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Off-Campus Living & Neighborhood Relations

Living Off Campus

Your off-campus living experience will be a big step and can present some changes from on-campus residency. Plan ahead to ensure a seamless transition.

Off-Campus Living Module

We've created a 20-minute educational course that can help you better understand how to find housing, off-campus safety, tenant's rights and responsibilities and much more. 


As a commuting student, there are times you'll need to plan ahead or have a back-up plan. Here are some suggestions to keep in mind:

  • Allow yourself a 30-minute buffer when traveling to campus so you are not late to class because of traffic, parking or a train.
  • Identify alternate routes for your commute in case there's an issue on your regular route.
  • Pack meals or buy a Carolina Food Co. Voluntary Meal Plan.
  • Hang out on campus between classes to avoid driving back and forth from home multiple times a day.
  • Don’t let living off-campus stop you from being involved with campus activities! Be sure to take advantage of all USC has to offer you. Get involved and join at least one organization on campus to make connections.

Common Concerns and Responsibilities

Personal Vehicles

A permit is required for anyone using USC garages and lots. All vehicles using USC reserved spaces and lots should be registered with Parking Services

USC Shuttle Services

The Carolina Shuttle runs throughout the day during the fall and spring semesters. Shuttle schedules vary during summer, reading days and holidays.

Apartment Community Shuttles

Many apartment communities offer shuttles for residents. While apartment shuttles are a great option, they are not guaranteed so please have a backup option for transportation to campus.

Catch the COMET

The COMET is the public transportation system in and around the City of Columbia. The COMET’s fixed-route system offers quick and easy access to campus and the city, with stops at the university, downtown, Five Points, Vista, Cayce and West Columbia. For information and route schedules, visit

Other Modes of Transportation

Bicycles: All bicycles must be registered with Parking Services. Cyclists should always ride with the flow of traffic in the street. Bicycle racks can be found in convenient locations all across campus.

Mopeds: All mopeds must be registered with Parking Services. Mopeds have designated spaces in which they must park. Anyone under the age of 21 is required to wear a helmet. It is also illegal for more than one person to ride a moped unless it is designated for two people. You cannot drive or park on the sidewalk or secure your moped to a bicycle rack.

Motorcycles/Scooters: All motorcycles and scooters must be registered with Parking Services. These vehicles have designated spaces in which they must be parked. Parking on the sidewalk or securing your motorcycle or scooter to a bicycle rack is never allowed. Anyone under the age of 21 is required to wear a helmet.

Reserved Spaces and Lots

All vehicles using USC reserved spaces and lots must be registered with Parking Services. USC provides surface lots and parking garages for students varying in price. Garage and reserved spaces are reserved 24 hours a day, seven days a week, while general surface spaces are offered on a first come, first serve basis and tend to fill quickly.

The City of Columbia also provides street meter parking which you can pay with change or by downloading and using the Passport Parking app via your mobile device. For more information about parking pricing, parking maps and permitting, visit Parking and Transportation Services.

Apartment Communities

  • Most large communities have bulk trash receptacles for trash disposal. Some may not provide recycling services onsite. A list of on-campus and off-campus recycling dropoff sites is available below.
  • Check your lease or ask the community's leasing office for trash disposal instructions.
  • Don't leave trash outside your door or on your balcony; you could be fined.

Duplexes and Houses in Columbia Neighborhoods

  • The City of Columbia issues every residence a green roll cart for trash disposal. Call 803-545-3800 to request a roll cart or report a damaged cart.
  • Find out the designated trash, recycling and bulk trash (appliances, furniture, etc.) pickup days that apply to your residence.
  • Carts must be at the curb by 7:30 a.m. the morning of collection and removed by 7:30 p.m. on the day of collection.
  • Learn more about trash and recycling in the City of Columbia. 

On-Campus Recycling Dropoff Sites

Cans and Bottles

  • Capstone: 2 large blue collection dumpsters
  • Harper/Elliott-Maxcy: behind the building
  • Student Health Center: in the loading dock


  • Collection bin behind Preston

24-Hour Off-Campus Recycling Dropoff Sites

Vista Recycling Center
1398 Wayne Street, Columbia, SC 29201

Sonoco Recycling Center
1132 Idlewilde Boulevard, Columbia, SC 29201

Both locations accept the following items:

  • Aluminum cans, foil, trays and pie pans
  • Cans (aluminum, steel, aerosol)
  • Cardboard, telephone books, paperboard (e.g. cereal/shoe boxes)
  • Cartons (e.g., milk, juice, broth)
  • Glass bottles and jars (brown, green, clear)
  • Paper (magazines, newspaper and inserts, office paper, unwanted mail, paper bags, greeting cards, envelopes)
  • Plastic bottles, jars, jugs and other containers

Living off-campus requires budgeting and making smart decisions with your money. Here are some tips for saving money while living off-campus:

