Many college students—including myself—go through the process of trying to figure out if living off campus is a good idea. Most of these students will probably only pay attention to one factor: the costs. This certainly should be a large deciding factor, but it should not be the only one. I conducted some research and found plenty of pros and cons for on and off campus housing that should be utilized when deciding if moving off-campus is right for you.
Pros of On-Campus Living
Living on-campus contributes to a stronger sense of community because you are surrounded by other students. It is easier to make connections with people in your housing environment because you are all students, so you have at least one thing in common right away.
Faculty and support staff are also around should you need them.
You are physically closer to campus than an off-campus apartment; therefore, many students do not need a car while they are at school because everything they need is right there.
A shorter commute time is a big benefit because all you have to do is walk to another building on campus.
Dorm life also translates into easy living. It guarantees all sorts of facilities and amenities will be readily accessible–from the gym and the dining hall to your classrooms and the library.
Living on campus also means you are probably on the meal plan, so you will not have to worry about buying groceries or setting aside time to cook.
Similarly, the school will also provide people to maintain the common areas of your dorm, and your room will already be wired for the internet/Wi-Fi. Free toilet paper and washers/dryers, communal toasters, and microwaves are often offered as well.
Security guards are on duty almost all of the time and are available with a quick call.
Cons of On-Campus Living
Being constantly surrounded only by students may also be seen as a negative aspect of college. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but you will have to make an effort to get off campus/escape the college bubble to understand the broader community.
You may feel like you can never “get away.” Living and studying in the same area can increase your boredom or make you feel cramped if you do not find ways to get off campus.
Dorm life is rarely a solitary one. You are likely to be required to have a roommate, which may minimize the time you are able to have alone in your bedroom. For some people who are more private or introverted, this can become an issue.
Lastly, it can be a struggle to focus on work with so many distractions nearby.
Pros of Off-Campus Living
You may not need (or be required to have) a roommate. However, sharing expenses with trusted friends can cut costs and possibly get you a nicer or more conveniently located living space.
You may have more space—even a one-room efficiency apartment has more room than the average dorm and this is a very nice reward.
The set-up may better support your life and work outside of school. For example, if you have a family or an off-campus job, an off-campus apartment may make life easier.
You do not have to worry about your apartment building closing during the summer or other school breaks. You can also hold onto the apartment through the summer, even if you go home, as long as you pay the rent.
You will have more say over the rules at your apartment, whereas students do not have as much say in the dorm rules.
Living off campus can build one’s responsibility, as they are required to take care of themselves when living off campus.
Cons of Off-Campus Housing
A longer commute is required unless your apartment is right next to campus. Many apartments/houses dedicated to students can be found in close proximity, though these may come at a higher cost because of the convenience.
You may feel disconnected from campus life, although you may attend events, games, and other campus activities so you do not feel out of the loop.
Costs may be higher due to utilities, parking, commute costs, lowered grants received, etc.
An apartment complex may not be as flexible to student needs. If your loan check is late or you make less than expected at your part-time job, will they give you extra time to pay the rent? It is not likely, so it is best to know beforehand or have an emergency fund available.
Lastly, instead of paying one basic fee at the beginning of the school year you have to keep up with rent, utilities and other possible hidden fees.
Increased demands and responsibilities can also be negative. It will be up to you to take care of installing amenities such as cable or internet and possibly maintenance like mowing depending on your contract.
It may be your job to furnish your new rooms, which is likely to add up faster than expected.
You will be expected to prepare your own meals on a regular basis.
You will need a car that works well since frequent repairs could make it quite difficult to get to class.
Do not forget that all these tasks will eat into your schedule.
There is not one perfect answer for everyone. You must review the pros and cons, and decide what will fit your situation best. Good luck as you make this big decision!