The choice between a dorm and an apartment away from campus can be just as confusing as deciding which school to attend. How can you decide which is best for you?
Each offers its own unique perks and challenges and you should carefully weigh your options when choosing your home away from home. All in all, it’s important to take into consideration your preferences on the following main points when deciding whether living on campus or off-campus is right for you:
- Work and social commitment
Take some time to figure out your needs and think about the factors that have been most important to your academic success so far. Then decide what makes the most sense for you based on your individual preferences.
To help you weigh the differences, we’ve outlined the pros and cons of living on campus vs. living off-campus.
Living On Campus
Living on campus definitely has its benefits. You get to live among your fellow students and making it to class on time is as simple as walking across campus. Yet, there are downsides as well and while it may be the perfect living situation for many students, campus housing may not be right for you.
- All Inclusive: Students can expect to have a fully-furnished room with a bed, a dresser, and desk, including access to all other campus amenities. Utilities like internet, telephone, cable, electricity, and water are also included, and you aren’t responsible for the maintenance of shared areas like bathrooms or lounges.
- Housing Staff and Resources: Your RA (Resident Advisor/Assistant), Desk Assistants, and campus support staff exist to make your college experience easier. Residential Life staff often hosts events specifically for residents. These programs are put in place to help facilitate the connections you make through college.
- Making Connections: Living on campus, you have a stronger sense of community because you are surrounded by other students who are having the same experience. Plus, you’ll always have someone nearby to have lunch with!
- Access to Facilities: Student housing is often placed in the center of campus so you feel more connected with the college community and culture. Whether you’re headed for the dining hall, gym, library, or classroom – everything you need is likely just a few steps away!
- Meal Plan: With access to your school’s dining hall, meals are stress-free. You don’t have to worry about grocery shopping, cooking, or cleaning up after yourself. Having a meal plan can save you lots of valuable time and money.
- Added Security: Most colleges have security systems in place such as ID activated locks in residence halls and an on-campus police department. Students are expected to fill out a form for overnight guests, and the front desk staff ensures all safety measures are followed 24/7. Residence halls also have security cameras to monitor for any suspicious activity.
- Roommates and Other Residents: The roommate situation can turn sour quickly if there isn’t good communication. In order to keep from having roommate issues like cleanliness, noisiness, etc. you need to talk with them and/or your RA to resolve the issue.
- Limited Housing Options: Dorms are often organized based on age and year, sometimes even by gender – so you won’t be able to choose your roommate. Freshman housing is usually geared towards ensuring their success as a first-year student and may include certain resources within the building that other resident halls do not.
- Distractions: Having all of your social opportunities right next to your living space can make it difficult to find peace and quiet for study time. When you add in parties, loud neighbors, and roommates – you may find yourself struggling with dorm life.
- Privacy: Sharing a room means you won’t have any guaranteed alone time like you’re used to. Bathrooms in residence halls are often communal, so you may have to wait your turn to take a shower!
- Rules and Regulations: Living in a dorm means you have to follow the rules and regulations put in place by your campus, so you may not feel the “independence” that everyone looks forward to in college.
- The “College Bubble”: You may feel like you can never “get away.” Living and studying in the same area, especially a small, shared dorm room can increase your boredom or make you feel cramped if you don’t find ways to get off campus.
Finding an apartment off campus can be liberating. It gives you a break from college life but it also comes with more responsibilities and, possibly, extra cost. It’s important to consider all the costs and benefits of living off campus before renting an apartment.
- Stability: Some resident halls close during the summer or winter break and require students to move out. This can be very inconvenient for those who live in other states or who just don’t want to go home for the break. With your own apartment, you know the space is yours for the entirety of your lease.
- Extra space: Living off-campus, you won’t be required to have a roommate. An apartment is much quieter than a dorm, which makes it a great place to study or relax without distractions. Even a one bedroom apartment has more room to spread out than the average dorm which is a nice perk.
- More Independence: Dorm room living comes with strict codes of conduct enforced by resident advisors, surprise inspections, and possibly a curfew. One of the main perks of apartment living is that you can come, go, and do as you please in your space as long as you comply with the policies in your lease.
- Privacy: You won’t have to share your bathroom or shower with your floor! If you do need a roommate, you can choose someone based on your preferences, who fits in nicely with your lifestyle.
- Rental History: Having a rental history will make it easier to get a place after you graduate. Renting allows you to escape the “college bubble” and get real world experience. Your neighbors might be local families or young working professionals.
- Commute: The biggest con to living off-campus is the commute. This can take a huge toll on students, especially those who take early morning classes. And even when you think you have made it to school on time you still have to factor in the time it takes to find a parking spot, and the cost of parking permit fees.
- Isolation: Living off-campus, you might find yourself feeling a little isolated from your classmates as you probably won’t have many friends living in the same building. You may have to put in more effort to find out about activities happening on campus.
- More Responsibility: Independence comes with increased responsibility. It will be on you to set up and maintain your amenities like internet, telephone, cable, electricity, and water.
- Not All Inclusive: Unless you find an already furnished apartment, you’ll have to put up the cost of a bed, a dresser, and desk yourself. You will have to grocery shop, cook for yourself and clean up after yourself, too! The cleanliness of your space is up to you.
Weighing the Options
There is no right answer when it comes to deciding whether to live on or off-campus. Each option has its own set of pros and cons! You might consider living on campus for the first year to give yourself time to adjust, then choose to live off-campus for the rest of your university experience. For many students, this tends to be the best of both worlds!
Do your research, talk to other students, and calculate the cost difference of paying for a dorm and meal plan versus rent, transportation, and groceries. In the end, it’s a decision that comes down to personal preference. Fortunately, nothing is permanent, and if you don’t enjoy your living situation, you can always change it the following year.
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