In addition to all of the other decisions happening in your crazy-busy high school world as a graduating senior, there’s one choice that’s bigger than you think: Where you decide to live at college.
The question of living on campus or off campus for your freshman year might seem like a small issue at first, but it makes a huge impact on everything from your budget to academics and social life.
Let’s look at some pros and cons of on campus living during your first year at school.
Pro: Close to Everything
Whether your school offers classic dorms, apartment-style living, or something else entirely, the buildings generally sit on campus or at least nearby.
This means a short trip to your classes, the library, the student union, and all of the cool campus places to eat and hang out. Dorm-style options usually include built-in dining halls or cafeterias, while apartments give you a full kitchen for cooking.
Both styles of campus housing feature on-site amenities such as laundry facilities, fitness centers, lounges, and computer labs. When exhaustion sets in after a full day of studying, having all of these goodies close makes your life just that much easier.
Con: The question of cost
Compared to a typical apartment, living on campus probably costs a little more each month. Why? It’s the same reason that a two-liter bottle of pop costs more at a convenience store than at the grocery: Convenience costs money.
Before assuming that living on campus costs more, check all of the fine print about what’s included in your campus housing bill. At an apartment, you usually pay rent, but then you wrangle separate bills for electricity, gas, water, internet access, and even trash pickup. On campus, all of that gets rolled straight into the price.
If you decide to keep off campus costs down by living with a roommate, what happens when your roomie runs out of money and can’t pay their half of the rent? In that case, you need to find the money somewhere otherwise both of you are out the door. With on campus housing, you and your roommate have separate agreements with the university, so you’re protected from problems like that.
Pro: It’s Traditional
Lots of people consider living in a dorm to be the heart – or at least a part -- of the “classic” college experience, even if you only live there during the first year or two of your time at school.
Because so many people live so close together in traditional on campus housing, it makes a great place to casually get to know folks and make new friends. Whether you need players for a board game, another person for your beach volleyball team, or someone to split a pizza with, it’s easier to find people when you live on campus.
So, if this is the kind of experience you want, living in on campus housing probably makes the most sense. If you prefer more privacy and personal space, then off campus living will look tempting.
Con: Roomie Roulette
There’s a reason books like The Naked Roommate exist. Getting paired with a random stranger to spend a year living together in a small space can lead to some fascinating issues.
Roommate horror stories abound online, with examples ranging from little things like too-loud snoring to large-scale crises like, let’s say, differences in hygiene regimen. (Just let your imagination go.)
University housing departments know that bad things can happen between good people, so they usually have ways to room with a particular friend (provided you both agree to it) or they offer an interest-based roommate matching process.
There’s a lot to keep in mind as you get ready for college, but our college application checklist keeps you organized and on track. Download your free copy below!