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Off-campus housing seems to consistently grow in popularity. Sophomore year, you will see many students live in houses off campus (still a good amount will be on campus), but by junior and senior year most will live off campus. Many houses will have parties, and generally you will know what streets are known for having them. People are more willing to have parties because of the lenient environment off campus houses provide.
Generally, the off-campus houses that are closer to campus are more expensive, but still worth it. Many off-campus houses are closer to Southwest and Berkshire dining commons than many on-campus locations. If you live farther from campus, you do not necessarily need a car, but you are going to want someone in your house to have theirs at school. Parking can become inconvenient, but once you are there you figure out the system. Houses differ in size but generally are not in the best of condition. But to be honest—it's college! No one is expecting beautiful homes that are well furnished. Apartment complexes are available, too. You can find parties there, but it is also possible to find some peace and quiet, which seems to be a common theme all across UMass. If you want parties, there are often many to choose from, but if you don’t, you can find places to relax as well.