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The Tufts Daily
Where you read it first | Saturday, April 20, 2024

Demystifying the daunting Tufts off-campus housing process

Students, faculty and staff weigh in on how sophomores can find housing off campus.

Graphic by Emma Selesnick.

Graphic by Emma Selesnick.

Editor’s note: Ian Lau is a former Executive Science Editor and Executive Photo Editor at the Daily. Lau was not involved in the writing or editing of this article.

For sophomores, the return to Tufts following summer is an exciting one. With a year of college behind them, Tufts sophomores come back well-acquainted with campus life and eager for a new year. This blissful bubble bursts within the first month of sophomore year, as they are confronted with a daunting task: finding an off-campus house to live in the next year.

Most upperclassmen choose to live off campus, and there is not enough space to house them all on campus.

“We normally house approximately 400 juniors and seniors in on-campus housing,” Angy Sosa, associate director of residential operations at Tufts, wrote in an email to the Daily. This is a small portion of the Tufts upperclassman population. In fact, there will be room for less than 12% of upperclassmen students to live on campus in the upcoming academic year.

Students wishing to study abroad for a portion of their junior year are not granted the opportunity to live on campus that school year.

“Students who plan to participate in education abroad the following academic year … will not receive a housing lottery number. They may select to be on a waitlist by contacting Residential Life,” Mala Ghosh, associate dean and senior director of global education at Tufts, wrote in an email to the Daily. The students who are placed on the waiting list have priority for on-campus housing in the event of a program cancellation.

Thus, if a student would like to study abroad, they will most likely have to search for off-campus housing.

“The main reason I wanted to live off campus is because I want to study abroad next year,” current sophomore Walid Nejmi said.

While many Tufts students are forced to look for off-campus housing out of necessity, living off campus also brings with it a set of desirable advantages.

“You have a little more autonomy and freedom … there are certain perks to owning your own kitchen, owning your own bathroom … having your own room as well,” Junior Ian Lau said about living off campus.

While these amenities bring a level of independence sought after by many Tufts students, these features come at a heightened cost. In many cases, living off campus is more expensive than living on campus.

A chief contributor to the greater cost of living off campus is steep rental prices, which landlords tend to increase each year.

“It’s honestly not as cost-efficient as living on campus. It really depends on who you live with, the amount of people you live with and … where you’re living,” Lau said.

Alongside high rent, many students are forced to navigate the complex system of brokers and landlords alone.

Four main avenues exist for students attempting to find off-campus housing: personal connections, a broker, online searching and subletting. Utilizing personal connections is ideal because by reaching out to graduating seniors, students are able to more easily connect with landlords and forgo expensive broker fees.

Unfortunately, many Tufts students find using a broker to be unavoidable in the search for off-campus housing. A broker functions as an intermediary between prospective tenants and landlords, facilitating transactions and completion of paperwork.

Using a broker can be an asset because they often have established contacts with landlords and can provide students with tours of a wider range of properties.

However, several sophomores expressed that the brokers they worked with were unhelpful.

“The brokers didn’t really know what each house included … they didn’t really help us,” Nejmi said.

Another way students find off-campus housing is by looking online. Many students use websites like Zillow and Apartments.com, but communicating with landlords through these websites can be notoriously difficult.

Lau expressed such sentiments, noting that he and several friends reached out to a landlord expressing interest in a house and were never responded to.

Even online, the costs can pile up. Nejmi also noted that while he tried to forgo the use of a broker by looking for properties on the internet, he was required to pay a broker’s fee anyway, as the property they found online had been listed by a broker.

Looking online can also be an overwhelming and confusing process.

“The pictures of the houses were not really appealing … so it was hard to make decisions about which house to visit,” Nejmi said.

Another widely used process for finding off-campus housing is subletting from other Tufts students. In fact, 4045% of Tufts undergraduates participate in full-year or semester-long global education programs. Many students who plan to study abroad, rather than sign a lease on an off-campus property for a full year, decide to sublease.

Subleasing is also a popular option for those choosing to live off campus over the summer months. Joanne Fan, a current junior, used Tufts housing Facebook groups to message other students in search of a sublet for the summer.

“Everyone was very nice and helpful,” Fan said.

For current sophomore students, the search for off-campus housing is an intimidating and stressful process. Amidst the competitive real estate market and pressure from brokers and peers, it can be easy to feel rushed into signing a lease.

“Sometimes you’re scrambling to secure a house and it might not even be the best option,” Lau said.

While it is easy to feel pressured to sign leases at the start of the academic year, many students do not sign leases until the second semester.

Lau said, “Sometimes, if you wait, better options honestly pop up.”

To prepare for their housing search, Sosa recommends students review the Tufts Off Campus Housing Canvas page where they can speak with peers and learn how to better navigate the process.

The Office of Residential Life and Learning will also be holding the first of many webinars on Oct. 18 at 6 p.m., where students will have the opportunity to learn about the off-campus housing process, hear from financial aid and ask questions.

Yet, for current sophomores, the most valuable advice can come from their peers.

“I know this is counterintuitive, but don’t stress out about it too much. It works out in the end,” Lau said. “Reach out to upperclassmen you know. Lean on them. Ask them for advice. They’ve been through it many times before.”