Comparing off-campus Housing options

The Flats apartment complex is close to many shopping areas that students may find useful. However, transportation is needed to access campus. // Photo courtesy of The Flats Atlanta

Historically, Institute on-campus housing has been a central part of the college experience for many Tech students. However, as traditions change, more and more students are considering living off campus.

As students weigh their options, we, at the Technique, spoke to a few students about their housing experiences, each of which provided a different perspective. 

Here are interviews with Iman Emdad, fourth-year PUBP, and Madeleine Paulsen and Tymirra Smith, both HCI graduate students, on their off-campus arrangements.

Technique: Why did you choose to live off campus?

Emdad: There was literally no space left on campus. As someone who was trying to get on campus housing the previous year, I was pushed off the waitlist and told to re-apply when they opened the application to people who hadn’t lived in GT Housing during the pandemic. 

I really didn’t have much of a choice unless I wanted to live in one of the women’s dorms, or to pay extra and join an LLC like WST [Women, Science and Technology]. 

Paulsen: Living off campus helped me separate school from everything else going on in my life. I lived on campus for two years and had difficulty feeling like I could fully unwind.

For my mental health, I realized I needed to have a physical separation to help my mental one.

Smith: I chose to live off campus, in a suburb of Atlanta with my parents  because it was the most affordable option for me. 

My parents live close enough to Georgia Tech for the drive to not be too long.

Technique: Where have you lived off campus?

Emdad: I live at Atlantic Station.

Paulson: Broadstone Apartments in Midtown. I have lived in apartment-style housing with a shared living room and kitchen with one roommate.

I don’t think there are any undergrads living in the facility, it’s mostly adults with full-time jobs and a few grad students like myself.

Technique: Any tips to finding roommates?

Emdad: I got lucky with what the leasing office assigned me. I would say that it’s not so much who you live, with but your ability to communicate what you need … having a rich inner dimension to your life whether it’s hobbies or friends will help making college feel like home.

Paulsen: Be up front with your preferences — both your needs and your flaws. Owning who you are as a roommate will help manage expectations and start to create a safe space where they feel comfortable sharing more about themselves. 

Communicate with your roommate about how you are feeling — don’t be passive with how you express appreciation or frustration. People don’t know how you feel if you don’t tell them.

Technique: Do you have a favorite place you’ve lived during your time at Tech?

Emdad: Atlantic Station! Feels way more residential than the high-rises and you don’t get nearly as much noise/light pollution. 

Paulsen: I like where I am living now in Midtown because it is walking distance from campus. I can balance my focus and be intentional with my space. 

When I am walking to campus, I am in a school-centered mindset. When I am home, I am in a self-care mindset. 

Technique: What has been your experience commuting?

Emdad: It’s hard if you don’t have your own car. As someone lucky enough to have a car, I would say that I mostly enjoy commuting … so long as no one else is on the road! 

Atlanta traffic is horrendous, and you should mentally prepare yourself for rude drivers.

Paulsen: I really enjoy walking and getting a little exercise. During my walk, I usually call my family and check-in with what they are up to.

Smith: It can be really rough commuting, especially when it’s raining or there are lots of accidents which can double the length of the drive. So, I try to schedule my classes around rush hour so I can avoid it.

Technique: Pros to living on campus versus off?

Emdad: On-campus makes you feel like your campus is the whole world. It’s good for freshmen, and I would say integral to school spirit and culture. 

I have never felt more loved than in the dorm hall of my first year, and I feel like the physical proximity to my peers did that. 

Paulsen: Off campus, I feel I can more fully unplug from the academic side of things. I can go home and think more about taking care of myself outside classes, assignments and deadlines.

Smith: Your mom isn’t on campus, so that little bit of distance is always a plus. 

But on a more serious note, having your own space and also being able to easily walk to campus is a plus — especially if you have a lot of lab-based classes! It also makes it easier to make friends and connect with other students.

Technique: Cons of living on campus versus off?

Emdad: You don’t share the camaraderie of going to the same school. I would say that practically everyone is a stranger — which might be empowering if you want to walk around in your pajamas and feel confident that no one in your “real life” would see you. But I would say it gets balanced out by the number of things you get to do outside of school.

Paulsen: Not a whole lot here — sometimes I need to wake up earlier and manage my schedule to include travel time, but I am more used to this now.

Technique: What was the process of signing your lease like?

Emdad: Entirely online. After we toured, she walked us through signing a lease online, which was intimidating to read through as it’s super legally binding and can affect your credit score! But thankfully, we did get pre-approved. 

I am curious to see what that process looks like for low-income folks and if they have more trouble signing the lease.

Paulsen: The process was straightforward. The leasing office was very helpful in explaining the process and the components needed to get approved. 

My biggest advice is to ask questions when you are confused. Even if the person you are asking does not know the answer, they will likely know where to point you who can.

Making decisions about where to live can be challenging. A common thread between all three interviewees is taking note of your unique wants and needs and working from there. 

Asking for assistance from someone who’s been through the process is always a good idea, and can provide an extra level of understanding to help you get through the process. 

Ultimately, your living space will be where you carry out many of your day-to-day tasks, so make sure your decision is one that you are comfortable with for the long run.