Home Tips

  • Set thermostat at 68°F or lower in the winter & 78° or higher in the summer
  • Check air filters monthly; change when dirty or according to manufacturer guidelines
  • Unplug appliances, lights, TVs, computers, etc. when not in use
  • Replace incandescent light bulbs with ENERGY STAR® certified LED bulbs
  • Wash your clothes on cold to avoid using the water heater
  • Turn off the lights when you are not using them

Transportation Tips

  • Inflate your tires to improve gas mileage
  • Ride the Comet city bus with the (free) freedom pass (pick one up at Parking Services or the Russell House)
  • Ride your bike, carpool or walk when possible to save on gas
  • Drive the speed limit to avoid unnecessary tickets

Food Tips

  • Purchase a meal plan (platinum, gold, silver or spur) to save money eating on campus
  • Use a refillable water bottle instead of buying drinks
  • Pack meals instead of eating out
  • Plan your meals in advance and stick to a list while grocery shopping
  • Don’t shop hungry to avoid unnecessary purchases
  • Double the recipe while cooking and eat leftovers
  • Eat less meat and more less expensive proteins such as beans
  • Buy produce in season for significantly cheaper prices
  • In a bind? Visit the Gamecock Pantry for food at no cost to you.

Money/Spending Tips

  • Only use the ATMs of your bank or credit union
  • Buy generic medications, food, and products
  • Invite friends over instead of going out
  • Repair clothing instead of tossing it
  • Cancel unused memberships
  • Exercise more to stay healthier and prevent medical bills 

Want to create a budget or chat with a financial coach?

The Student Success Center Financial Literacy Program offers a college budget guide to help you get your spending on the right track, as well as complementary one-hour Moving Off-Campus consultations for students. Request a consultation »


Carolina ALERT

Sign up to receive notifications from Carolina ALERT, the university’s emergency notification system. Sign Up »

Fire Safety

The majority of household fires begin because of cooking. Remember to:

  • Always cook with a matching pot and lid
  • Never put water on a grease fire
  • Only use grills in designated distances away from your house or apartment
  • Always use surge protectors instead of extension cords
  • Never “daisy-chain” or “piggyback” cords together
  • Never leave candles burning unattended
  • Always clean out the lint catcher/dryer vent before drying clothes
  • Regularly water plants to prevent them from drying out and becoming hazardous
  • Know the nearest path to safety from every room in the house, and have a back-up plan in case that exit path is ever blocked

Smoke Detectors

The best way to prevent fires is to have a working smoke detector. SC Law requires landlords to provide smoke detectors in all rented spaces.

  • There should be a working detector in every bedroom and in the common living space
  • You should regularly check your detectors by pressing the “test” button. If you don’t hear beeping, it’s not working correctly. 
  • Your smoke detector batteries should be changed every six months

Fire Extinguishers

Know where the fire extinguisher is located and know how to use it.

Safety Resources

The university has a close working relationship with the many police jurisdictions that serve our community off-campus. Please contact the USCPD at 803-777-4215 if you need assistance identifying the police agency with primary jurisdiction in the area in which you live.

University of South Carolina Division of Law Enforcement and Safety provides a number of online resources to increase student, faculty and staff safety. USC is located in an urban environment in the heart of downtown Columbia. You can reduce the likelihood that you will be the victim of a crime by taking basic steps to protect yourself and your belongings.

Crime Map
Community Crime Map provides students, faculty and staff with online crime-mapping that identifies crime activity in the surrounding area. 

Rave Guardian Safety App
Download the RAVE Guardian Safety app, which can be used as a tool to alert USCPD or 911. It also allows you to provide the police anonymous tips, set a safety timer for yourself that will alert authorities if you fail to arrive at your destination and establish guardians to monitor your safety.

Carolina ALERT
Sign up to receive notifications from Carolina ALERT, the university’s emergency notification system. Sign Up »

Victim Services
The Division of Law Enforcement and Safety provides assistance to victims and witnesses of crime. Information and resources can be found at Victim Services.


Living Safely

If you see something suspicious or are the victim of a crime, immediately report it to the police by calling 911 or using the RAVE Guardian app.

Inside Your Home

  • Test smoke detectors every month.
  • Purchase renter’s insurance. It is not that expensive and may save you money in the event of an accident or burglary. For more information on coverage, requirements, and more, visit’s Renter’s Insurance Guide.
  • Know your roommate’s habits – you can only be as safe as they allow you to be.

Entrances and Doors

  • Keep your doors locked at all times – even when you are at home during the day.
  • Ask anyone you don’t know to see an ID before entering your home.
  • Keep the blinds or drapes closed when you are gone.
  • Use a peephole to determine who is knocking before you open the door. If you are still not sure, question the stranger through the door.

