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Dorms vs. Off-Campus Housing

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So the school year is drawing to a close, and it's time to start figuring out next year's housing options. You might be an entering freshman or progressing into your next class year. Either way, you need to decide if you should live off-campus or on. Some schools require underclassmen – or even all of their students – to live on-campus, in which case the decision has already been made for you. For those who have the freedom to choose, however, there are a few things to consider.

Living in the Dorms

Dorms offer a unique way of living that, after college, may never be available to you again. Here are some of the pros of living in a dorm:
  • In most cases, you'll be in relatively close proximity to everything else on campus. Classes, student center, dining hall, library, etc: all these will probably be easy to access if you live on-campus.

  • Opportunities to socialize, from hanging out with your dorm-mates to more organized social events, will be numerous and convenient.
  • You shouldn't have to worry much about transportation unless you want to spend a lot of time off-campus. Even if your school is so large that you can't walk to everything, they'll usually have their own public transportation system to help you get around.

Off-Campus Housing

While there certainly are benefits to dorm life, some people just aren't comfortable there. They might be turned off by the fact that they don't have a kitchen, or maybe they just like the peace and quiet that having their own place could provide. That's why off-campus housing is an attractive option.

Off-campus housing can potentially be a cheaper alternative to being on-campus. However, this is by no means a guarantee. If you can share rent with two or more other people, you may be able make your cost of living significantly lower than the price of room and board on-campus. Conversely, if you go it alone to rent an apartment, you could end up making things much more expensive for yourself.

If you do decide to go off-campus, make sure you can count on the people you'll be living with. You don't want to end up in a situation where someone walks out on you and the rest of you are stuck with his or her share of the rent and utility bill. Also, remember that, unless you get a place within walking distance of school, you're going to have to figure out a means of transportation to and from campus.

TIP: Talk to off-campus and on-campus students from your school. See if they like their living situation and why they chose to be where they are. This might help you decide where to live.

Despite the risks, living off-campus offers even more freedom than you'd get from the dorms. At the same time, it is often a good transition to life after college, helping you figure out how to live on your own and deal with things like house maintenance, rent, and other bills.

Both on- and off-campus housing have their own benefits and drawbacks. It's up to you to weigh the pros and cons of each and figure out which offers you the best living situation.

Sean McClain  Posted by Sean McClain on June 29, 2010

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