Students deserve more resources for finding off-campus housing

Sam Thielman

At the beginning of my freshman year, I dealt with all sorts of “beginning of freshman year” worries. I was nervous about classes and meeting new people. One thing I wasn’t nervous about was housing. Luckily, I had an older brother who was kind enough to prompt me to begin my housing search in September, but not all freshmen have helpful older siblings around. Thoughts about off-campus housing options are easily forgotten in the hubbub of beginning college. Even the people who do think to start looking quickly encounter a significant roadblock: Where do they start? 

Many students seeking off-campus living have never searched for a living space on their own before, and the hunt for housing can overwhelm them with factors such as utilities, amenities and geography. New Student Services recently launched a website intended to help students with issues like these, but it needs to be expanded and made more visible to students.

One of the first problems many new students confront is housing simply isn’t on anyone’s mind. New students have a lot to worry about during their first semester, and housing deadlines come up far sooner than people expect. By the time students start thinking about housing, many options may already be closed. 

“Many students don’t have the time or resources to come to Austin and properly research their housing options in time to get a good place to live,” said Alejandra Arevalo, a government and Latino studies sophomore. “That’s the main reason I decided to live on campus this year. It was just easier.” 

Some students are living on campus longer than they might want to because the off-campus housing search is too overwhelming. New Student Services could address this issue by sending out a campus-wide email near the start of each year. This would help put housing on students’ minds and provide some kind of plan for how to start the process.

An idea such as this is easy to spout off, but it’s incredibly difficult to implement without expanding the off-campus living branch of New Student Services. The current website provides students with information on many issues, such as the different types of housing available to them, and has a list of basic items students can ask about at the different places they’re considering. The site is difficult to find, however, and still has plenty of room to add details about things such as the leasing process. 

New Student Services only really began to focus on off-campus living last year, and while it’s come a long way in a relatively short time, these resources need to be expanded as quickly as possible to help this year’s freshmen along as lease signing season rapidly approaches.

New Student Services is heading in the right direction.

“We’re working on a few events right now for Longhorn Welcome that we hope will generate some buzz about (off-campus living), and we’ve got a few other things planned,” said Paige Muehlenkamp, off campus and outreach coordinator at New Student Services. 

Students can always benefit from more information, however, and the off-campus program needs to be expanded in order for this to happen. 

I was fortunate enough to have an older brother on campus who had already gone through this process, but for all the students on campus without an older sibling around, I hope to see their Longhorn family help them out instead.

Thielman is a history sophomore from Fort Worth.