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Off-Campus Life helps students navigate Evanston and Chicago transitions

We hold ourselves out as the first point of contact for students moving off campus for anything they need.”

The office provides advice, how-to guides and educational programming 

Northwestern’s office of Off-Campus Life within the Division of Student Affairs helps students navigate the transition from campus to the Evanston or Chicago communities. 

Assistant Dean and Director of Strategy and Operations Jason McKean oversees the office of Off-Campus Life. He said the most significant thing the office provides is resources to help students deal with problems they may face after completing their two-year on-campus living requirement.   

“Anybody who's lived off campus for any period of time knows you never know what's going to happen to you,” McKean said. “You might have a pipe leak, you might have a door that doesn't work, you might have a neighbor who's really difficult to get along with.” 

McKean said he hopes students who work with the office get a “sense of” the skills they need and the resources available to themgetting-around5.jpg throughout their housing search and time off campus.   

One of the most helpful pages on the website, according to McKean, is a menu of how-to guides about different aspects of living outside of the residence halls. The guides include “How to Find Housing,” “How to Move Off Campus,” “How to be a Good Neighbor” and “How to Budget.” 

These resources were emphasized by McCormick senior Maya Garcia as a highlight of the Residential Life and Off-Campus Life event she attended.  

“A lot of times you're given brochures, and then they go into recycling, but being able to actually go through them together, I was like, 'Oh wow, I never considered this,’” Garcia said.  

Off-Campus Life also puts on a Housing Fair during the school year, giving students a comprehensive view of their options and what it means to live in Evanston or its neighboring communities. To give students a full picture of the resources available to them while living on their own, the Housing Fair and other educational events also featured two alderpersons from the Evanston City Council, the Evanston 311 Service, the Metropolitan Tenants Association, the Law Center for Better Housing and Open Communities, which is an advocate for affordable housing. 

Weinberg junior Joanne L. secured a summer lease after attending programming offered by Off-Campus Life office.  

“I didn't know that we had to have a sublease agreement or that it was important to have one before going into the presentation,” Joanne said. “But afterward, I was really glad that I listened to them.”  

Other than providing advice and educational programming, McKean said the office helps students understand their rights and responsibilities as tenants. While many students recommend living off campus due to the freedom it provides, “that doesn't mean that there aren’t still rules,” he said. 


“The harder part is some of those rules are going to be unwritten because you're running into a situation where you're living next to a neighbor who's had five bad experiences in a row of living next to students,” McKean said. 

Off-Campus Life previously hosted movie nights, barbeques and ice cream socials to foster community between Northwestern students and their community neighbors.  

McKean said he hopes to continue those events, alongside helping open channels of communication between student and non-student neighbors. 

While Off-Campus Life can’t get involved with leases and landlords, McKean says the office can provide specific advice and help solve problems. 

“When you’re negotiating with landlords or looking to solve a landlord/tenant issue, I can tell you who you can talk to and who will always be on your side,” McKean said. "We hold ourselves out as the first point of contact for students moving off campus for anything they need.”

Having the support and resources of Off-Campus Life during this transition is essential, according to Garcia 

“School and life are now separated,” Garcia said. “You're not just on campus all the time, so it's really crucial to make it the best situation possible.”