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The basics
Study abroad : Student Accommodation

Arranging off-campus housing

A guide for Canadians studying abroad and applying for off-campus

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Studying abroad can provide you not only with an education but with life experience which will help you on your way to adulthood. One of the major aspects of going to university is the experience it gives you in living independently, and for many students, this can be their very first time away from home. This may seem scary, but it needn’t be – our guide to off-campus housing for Canadian students should make it a doddle. 


Why should I opt for off-campus housing?

While on-campus accommodation can be convenient in terms of location, it can also be expensive and limiting for social development. Off-campus, you will interact with a more diverse range of people as well as, generally, saving on the cost thanks to a lack of in-house catering.


Not only will off-campus housing help hone your cooking skills and preserve your wallet, it will also provide you with a change of scenery. After all, living, eating, partying and studying all in the same place could get a little tiresome. As well, off-campus housing is usually available year-round, as opposed to just during term-time.


Living off-campus also provides you with a good basis of rental experience, if you opt for the private landlord or letting agent route, which will be handy when you finish your studies and need a reference in order to move into your next place as a non-student.


Where should I look?

Many institutions offer their own university-run off-campus housing which can be a reliable and safe option. Often, there are many developments in different areas, so you are not limited to just one or two choices.


Such accommodation can be found on individual university websites, but here is one example of the kind of thing you can expect in the UK, as well as some offered in the US.


https://www.canterbury.ac.uk/study-here/accommodation/accommodation.aspx (UK)


https://harrisburg.psu.edu/housing/off-campus-housing-listings (US)


Aside from this, you can also seek off-campus housing privately through student letting agencies in the area surrounding your institution, or even private landlords.


Such housing can be found online by searching for student lettings in the area, or even checking for classifieds in the local paper. Your institution may even recommend certain agents, while many run accommodation events to help students such as yourself find housing.


What documents will I need?

When you have received an offer from your chosen university, you are then able to apply for accommodation. This is usually done online and it is best to get in early to avoid disappointment. A good idea, then, would be to contact the institution and find out the exact time and date that applications open, so that you can make sure you get in early.


Generally, you will need to provide:

  • A copy of your Canadian passport
  • Your visa (if outside of the US)
  • Proof that you have been offered a place at your chosen institution
  • A completed tenancy agreement
  • The finance to pay for a deposit
  • For private lettings: someone who can act as your guarantor (essentially, an adult who can guarantee that you will pay your rent and be a respectable tenant)


What should I look out for?

Naturally, you need to approach private letting agents or landlords with slightly more caution than you would official university lettings. Private companies or landlords are more likely to try and take advantage of the fact that you are a student and perhaps not as knowledgeable as professionals, when it comes to the rental market.


While most will not, some will try and get you to pay too-high agency fees and deposits, so be careful to shop around to ensure that you do not get ripped off.


Additionally, if you are unsure about a contract or particular letting agent, you can seek the advice of your student union, who will often read through the contract for you and will have a prior knowledge of student letting agents in the area – this experienced opinion will help you to make much more informed decisions, and potentially save you from making any mistakes. If it seems too good to be true, it probably is.


Some agents will offer a bills package with their contract, meaning that on top of your basic rent, you can pay a certain amount which will then cover the cost of your bills so that you don’t have to worry about sorting this out yourself.


This can save time and effort but is often estimated far too highly, meaning that you will spend much more money than you need to. If you want to save money, organise bills yourself. This will also give you valuable experience of organising your own household for when you finish your studies.


Now that you know what to look out for and what you will need when applying for off-campus housing, you are much more likely to be comfortable, safe and happy. Putting down your roots can really help you focus on your studies – take heed of our advice and you will be well on your way!