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Advice For Freshmen Living Off Campus at Columbia College Chicago

Advice For Freshmen Living Off Campus at Columbia College Chicago

Life in the dorms is a large experience for college students. Some schools actually make it a requirement for their freshmen to live on campus, but since Columbia College is a city campus our school gives their students an option. There are many freshman who choose to save money by living off campus. It is an intelligent choice to make budget wise, but it may cause you to have a slower adjustment to college compared to living on campus. You may struggle with traveling, understanding what the school has available to you, and social life. College is a huge transition, and I am here to give you advice on how to make that transition smoother!



The first things you are going to want to take note of are the ways you can get to class. When living off campus you will most likely be using the CTA buses and trains to get to class. Thankfully, if you are a full time Columbia College student your tuition has covered the cost of this type of transportation so you have unlimited rides throughout the semester. It is important to learn the routes and where every Columbia building is in comparison to each public to transportation.



For example: The Red Line will drop you off near the 33 building, and you can take the Harlem bus from the Green Line down to State and 16th Street instead of walking 20 minutes to the 1600 building. Understanding the quickest ways to get around campus early on will help you a great deal, and you will value this information once winter begins.


Tip: Use your first few weeks to explore the campus and walk through your schedule. Columbia is a bit harder since it is a down town campus and depending on the building, you may have quite a decent distance from one to another, so it is good to know what you are dealing with.

Once you have that down you are going to want to make sure you always leave early. It may sound ridiculous but if you plan to get to class a half an hour early you will always show up on time. Never underestimate the possibility of an outside factor making you a few minutes late especially with the CTA. Of course it is more than likely you will be a tad late one day out of the semester, but your professor will be more understanding if you are normally on time.

Understanding what the Columbia College Campus has to offer.

Because you don’t live on campus you may have to put in extra effort to keep yourself knowledgeable about what you have access to on campus regardless of the fact you do not reside in a dorm.


Fitness Center

The Fitness Center is located at 731 S. Plymouth Ct. It is paid for through your tuition’s activity fees and is open to all Columbia students. Columbia also provides Fitness Classes through the Fitness Studio. A list of the types of classes and when they take place may be found through this link.

Health Center

Also located at Plymouth is the Health Center which is available to all students with a current Columbia ID card and all expenses are covered through your tuition and fees.

Counseling Services: As part of the Health Center Columbia has sessions with a counselor available to all students. Ten free individual sessions per academic year are provided, but group therapy sessions are unlimited.



The Workroom

The Workroom is located in 916 S. Wabash Ave on the 3rd Floor, Room 301, and they are open Monday through Thursday from 10am – 5pm and Friday from 12pm – 5pm. The Workroom is especially helpful for art projects as they provide button makers, industrial sewing machines, foam core, construction paper, fabric, scissors, glue guns, a selection of scrap materials, and much more. The best part is that is all free to us!



Social life

Lack of a social life can make you feel as though you are behind schedule, especially at an art school. Many of our majors become well supported by networking through peers which can be a challenge when you are living off campus, but here are some great ways to make friends.

Making Friends

Remember that most people who come into Columbia want to make friends with everyone. They want to talk with you and find out who you are as an person and an artist. The first step to encourage your social life is to talk to everyone. Butt into conversations (of course with appropriate judgment). You can always suggest group studies! Homework and projects are more fun with people to work with, plus sharing your hatred or love for it can help begin a friendship. You can also suggest getting a group together to explore with.

Learning the city together.

Remember that you are in the city. I am sure that the majority of the students living on campus don’t know the area. It’s a time where a lot of students need to get familiar with the environment. While exploring, you can also find events to go to and invite others to tag along, especially events that are free or at a low cost to students. You can base your activities on your major or just finding new experiences.


An open mic is great to look out for, everyone likes music and many of them are free!
Just keep in mind you need to be careful where you choose to go and how late you are staying out. Not every area is the safest place to be and if you are not going to sleep over at a friend’s dorm, you don’t want to travel on your own too often.


The best place to focus on making friends in the beginning is through your classes. Students who are also in your major are going to be a great starting point, because more than likely the students in your required major classes will be the people you find easiest to relate to. Not to say that you shouldn’t look outside of your major. In all honesty the majority of the people I began to hang out with on a regular basis were different majors. These people I found through clubs, Gen Eds, and major school activities.

Important social events to go to.

Another way to make friends are through Columbia events and special activities that are created for incoming students. You are able to figure out many events by taking a look at this site here.


When you live off campus it is good to look up and take note of all the events that are happening the first few weeks of school. The majority of events are all specifically focused on welcoming new students and creating social opportunities for you. They are nice if you have time in between classes, especially since they usually provide free food!


New Student Convocation

New Student Convocation is a big event that takes place in Grant Park. It is technically a required event so it is safe to assume you won’t miss it. This large fair is where you will be welcomed into the school and get an opportunity to meet the other students in your department. Every year students are gathered for a speech from our president and to see a student service expo. This is featured along with live bands and other programs that the school has worked on to showcase its students and alumni.

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Some students aren’t as excited about this event as others, but I suggest you treat it as a great opportunity to meet people and begin friendships. Another great thing about this festival: they provide food and drink afterwards. So you have plenty of time to continue speaking with a potential friend and get to know someone!

During this time they will also have a club fair. All the clubs of Columbia College will have a booth set up for you to check out. The club leaders will be available for you to gain more information about any club you are interested in. Columbia has a ton of different clubs and organizations. While a full list is available on the school’s website, it is easier to figure out what you are interested in while the members are there to talk to you in person.



Clubs and Organizations

Columbia has everything from a sports club to a comedy club. There’s also MUFX and even a Whovian Society! Have no fear, because even if you don’t see anything you want to join you can always create your own! When you join a club or organization at Columbia you are thrown into a group of people who have similar interests as you. They are a great way to keep busy doing what you want with people you enjoy spending time with! You also higher your chances of being involved with shows and larger events like manifest.


Homecoming Dance!

I know dances sound lame after coming out of high school, but there’s plenty of opportunity to meet other new students when you attend Columbia’s homecoming dance! This is actually where I met my first long term friend, so don’t give up that opportunity!


Special Events for Commuters.

Finding other friends who are living off campus is helpful as well. There are actual events specifically for commuters, but I found the majority of mine through the mandatory First Semester Experience: New Student Commons class and activities. The bigger the class, the better.

Last Thoughts

Things may feel like they are going slow to begin with, but don’t get upset or discouraged. Remind yourself what you are doing at Columbia College. You are here because you have a passion and you are good at the art you chose! If you have to remind yourself every morning that you wake up, so be it. You will get where you want to be when you need to be there. Don’t be to stressed from it, everything will be okay!


What tips do you have for freshmen who live off campus at Columbia College Chicago? Feel free to comment below and share the article!
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