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A guide to living off campus

When applicants are accepted to Boston College, most are granted at least three years of housing on the BC campus. And so, in any given semester, some 1,500 of Boston College’s 9,200 undergraduates—including 65 percent of juniors—live off campus, making their homes in apartments and houses in the surrounding communities of Newton, Brighton, and Brookline. (Almost all return to Chestnut Hill Campus housing during their senior year.)

The University offers a wide range of resources to make the transition to off-campus living seamless and the experience safe.

Sophomores who expect to be living off-campus during their third year should get to know the full-service Off-Campus Housing Website. Run by the Office of Residential Life, the site offers apartment listings from landlords and realty companies (all vetted by office staff) as well as a roommate finder application (on which students leaving for a semester abroad or for the summer can also post listings for subletters). It also includes a blog that regularly features interviews with students living off-campus, seasonal health and safety tips, guides such as “Spring Sublet FAQs,” and a number of resources and information on neighborhoods, utilities, and safety.

The overwhelming majority of off-campus students live within a mile of the main campus—in Brookline’s Cleveland Circle, full of restaurants and convenience stores; in the residential area between Lake Street and South Street in Brighton; and in homes and apartments adjacent to Middle and Upper Campus in Newton. These locations are all within walking distance to the school or the BC Shuttle Bus, which arrives every 10 to 15 minutes at each stop and operates from 7:00 a.m. to 2:00 a.m. seven days a week.

Before searching for apartments, students should “paint a picture of what you want your junior year to look like,” says Peter Kwiatek '10, assistant director of off-campus student living. Your student should determine if he or she is going to spend a semester abroad—or in some instances students file an appeal with the Office of Residential Life for a fourth year of housing.  

“Then think really carefully about who you want to live with,” says Kwiatek. Rather than sign a yearlong lease in the September of your sophomore year with classmates you’ve known only a few months, take the time to find a group of friends you want to live with, and then start looking for places together.

Each fall and spring, Residential Life hosts an off-campus housing fair, where students can meet with real estate agents. Last fall, 150 students attended the event; the spring fair takes place February 9, 2017.

Once you begin visiting apartments, “take it slow,” says Kwiatek. Landlords can be pushy, but don’t feel pressured to sign a lease quickly. Whether it’s October or it’s May, “the right time to sign a lease is after you’ve done your homework.” A few students even sign leases at the very end of August, days before classes begin. “We have a 100 percent success rate in finding students apartments,” says Kwiatek.

Kwiatek advises students taking tours of apartments to “look hard at the detail stuff—the doors, the locks. Do the windows shut properly? Flush the toilets, check the water pressure of the shower.” It’s also helpful to bring the Housing Code Checklist (available through the off-campus website), to ensure all aspects of the building meet the state’s Sanitary Code.

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Kwiatek’s “number one” recommendation? “If possible, talk to the current tenants. They are the ones who have nothing to gain or lose by telling you the truth.” Ask them about the landlord’s reliability: If something breaks, do they fix it? Do they drop in unannounced? How much do the tenants typically pay in utilities? Students are encouraged to keep the Office of Residential Life apprised of living conditions. If a complaint arrives, Kwiatek brings in the landlord and “lays out our standards andexpectations for all landlords that have Boston College students in their properties.”

Once students move off campus, Residential Life keeps them well connected to members of the Boston College community with regular events including a holiday decorating contest, and activities organized by the informal community-service group the Breakfast Club, such as post-game cleanups and scavenger hunts.

As an alumnus who lived off-campus, I can assure you that life just a short distance from campus is by no means a downgrade, and in fact offers many pleasant benefits. My roommates and I signed a lease on a large house just a 10-minute walk from campus at the end of April of our sophomore year. And while I missed the five-minute walk from my residence hall to classes and dining halls, my junior year on Radnor Road in Brighton—where fellow undergraduates lived on either side of our house and friendly nuns lived across the street—was one of the best experiences of my four years at Boston College. I enjoyed the independence, the proximity to the city, the balcony and backyard—and the necessity of learning to cook.

—Zachary Jason '11