Advice for rising seniors looking to escape IWU’s dorms

By Farah Bassyouni Oct 7, 2022

At Illinois Wesleyan, one of the biggest perks of being a senior is finally being allowed to live off-campus. With no more Office of Residential Life to hold your hand, here are some Do’s and Do Not’s of off-campus living. 

 DO start your search for senior housing early. Years in advance, sophomores are signing leases for some of the most coveted off-campus houses for their senior year. If you have your eye on a property, get your roommates and sign early because with housing being so limited you are most definitely not the only group looking at the house. 

DO find a good and property owner. Property owners are important when living off-campus. Lucky for IWU students, one leasing agency owns a lot of properties in the area. RJV Properties is focused on students and ready to help seniors get in the right place with a leasing agreement that’s easy to understand. If you are a part of the social scene at IWU, you’ve almost certainly been on one of their properties. 

DO NOT live far away from campus. Look at a map, set a half-mile radius around campus, and don’t consider any properties outside of that. IWU’s campus is small and convenient. Every student is used to leaving for class less than 10 minutes before it starts. You do not want to all of the sudden have to drive just to make it to class on time. 

There may be nice downtown apartments, but it is not worth it. Living off-campus but closeby is the greatest luxury. By living close you are preparing yourself for the winter. Walking home late at night in the cold from a lab is not something you will want to do. Another benefit is safety. Bloomington-Normal is a busy town and may not feel like the safest place for you to be walking alone late at night on the weekends. 

DO NOT forget to pay utilities. When living off-campus, paying rent is only half the battle. A disadvantage to no communal bathroom and a full size kitchen is utility costs. Most leasing agreements exclude utilities, which means it’s all on you regardless of rent. Unlike the monthly set rent amount, utilities vary based on how often you use them and how many people you live with. 

The electric, gas and water bills must be paid every month through your provider. Remember to sign up for an Ameren Electric and Nicor account and add paying those bills to your to-do list. Ask your landlord how, where and when to sign up for utilities.

DO take advantage of deals when furnishing your senior living space. To live in a dorm you need a Brita water filter and area rug, but furnishing a house or apartment is a lot more work. Using Goodwill and Facebook marketplace to buy furniture can help students save while creating the college house of their dreams. 

One person’s trash is another person’s treasure, especially when you are on a tight budget and starting with nothing. If you cannot steal your parents’ furniture these second hand places are a must. 

You may even find the perfect futon to put on your porch for house party seating. They are cheap, efficient and if you throw away your couch after a year, there is no harm or foul. Another pro-tip would be to sell your terrible, used couch to the juniors renting your house next year, they will think they are getting a deal.  

DO ask questions before signing a lease. Living off-campus is a huge adjustment. Senior year comes with job hunting and the doom of becoming a real adult. Living on your own should be a luxury not an added stressor. Landlords are paid to answer questions like, “Will I need to mow the lawn or shovel the driveway?” 

Current seniors love to talk about their incredible off-campus houses, so ask about meal plans and if they like their current location. Half of the battle can be solved by just using your resources. If all else fails, you can always rely on Gates to be your home for senior year.

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