By Mikaela Cohen

Paige Consoli, a marketing major from Johns Creek, Georgia, said when she transferred to the University of Georgia in January, she was extremely concerned with finding a place to live before the first day of classes.

At UGA most freshmen are required to live on-campus while upperclassmen are encouraged to live off-campus. Although off-campus choices include a range of apartments, houses and lofts, students are often locked in a race to find the best and most affordable options nearest campus.

Consoli found a sublease at Steeplechase Apartments beginning in January, where she only pays $300 per month for rent.

“Now, I have to turn around and find next year’s housing when I just found this year’s housing,” Consoli said. “Everyone that I meet has already gotten housing for the 2020-2021 school year.”

For students like her, the question is not only where to live, but how fast they can find it, which can lead to students signing a lease before they fully understand their best choices.

Andrew Carswell, a financial planning professor in the College of Family and Consumer Sciences at UGA, said there are major benefits to living on-campus versus off-campus. But he said proximity to campus should be a major consideration when deciding where to live off-campus.

Carswell said closeness to campus increases students’ grades and social interactions. The further a student lives off-campus the more problems can arise, he said.

When students make rash decisions about where to live, their grades, social life and campus involvement can be greatly affected. Carswell said living off-campus can affect how much students study, how much they engage in social interactions and how involved they are with campus activities.

Bushra Huque, an intended business major from Woodstock, Georgia, started her hunt for next year’s housing last August. She said she felt the pressure from UGA’s culture to move off-campus after her freshman year.

“I feel like everyone, by their second or third year, moves out and gets a house or something nearby,” said Huque. “It’s the painting of the culture. If everyone were to stay on campus, I would too. I’m just following the trend.”

By September, Huque had signed a lease at The Mark, a high-rise complex in downtown Athens where rent per month ranges from $840 to $1255, according to its website. The selling point for Huque was location because she is involved with on-campus activities.

As Carswell recommended, Huque picked her housing based on campus involvement and her social life. Huque said she didn’t want either one of those to decrease by moving off-campus.

Aside from location, Carswell said affordability should always be a major housing consideration. He said a major problem with off-campus housing is that it can cost a lot of money due to apartment amenities that don’t benefit students.

Whether the student is paying for rent themselves or getting assistance from their family, Carswell said “students shouldn’t get in over their heads.”

Mikaela Cohen is a journalism student at the University of Georgia. The reporting for this article was completed before the campus closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.