Living On-Campus vs. Off-Campus

The myOptions Team

For undergrads attending traditional, four-year schools, college is often the first real opportunity to live away from home. As you spread your wings and slowly ease into adulthood, you’ll definitely need a place to stay. While most universities provide dorms for their students, many schools also allow undergrads to live off-campus. Determining which option is best for you can be difficult.

Before we go any further, we do want to stress that this is a topic to consider more as an upperclassman than incoming freshman. In fact, a lot of schools mandate that freshmen reside on-campus for their first year because studies show that students who live on-campus are more likely to graduate than those who live off-campus. According to UCF Housing and Residence Life in the year 2011-2012, the department saw the first-year retention rate of students who lived on-campus jump up to 88.96 percent. Even if your particular college has no set housing requirements, we strongly suggest you to live in a dorm or campus apartment if possible. This is definitely the easiest (and best) way to acclimate/transition to college life.

For those of you struggling with the decision, here’s a brief breakdown of the positives and negatives of each option.

On-Campus Pro

There’s a lot to be said about living in a college dorm. To begin with, your residence hall (theoretically) places you smack dab in the middle of a vibrant campus life. You can’t help but feel like a part of the community when you’re living right in the center of it!

Dorm life= easy life. Living on-campus guarantees all sorts of facilities and amenities will be readily accessible: the gym, the dining hall, the lecture halls, and the library. The shorter the trip, the more likely you’ll make it to your early morning classes! Beyond the quick commute, living on campus also means you’re probably on the meal plan. You won’t have to worry about buying groceries or setting aside time to cook. Everything will be done for you, thanks to the dining services! Similarly, the school will also employ custodians to maintain the bathrooms and common areas of your dorm, and your room will already be wired to the campus Wi-Fi. And not only is it all set up and ready to go, but you don’t have to pay separate bills every month. You will pay for everything in advance!

Further, living on-campus housing puts you within arm’s reach (often quite literally) of numerous fellow undergrads. Yes, dorms are a fabulous way to meet people and cement friendships. There will always be someone around to hang out or grab lunch!

On-Campus Con

Of course, dorm life does have its drawbacks. While it’s fantastic that there are so many social outlets, that also means that it may be a struggle to focus or carve out some quiet time. For sure, it can be difficult to study cell division while your classmates are racing desk chairs in the hallway.

Additionally, space and privacy can be tough to come by. There’s a good chance you’ll be sharing a modestly sized room with several people. Bathrooms are typically communal which means you might find yourself fighting for shower time. And, simply put, it can be hard to escape your peers.

Off-Campus Pro

Living off-campus certainly holds some advantages as well! For starters, off-campus apartments will likely afford you more space and more privacy. You might find yourself feeling more comfortable if you’re able to spread out and have a bathroom that’s shared with a couple roommates. (As opposed to an entire floor of people). Plus, it’s quite likely that your apartment will be much quieter than a dorm making it a great place to study!

Renting your own apartment or house also allows you to escape the college bubble. Your neighbors might be local families or young working professionals. And you may discover that they are a welcome change (and maybe a tad more mature) than your collegiate counterparts. Living off-campus also affords you the opportunity to get a deeper taste of independence and adulthood. You will be running your own (mini) household. Your apartment also won’t have all the rules and regulations dictated by your college and/or dorm RAs (Resident Advisers).

Off-Campus Con

Depending on where you live off-campus, you might find yourself feeling isolated from your school and your peers. You likely won’t have as many friends residing around the corner or around the block. And, depending on how far away you live, your commute might affect how and when you choose to socialize.

Further, that taste of independence we mentioned above comes with increased demands and responsibilities. It will be up to you to take care of installing amenities such as cable or internet. You’ll have to keep up with paying the bills. Additionally, it will be your job to clean (not to mention furnish!) your new digs. Are you really prepared to start cooking for yourself on a regular basis? While we’re sure you have the skills to complete these tasks, don’t forget that they will also eat into your schedule.

Things to Keep in Mind

Another factor to consider is cost. To figure out whether it’s a pro or con (for either option), you’ll have to carefully compare the price of room and board with apartment/house rentals in the surrounding area. Don’t forget, your off-campus expenses will be greater than just your monthly rent. You will also have to calculate utilities (they aren’t always included), cable/internet, furniture, food, and so on. And, if you don’t think you’ll reside within walking distance of campus or an accessible school shuttle, you will need to determine transportation costs (whether for a car, public bus, etc). Of course, depending on where you attend school, all of these expenses might still end up being more affordable than living on campus. But you will definitely have to do the math.

When it comes to the on-campus or off-campus debate, there’s really no correct answer. As you can clearly see, each option comes with its own set of pros and cons. It’s a decision that truly comes down to individual needs and preferences. And, in the end, even if you come to regret your choice, you can at least bask in the realization that your housing situation is only temporary!

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