Students Step off Campus

Local undergraduates have rental options beyond traditional dorms

April 19, 2013

Howard University student Stephanie Pace chose to live in an off-campus apartment during her senior year. It “gives me somewhat of a getaway,” she says.

College students can live crammed into a tiny dorm room, begging for personal space and fighting for first dibs on the hall bathroom. Or they can opt to lease an apartment on their own or with friends.

Many apartment buildings in the Washington area have a high concentration of local college students. Some, including The Enclave in College Park, Md., are privately run but market themselves specifically to students.

Marissa Masiello, a University of Maryland senior, chose to spend her senior year living in The Enclave at 8700 (8700 Baltimore Ave., College Park, Md.; 301-220-3143). The 369-unit apartment complex is not affiliated with the university but caters to students there.

“The space here is nice,” Masiello says. “I like how it’s not completely congested. By campus, the apartments seem to be closer together.”

For many students, especially upperclassmen, traditional on-campus dorm life just doesn’t cut it, Masiello says.

A building like The Enclave can be a transitional phase for many young people.

“Student housing is a stepping stone for students that are upperclassmen,” says Nisha Majmudar, business development manager at The Enclave.

Majmudar says most residents are juniors and seniors who are looking to upgrade from the traditional dorm experience but are not yet ready for a grown-up apartment.

“After they graduate, students end up moving into an apartment that’s more like a traditional apartment,” Majmudar says.

The building asks prospective renters to show their student ID to confirm that they are enrolled in school. Requirements for residency also include a background check, a credit check and, for those under 23, the signature of a parent or other guarantor.

Even leases are student-friendly. Individual leases mean residents are only responsible for their own contract. So while three or four people may share a suite, students are not liable for any roommates who are late on rent.

The Enclave, which is less than a mile from U-Md.’s College Park campus, also offers shuttle service from its front entrance to campus.

The building has adopted many measures that you’d find in dorm life. The building uses key fobs and night guards as security measures for residents. Maintenance services are a part of the rent, along with basic cable.

Even the social life mirrors on-campus life.

“We do a lot of stuff to encourage interaction,” Majmudar says. “We also have study lounges, a fitness center and a lot of different areas in the building where you can connect with other residents.”

Although most residents are undergrads, The Enclave doesn’t limit its residents strictly to younger students, so long as they have some university affiliation.

“We have students that are in the transitional phase as well, who just got their first job,” Majmudar says. “We also have graduate students and research assistants.”

While The Enclave isn’t affiliated with a university, it advertises heavily to students at the University of Maryland, Howard University and local community colleges.

The Next Step

Of course, there are plenty of traditional apartment buildings that appeal to college students — especially those close to campus. Many students seek out places that have a high concentration of their classmates, replicating the dorm experience but off campus.

“Living off campus gives me somewhat of a getaway,” says Stephanie Pace, 21. “When I don’t want to be on campus, I can always come home, and the commute is not bad at all.”

The Howard University student lives in 247-unit The Avondale Overlook (2400 Queens Chapel Road, Hyattsville, Md.; 301-779-3555).

While The Avondale is very popular among college students from Howard, U-Md. and Catholic University, the building leases to anyone who qualifies.

Residency requirements include a background check, a $50 application fee, two forms of ID and four to six current, consecutive pay stubs. However, since students may not have pay stubs, they’re offered different options to qualify to rent.

“We do take student loans,” says Devin Quinichett, a marketing specialist for The Avondale Overlook. “You’d need an in-detail summary to show the income and the tuition to take out the loan. We also take guarantors. They would also need the same documentation.”

Key fobs control The Avondale security door entrances. Regular maintenance can service an apartment within 24 hours, and emergency maintenance is always available. Utilities and cable are included in the rent.

Depending on what suite option a student chooses, the rent could be a little cheaper than the average dorm.

The Avondale offers studios through three bedrooms, some of which have a balcony view. Leases range from two to 12 months and square footage ranges from 720 to 1,350. Prices vary with specials but currently are from $715 to $1,465 a month.

Of course, it’s not all about saving money.

“The downfall of the dorms is having to show your ID when you enter and having to check in your company,” Pace says. “Living off campus in an apartment allows for more growth.” KYLEE CONEY (For Express)

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