing costs covered by their financial aid plan.

“If you live off-campus, your financial aid will be based upon the cost of the premium meal plan and the standard on-campus room rate,” according to an email statement from the Financial Aid Office. “You will not be charged for a room and you will likely choose a reduced, or no, meal plan.”

The email also gave recommendations to how students should budget their years off campus.

“In 2019-20, the premium meal plan and standard housing cost is $15,086. If you divide $15,086 by 9 months, it equals about $1675 per month. As long as you keep your monthly budget (rent, utilities and food, etc) to $1675 or less, it won’t cost you more to live off-campus than on,” the email said.

Henry Ross, a sophomore, signed a lease right away for an off-campus house for next year. Ross said the off-campus housing search was relatively stress-free for him.

“Start early,” Ross said. “[Units] go, especially if you want something different than like a three or four-person upstairs unit above a family with a small child.”