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Living Off-Campus

The calculation to determine financial aid eligibility does not change when you transition from on-campus housing to off-campus housing. It is estimated that off-campus housing may cost as much as on-campus housing. Any financial aid that exceeds the balance due to William & Mary will be sent to you as a refund to assist you with off-campus living expenses. (Please note that if you live at home or with relatives, you will be considered a commuter student rather than a student who lives off campus).

Estimating Your Refund

Financial aid eligibility for continuing students is typically not determined until mid-late June. To determine your estimated refund to assist with off-campus expenses (assuming that the information submitted on the FAFSA for the upcoming year is similar to the current FAFSA on record), subtract the total amount of financial aid received from the cost of tuition and fees. The difference will give an estimate of the potential refund to assist with off-campus living expenses. See a refund example.

Some students may receive financial aid that is less than their tuition and fees. In this case, the student would not anticipate a refund to assist with living expenses off-campus.

Budgeting for a Refund

Student Accounts distributes refunds on the first day of classes for the fall and spring semesters. If a refund is distributed, that money should be budgeted to ensure that it lasts for the duration of time between financial aid disbursements. For example, if a refund is for $2,000 and there are four months in the spring semester, an average of $500/month should be allotted to make sure living expenses don't outpace funding. Setting up a budget at the beginning of the semester will help determine if additional funding (students loans, part-time employment, etc.) needs to be pursued.

Eligibility for Additional Funding

If a student has a housing contract or a lease greater than the housing amount in the Cost of Attendance consideration, they will not be offered additional W&M grant funds to cover that cost. However, a student may request consideration for a Cost of Attendance increase based on a provided lease or student bill with higher housing costs. This request may result in additional student loan eligibility.

Refund Example

In this example, both students receive $36,500 in financial aid (loans, grants, scholarships, etc.). The examples review an annual award and Cost of Attendance that spans the nine-month fall/spring semesters.

On-Campus Student
Example refund for an on-campus student

Student Bill/Line Items & Aid


Tuition & Fees






Total Costs


Total Financial Aid


Net Difference Between Cost and Aid $0

This student would get $0 refunded as all financial aid has gone towards the student bill.

Off-Campus Student
Example refund for an off-campus student

Student Bill/Line Items & Aid


Tuition & Fees


Total Cost


Total Financial Aid


Net Difference Between Cost and Aid $13,500

This student would get $13,500 refunded to assist with off-campus living costs.

Although the calculation for determining financial aid doesn't change when a student moves off-campus, financial aid eligibility is determined annually. Changes in the year-to-year FAFSA filing may impact the eligibility for financial aid (i.e., increased income, assets, changes to household size, etc.). If your financial aid eligibility changes, it will be due to changes reported on the FAFSA, not because of the decision to move off-campus.

Additional Tips and Considerations

Transitioning from on-campus housing to an off-campus residence is an exciting prospect, but it's essential to approach this decision thoughtfully and with careful consideration. Here are a few key points to ponder as you contemplate this transition:

  1. Financial Considerations: Moving off-campus often comes with financial implications beyond just rent. Take the time to assess your budget thoroughly, factoring in expenses such as utilities, groceries, transportation, and furnishings. It's crucial to ensure that your chosen living arrangement aligns with your financial means.

  2. Location, Location, Location: When exploring off-campus housing options, pay close attention to the location. Consider factors such as proximity to campus, public transportation availability, safety, and the surrounding amenities. Finding a balance between convenience and comfort is key.

  3. Roommate Dynamics: If you're considering living with roommates, it's essential to establish clear communication and expectations from the outset. Take the time to discuss preferences regarding cleanliness, shared expenses, and personal boundaries to foster a harmonious living environment.

  4. Legal Considerations: Before signing any lease agreements, be sure to review the terms and conditions carefully. Understand your rights and responsibilities as a tenant, and don't hesitate to seek clarification or legal advice if needed.

  5. Community Engagement: Moving off-campus provides an excellent opportunity to engage more deeply with the local community. Explore nearby businesses, cultural events, and recreational activities to enrich your college experience beyond the confines of campus.