Dear Parents of First-Year Students:
A few short weeks ago your daughter or son arrived at UVA for their first year. I hope your student is engaging in classes and activities, working through the expected adjustments that come with college life, and enjoying this new chapter in their life.
I am writing about one topic that always seems to arise much too early in the first semester: your student's housing decision for second year. For many years, external marketing efforts and word-of-mouth among students have created a false sense of urgency to sign a lease for off-Grounds housing. In truth, there is no shortage of available apartments in the Charlottesville area if a student decides to live off Grounds. The University also offers attractive housing options for upperclass students, and that process – which does not fully gear up until January for most housing areas – allows plenty of time for thoughtful decision-making.
The following are some important points for you to consider with your student:
- Advise your daughter/son not to sign an apartment lease until after consulting with you. Given the large financial commitment and the binding contract being formed, it is important for you to be involved. Review the lease with your daughter/son and ideally visit the apartment or house with them. Assess building condition and safety measures both inside and outside the building. Are deadbolts and smoke alarms in place? Clarify what is included in the rent. How much are utilities? Is there a fee for parking? For Wi-Fi? How much is the security deposit and what specific conditions will allow the landlord to retain it?
- Key questions for students include: With whom do I want to live? Where do I want to live? In our experience "who" is the most important question to answer. First-year students need time to build relationships, and someone who is a friend in September may not be the best choice for an apartment-mate come May. Students who live together also need to determine in advance how shared expenses (rent, utilities, etc.) will be split. Is the lease for the entire unit or by the person? Whose name(s) will be on the lease? Having one's name on the lease provides both legal protection and defined accountability. Does the lease provide for the landlord to seek full rent against only one individual if others default? These are critical questions often left unexplored by students.
- Students are always encouraged to consider on-Grounds housing as an option. In addition to proximity and a sense of community, students find many benefits to living on Grounds. An additional year of living on Grounds helps many second-year students develop maturity and perspective. On-Grounds housing provides a good balance between emerging independence and University support, since a Resident Staff member remains available to assist your student in residence, but now at a 1:65 Resident Advisor-to-resident ratio (versus a 1:24 ratio in first-year residence halls).
- If your student wants to study abroad and is living on Grounds in University housing, they can be accommodated for the absence, saving considerable money.
- Rising second-year students do not need to choose a room or apartment for most on-Grounds housing areas until January. This gives all of Winter Break to discuss the topic of housing with you and to reflect on this important decision. Please note that the application processes for Residential Colleges (including returning students) and Language Houses begin earlier, with deadlines in November.
- Remember, signing a lease with UVA is identical to signing an apartment lease – it is a binding, legal agreement.
- Above all, students (and parents) are advised to remain patient and not feel pressured to sign a lease in September. Unless your student has her/his heart set on one particular apartment or a single location, many choices will remain into the spring.
- The Comparison Guide: Deciding Where to Live Second Year provides a quick review of factors to consider in deciding whether to live on or off Grounds.
To help new students understand the housing process better, the University is hosting a Housing Information Session on Wednesday, Sept. 26, from 5:30 to 7 p.m. at Alumni Hall. Please encourage your student to attend so they can be better informed about this important decision. Your student will continue to receive information throughout the fall semester about the on-Grounds housing process for 2019-20.
In addition, if you plan to attend Family Weekend in late October, Housing Fairs for both on-Grounds and off-Grounds locations will take place on Friday, Oct. 26, between 11:30 a.m. and 4 p.m. in Newcomb Hall. You and your student will have an opportunity to talk with staff in the various upperclass housing areas on Grounds, and with representatives from several off-Grounds properties in the area.
The Housing website also offers a range of information and resources about on-Grounds housing options for returning undergraduates, along with contact information should you have questions that are not addressed on the website.
Allen W. Groves
University Dean of Students