Outside Your Home

  • Have someone check on your place when you are out of town.
  • Get to know your neighbors in case of an emergency.
  • Never leave your key outside under a mat or in a place accessible to a stranger.
  • Never leave notes on your door that indicate you are away.
  • Lock your car, and don’t leave valuables in your vehicle.
  • Secure your bike, moped or scooter.
  • Don’t give money to people begging or hire people for door-to-door odd jobs.
  • Don’t walk alone at night. Travel in well-lit, heavily traveled areas in groups of three or more people.

Landlords and tenants have specific legal rights and responsibilities. Review SC's Residential Landlord and Tenant Act.

Tenant Responsibilities

  • Pay rent on the date it is due.
  • Do not harm the landlord’s property or disturb the other tenants.
  • Do your part to keep the unit safe and clean.
  • Be responsible for your guests’ actions.

Landlord Responsibilities

  • Comply with the requirements of applicable building and housing codes materially affecting health and safety.
  • Make all repairs and do whatever is reasonably necessary to put and keep the premises in a livable condition.
  • If you live in an apartment building, the landlord also has to keep all common areas, like stairs, hallways, yards and the parking lot, in a safe condition.

Legal Services

If you are a student at The University of South Carolina, you can meet with a lawyer through Student Legal Services at no additional cost to you. If you are having difficulties with your landlord or property manager and it cannot be remedied between the tenant and landlord, or if you need help navigating your lease, request an appointment for a consultation.

For more information on Landlord and Tenant Law, please visit one of the resources below:

This information was prepared to provide general information about the legal rights of tenants, it was not designed to serve as legal advice — which is the application of law to an individual’s specific circumstances. Although great measures have been taken to make sure this information is accurate and useful, we recommend that you contact Student Legal Services and speak with a lawyer about your specific situation.

Off-Campus Conduct

Columbia is a great city that o­ffers a wonderful quality of life for residents. As a member of the USC and Columbia communities, it is your responsibility to practice civility and be a good neighbor

The Student Code of Conduct applies to all students whether they live on- or o­ff-campus. Violating the law o­ff-campus can be a violation of the code. Students can receive consequences from both criminal court and USC for the same incident.


Behavior and Expectations for Off-Campus Students

As a student, you represent the core values of the University of South Carolina. Practice civility, live by the Carolinian Creed and be a good neighbor. Keep these expectations in mind to protect your standing with the university and your neighbors.

According to the City of Columbia Rental Property Ordinance, your landlord can lose their rental permit if more than 15 pts per year accrue on a property for violations such as noise, failure to maintain the structure, improper trash disposal, illegal parking, nuisance parties, lack of lawn care, indoor furniture outside, etc. The loss of a rental permit will result in the tenant(s) being evicted.

Introduce yourself. Put a face to a name and share contact information. Cooperate and show respect to police and your neighbors.

  • Don't ignore your neighbor.
  • Don't play loud music that can be heard outside your property. 
  • Don't park on the lawn, block driveways or block sidewalks.
  • Don't be rude, belligerent or lewd.

Educate yourself on the rules and keep your space maintained accordingly. Mow your lawn if you are responsible for yard upkeep. Pick up litter on your property and dispose of trash and recycling properly. Visit the trash and recycling page to learn more.

  • Don't damage or deface the property.
  • Don’t leave indoor furniture outdoors.
  • Don’t leave trash or recycling bins on the side of the road beyond collection day.

Keep the noise down. Noise complaints are the #1 reason the police are called. Notify your neighbors in advance and ask them to call you before calling the police. If you are attracting guests because they could “hear” your party, then your party is violating the noise ordinance.

  • Don't drink if you are under 21 or serve alcohol to minors.
  • Don’t let guests drive after drinking or let your party get out of your control.  You are liable for the actions of your guests and this type of behavior could result in sanctions from the Office of Student Conduct and criminal court.

Keep the doors and windows of your house and car locked at all times.

  • Don’t tempt thieves by leaving valuables in your home or car in plain sight.

Have a clear and open dialogue with your roommates about household chores and dividing up living costs. Draft a roommate contract to make sure everyone knows what to expect and is on the same page.

  • Don't ignore roommate conflict.
  • Don’t host loud gatherings in the shared space without speaking with your roommates first.

Discuss getting a pet with your roommates before doing so. Always walk your dog on a leash and clean up after your pet. Make sure your pet has the proper space to live comfortably. Make arrangements for someone to watch pets when you are away. Be considerate of your roommates’ allergies.

  • Don't have a pet if your housing is not pet-friendly.
  • Don't let pets roam unattended.
  • Don’t allow your dog to bark continuously.
  • Don't forget to pick up after your dog when walking in your neighborhood.

The Student Code of Conduct applies to all students, on- or o­ff-campus. Violating the law o­ff-campus can be a violation of this code. Students can receive consequences from both criminal court and USC for the same incident.



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