Planning for college comes with a lot of decisions. Where will you go to school? What will you study? You’ll need to decide whether you want to live on campus, off-campus, or at home. Will you head to a classroom or opt for online classes? So many choices, but so little time!
But one of the most significant choices you can make has nothing at all to do with your education or career. Instead, it has everything to do with the quality of your life. Do you leave your beloved dog with your parents — or do you take it with you to college?
Okay, so maybe you don’t have a dog. Maybe you want one, or you have a totally different pet you’re hesitant to leave behind. What are you supposed to do?
It’s not an easy decision to make, but here are a few factors to consider.
Consider the Pet Policy
The pet policy of the place you choose to stay may answer the question for you. On-campus housing is unlikely to let you bring a pet, and even some off-campus properties will have policies prohibiting animals. Be sure to ask. This is not the kind of decision you want to avoid and then apologize for later.
If the place you’re staying does accept pets, be prepared to pay a potentially-non-refundable pet deposit for the privilege. You may also require a reference from your vet to prove you’re a responsible owner.
Consider Your Finances
Once you’ve factored in pet deposits, think about whether your college budget allows enough room for pet food, vet fees, and any other associated expenses. Leaving your pet at home with parents (if you have that option) might be more affordable in the long term. Of course, you’ll want to make sure your parents are on board with you leaving your pet behind.
Still want to take your pet with you — or even get a companion once you make it to college? Do your research and find out exactly how much it will cost. Dogs, for instance, require heartworm and flea treatments, with some breeds needing additional grooming. That’s on top of food costs and a crate. Cats may require kitty litter, food, and plenty of scratching posts to keep them off your curtains and furniture. Even smaller pocket pets such as hamsters will cost you money along the way.
Make sure you know exactly what you’re getting into before jumping in with both feet.
Choose an Apartment-Friendly Pet
The American Psychological Association found that 40% of students struggle with anxiety while another 36% struggle with depression. If having a pet will improve your mental health, an apartment-friendly pet might be ideal. Still, it’s important to pick the right pet, which can mean something a little bit different for every person.
While a dog might be an excellent companion, if you’re taking a full load of classes, you may want to consider how much time you’ll have available to take it for walks and see to its needs. Larger dogs and higher-energy breeds may not thrive cooped up all day.
Cats, on the other hand, are a bit more independent. Many are okay with lazing around all day at home while you’re at school. But, you’ll still need to factor in grooming, playtime, and bonding, even as you study to graduate.
Alternatively, you might opt to adopt an apartment-friendly pet instead. Fish, hamsters, lizards, turtles, and hermit crabs all make ideal options for small spaces, but they all require at least minimal care. You’ll want to think about their quality of life at home while you’re out earning your degree.
Consider the Advantages of Online Learning
If you want to keep your pet, consider distance learning options. Taking online classes could solve the problem of finding pet-friendly accommodations. This option could also make it easier for you to give your pet the attention it needs while still staying on top of your coursework. Online learning could solve many of these problems and help you have your pet and your education, too.
Of course, if you consider all these factors and just can’t manage to fit a pet in your life, there are other ways to enjoy their boost to your mental health without the complications of ownership. For instance, volunteering your free time at a local animal shelter can help you get your pet fix without the need to own one. You can even look for dog walking opportunities to earn a little extra cash while indulging in your love of animals.
With a little creative thinking, you can find a way to make room in your life for fun with animals. Even if it does mean just borrowing someone else’s from time to time while you dream of one day having your own.