Whether you live in a dorm room or off-campus, you’ll likely find that housing can be a large expense. Fortunately, both federal and private student loans can help you cover costs beyond your tuition, like housing costs. If you’re planning to live off-campus, it’s important to plan ahead to make sure your costs are covered and you receive the funds in time. Here’s what you need to know.
Use your student loan refund for off-campus housing
When your student loans are disbursed, they’ll go straight to your school where they’re applied to your billing account. When you live on-campus, your student loan funds are automatically applied to your room and board after tuition and school-related fees are covered. If you live off-campus, your school will send you the funds for room and board as a refund, either in the form of a check or direct deposit. You can then use that money to pay your landlord and other off-campus expenses directly.
Prepare to cover several months of rent without student loans
Your financial aid package, which includes student loans, is calculated based on a 9-month academic year and may not disburse in time to cover upfront costs, such as a security deposit or first-month’s rent. So, you will need to use money from other sources like a summer job to cover these costs. Also, off-campus housing may require you to pay rent for a full year, even when you don’t need housing for the summer. In that case, prepare to use extra savings to pay for the additional three months of rent or sublet your place if your landlord allows it.
Assess how much you need to live off campus
Living off-campus is more than just rent. When you live in the residential halls, you don’t need to worry about monthly and weekly expenses because your total cost of living on campus is covered. When you rent, however, you have to pay for utilities like water, electricity, gas, an internet connection, and even groceries. You also need to consider transportation costs to commute to and from school. Plus, unlike a dorm room, you may need to buy furniture. You can pay these expenses with a student loan, but make sure to factor them in when you’re thinking about what you can afford.
Be realistic and don’t borrow more than you need
If you plan to use student loans for rent, remember that every dollar you borrow is one that will have to be paid back with interest. It’s important to avoid taking on excessive debt and limit the amount you borrow to cover living expenses. Find ways to reduce your expenses and debt such as cutting costs by living with roommates and sharing household expenses, choosing an affordable place to live, planning and shopping for your meals to cut down on grocery bills, and returning any extra student loan funds that you don’t need.