As a first-time or returning college student, you have two basic choices about your housing. You can either opt to live in the dorms, or you can get your own place off-campus. The benefits of the latter option can give you an academic experience that’s more enjoyable and fulfilling.
More Money in Your Pocket
Many apartments or other properties have rental prices that are cheaper than the cost of room and board in a dorm–visit this page to browse examples of current properties and rates. Additionally, colleges often tack on extra fees for on-campus residents, such as for parking passes. Meal plans, which mean you eat mostly what the school dining kitchens cook, usually are overpriced compared to food you could make at home, too. By living off campus, you’ll likely stretch your dollar. That might mean you have more money for other pursuits, or that you can reduce the amount of student debt you have to take on. With less debt, you’ll likely be in a more financially secure position after you graduate.
At most colleges, on-campus dorm housing is synonymous with relatively small rooms. In fact, a typical dorm room is just half the size of a regular bedroom. If you live in your own place, though, you’re no longer cramped into a cubby. You can decorate in freer ways that resonate with you, and it’s easier to organize what you have in a way that makes functional sense. You might find that the ability to stretch out a bit or close the door for privacy reduces roommate conflicts or reduces the amount of general stress you feel. That can make a big difference in your ability to focus on your classes and do well.
Any lease will identify some tenant no-nos, but generally speaking, having your own off-campus place leaves you with more freedom than you’d get in a dorm. For example, you can sleep or come home when you please or do your laundry without having to wait in line. Being able to do more of what you want fosters good self-expression, meaning it’s easier to find out or know who you are and be confident.
When you live in a college dorm, you are, by default, forced to interact with a specific demographic. Most of the people you know will be about your age, for example. Additionally, many of the individuals around you will be there because they must be, not because you enjoy their company. Forging real relationships can be tough in this context. Having your own place, by contrast, means you can spend time with a more diverse range of people, seeking out individuals who really want to be with you and who add flavor to your life.
In a dormitory, financial aid, residence life and other offices handle many "adult" tasks for you. For example, you usually don’t have to worry about paying your rent or utility bills, as the college serves as a middle man and does it for you out of your tuition. This setup is admittedly quite convenient, but it doesn’t teach you how to be responsible for yourself or give you experience managing your own affairs. Having your own place in this way makes you much more independent, typically offering the opportunity to establish a credit rating that will help you down the road.
In some ways, living off-campus can be good for your health. For instance, you might sleep better without parties down the hall or roommates moving around your space. Off-campus housing also can mean you don’t get sick as much, as you’re not forced to spend time in cramped quarters where germs are more easily spread. You also may be more likely to visit on-campus health providers if you live on-site, which limits your physician choices. Then there’s also the food and the dreaded "freshman 15" to consider. Having your own kitchen means you’ve got more control over what you eat, making it easier to keep calories low and have healthy, weight-fighting snacks on hand. The reduction in stress you might experience from having your own place also could translate to improvements in factors like blood pressure.
For some students, living on campus makes a lot of sense, and there are still many universities that require students to live in the dorms for at least their freshman year. Most students, however, do better if they have their own place, experiencing financial, social, physical and academic gains. Carefully compare your options before signing a lease and then claim a property that’s right for your college success today.