Having a Pet While in College
Imagine having a furry friend by your side as you navigate your classes and new relationships in college. Sounds comforting, doesn’t it? While this is a nice idea, having a pet is a lot of work, and there are several things to consider before getting a dog in college: Can you be a full time student and also take care of a dog? Will you have enough time? Can you afford it?
That being said, if you’re committed, the benefits of having a dog in college, especially the mental health benefits, may outweigh the cons.
There are, of course, other pets to consider besides dogs—cats, iguanas, ferrets—each with their own considerations, but we will focus on canines. Here is what you need to know to help you decide if having a dog in college is right for you.
Is Having a Dog in College Even Allowed?
Unfortunately, if you’re living in the dorms or on campus, the answer is probably no. While there are a handful of colleges and universities that do allow pets, many do not allow bigger animals, like dogs. In general, getting a dog in college might not be the best idea during your freshman year.
There are logistical complications since most schools don’t allow pets in dorms, but there are also emotional factors. The first year of college is a transitional time, and taking care of a pet while you’re trying to adjust and adapt to a new schedule, increased independence, and burgeoning relationships may make the transition more difficult.
However, if having a pet on campus is really important to you, it may be something to consider as part of your college-decision process. When compiling your list of colleges you want to apply to, take the time to look into their pet policies. Here’s a selection of pet policies at certain colleges and universities:
• Lees-McRae College has pet-friendly housing options; students are allowed to apply to have their pets with them.
• Lehigh University allows the sororities and fraternities to have a cat or a dog, as long as they follow the strict guidelines and policies.
• The University of Northern Colorado has a few floors in one of their on-campus housing buildings designated for pet owners.
Of course, there are exceptions to these rules if a student needs a service animal or guide dog. And if your dog is a certified emotional support dog, this may make it easier to have your companion on campus.
We’ve addressed that it may not be possible to have a pet in a dorm, but what if you live off campus? While living in an apartment or house makes owning a dog in college much easier, there are still some things to consider before you jump into the pet-owner lifestyle.
First, find out what your building’s or landlord’s policy is on pets and if there are any fees involved. Second, you should have a conversation with your roommates to see if they’re cool with a four-legged addition, and make sure they aren’t allergic.
Third, consider the space that you have. Is it enough room for not only your pet, but all the stuff you’ll need for them—a bed, crate, toys, food, etc.
Make sure you’ve thought about everyone the decision might affect. In college, you are living and studying in close quarters with a large community of people and you should keep that in mind.
Time-management skills are crucial if you plan on having a dog in college. Dogs require a lot of time and attention as they need to be fed, exercised regularly, and taken outside to relieve themselves. If you plan on getting a puppy, you’ll have to dedicate even more time as you establish sleeping routines, housetrain, and start obedience training.
It’s important to ask yourself if you realistically have the time in between classes for your pet. You also may not be able to stay out too late at night unless you have an amazing roommate—or you can afford to pay someone to fill in for you (one of many costs you can read more about below).
It’s a good idea to think a few semesters ahead. If you have a lot of requirements left for your major, maybe try to get them out of the way before getting a dog so that you have more flexibility in your schedule down the road. Do you have a job or plan on getting one? This is an additional factor in your time management.
Long Term Commitment
While having a pet in college has its benefits, remember that your new little friend will not just be with you for college. Getting a dog is at least a 10-year commitment, so make sure you’re fully invested before diving in.
For the more immediate future, do you have dreams of studying abroad? If you do, have a plan in place for someone to watch your pet during the months you’re away. Check in with your parents if you plan on bringing the dog home during breaks or over the summer.
Costs of Owning a Pet
Dogs can be surprisingly expensive. They need food, toys, vaccines, grooming, vet visits, and possibly pet insurance. Your pup may get sick and require more intensive care and regular medication. Consider having an emergency fund set aside in case there’s ever a medical emergency.
There may also be extra housing fees, and a higher security deposit that your landlord will hold onto until you move out. Dog walkers, petsitters, and boarding kennels are all things to factor in if you plan to be away from home for extended periods of time.
Benefits of Owning a Pet
Now for the good stuff. There are many benefits to having a dog: They keep you active, lift your mood, and you always have a companion. Having a dog can help you make friends, since everyone will want to be stopping by to meet your new pal.
College students are reported to have high rates of stress, loneliness, anxiety, and depression. It’s pretty common knowledge that pets can help brighten your day and your mood, so a pet may be just what the doctor ordered.
One Way to Make the Decision Easier
Getting a dog in college is not a decision you should rush. Maybe offer to watch someone else’s pet first, so you can see if you’re ready for your own. Think it over, make a plan, and talk to everyone whom this decision could impact.
If you’re looking for ways to cut costs after college, you could expedite your loan repayment, or reduce your monthly payment by refinancing your student loans.
When you refinance your loans, you could qualify for a shorter loan term and a lower interest rate, which could help you get out of debt faster. So if you’d prefer to pay off your student loan debt before getting a furry friend, that could be a solution.
On the other hand, you could also consider refinancing to lengthen your repayment term in order to lower your monthly payments and free up room in your budget after graduation.
Keep in mind that extending your repayment term might mean paying more interest over the life of the loan. And if you refinance with a private lender, you’ll lose access to federal loan benefits like income-driven repayment plans, deferment, or forbearance.
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