For most college freshmen, the decision about where to live is relatively easy. Most campuses require first-year students to live on campus for the first semester and, in some cases, the full academic year. However, for sophomores, juniors, and seniors, the decision to live off campus can be difficult. There are complex pros and cons to living on campus vs. off campus, and the right decision for you depends on your interests and lifestyle.
Pros of Living On-Campus
Proximity to Campus - The most obvious benefit of living on campus is the proximity to activities. You are walking distance to a dining hall, the library, and your classes. If your friends want to get together at the drop of a hat, or there’s an event on campus, you’ll be able to get to it quickly.
Safety - Most college campuses are equipped with security guards, and many offer escort programs to ensure students get to their dorms safely at night. In addition, there are usually cameras outside of the dorms and entry to the building is always secure. Convenience - Living on campus also comes with a variety of amenities. Your room is furnished, and you’re free from the burden of paying monthly rent or utilities. In most cases, the common areas are cleaned regularly, especially if there are shared hallway bathrooms.
Cons of Living On-Campus
Rules and Lack of Control - Curfew, quiet hours, visiting hours, kitchen hours—there are a lot of rules in the college dorm. Failing to abide by the curfew and other rules can result in expulsion. You’ll have to adjust to your roommate’s living style and room temperature—most colleges don’t have individual thermostats in the dorm.
Shared Space and Distractions - For introverts, living in a dorm may prove particularly challenging. You’re not guaranteed peace and quiet, and you never know if your roommate will be a social butterfly who brings the party home. Resident socials combined with campus activities can make it difficult for the first-year student to focus on studies.
Pros of Living Off-Campus
Space and Privacy - Whether you rent your own apartment or a room in a home, you’ll almost certainly have more space in an off-campus apartment than a dorm room! No more sharing a hallway bathroom or shower with dozens of other students. You’ll also enjoy more privacy and maybe even have the place to yourself sometimes.
Freedom - Living off campus comes with much more freedom—decorate on your terms, stay out as long as you want, and host guests whenever you like. When you live on your own, you're free to set your own rules, so long as you don’t disturb your neighbors.
Enjoy Home-Cooked Food - It’s very likely that your off-campus accommodation will come with a full kitchen, a rare luxury in most dorms. You can enjoy the benefit of preparing healthy home-cooked meals anytime you choose. You’ll also have a place to store food if you decide to buy in bulk.
Cons of Living Off-Campus
More Responsibility - With more freedom, comes more responsibility. As an off-campus student, you’ll need to make time to pay rent, utilities, internet, cable, and schedule maintenance if you experience problems with your apartment. When classes get stressful (and during finals, they do!), you still have to stay up-to-date on your bills.
Less Involvement On Campus - Most off-campus students who previously lived on campus feel a bit isolated. You’re less likely to run into friends on the quad or learn about campus events. It’s possible to stay connected to friends and experiences on campus, but you’ll need to make a bit more effort.
Pro or Con? Cost
Cost can be a pro or con depending on your living preferences. For example, if you live with a group of roommates in an off-campus apartment, it will probably cost less than living on campus. However, if you prefer to live with a single roommate off campus, or have an apartment to yourself, it will likely be more expensive than living in an on-campus dorm. In addition to living preferences, the local cost of living is also important to consider. In a Midwest college town, you’re likely to find more affordable off-campus options than New York or Los Angeles.
Should I Live On-Campus or Off-Campus?
When deciding to live off campus or on campus, the choice boils down to personal preference. Do you value privacy or proximity to classes? Do you mind paying your rent and utilities or would you prefer that everything is handled for you? Do you prefer to cook your food, or do you love the idea of eating prepared meals on campus? There is no right or wrong answer when choosing where to live in college. Fortunately, nothing is permanent, and if you don’t enjoy your living situation, you can always change it the following year.