On vs. Off-Campus Housing | 08.14.13

Posted in College Life By Student Loan Network Staff

Girl Pondering College Housing Options

With the fall semester of college starting up in a few weeks, college students are working towards finalizing their housing situation for the upcoming year. Unfortunately, you’re running out of time to answer the looming question: “Do I want to live on campus or off campus?” To help you to answer this question, we’ve weighed some of the crucial factors to consider while making this decision.

RAs, Rules, and Security

One of the first things that comes to mind about off-campus housing is the absence of resident assistants (RAs) and other members of residential life, and thus, the absence of rules. However, there is more to the story. While RAs serve as a form of law enforcement, they can also be a friend, mentor, and organizer of community events. In addition, the absence of RAs and desk assistants can result in lower levels of security. While many colleges are located in safe areas, this could be a relevant factor if your school isn’t located in the best area. On the other hand, living in an off-campus apartment will give you your first full experience of freedom, and with that, a strong sense of responsibility. Also, the absence of RAs means that your apartment could easily become the choice hangout spot for you and your friends.

Cooking and Cleaning

Living in a college dorm is kind of like living with really bad maid service. The communal bathrooms and hallways will probably be cleaned a few times a week, and you can call a custodian if, let’s say, your toilet explodes – and yes, this did actually happen to a friend of mine, but that’s a story for another day. In addition, you will probably choose to sign up for a meal plan, thus choosing to avoid cooking at the expense of sub-par food. On the flipside, living off campus will mean doing most of your own cooking and cleaning, but chances are that your cooking will be much better than the food in your cafeteria.

Community and Proximity to Class

Living on campus will leave you much closer to your classes and cafeteria, but also much closer to your school community. It’s much easier to stop by your friend’s room when they live right across the hall from you, and living on campus will make it much easier to stay aware of events going on at school. On the other hand, having an off-campus apartment will make it much easier to meet people outside your school community. In addition, perhaps one of the greatest benefits of off-campus housing is the privacy that comes with it. Sharing a room with one or two friends in on-campus housing can be great, but you will at times feel like you have no privacy. Living off campus will probably enable you to have your own room, leaving you with a place to go if you want to be by yourself for a while.

Living Expenses

Living expenses will obviously vary depending on where you live, but living off campus is generally cheaper than living on campus. The on-campus living fee typically covers your water and electric bill, along with cable and internet access, meaning that an assumed cost for each is already added into your bill. Off-campus rent, however, does not generally include any of these. As a result, if you are a fast shower taker and don’t need cable, this could work out very well for you. Convenience is another factor to consider. Living on campus will generally require you to pay one or two bills each semester, compared to the rent, internet, and cable bills that are paid on a monthly basis for off-campus living. Furthermore, keep in mind that loans for college can be applied to any college living situation, so consider taking out a private student loan if your living expenses are overwhelming.

Deciding between the two ultimately comes down to personal preference. I would recommend living on campus during your freshman year, and moving off campus by senior year, but the choice is up to you. Living off campus will mean more responsibility and independence, while living on campus will probably leave you closer to your school community and be slightly less responsibility.

Now that you’ve heard our input, we’d love to hear from you. What are your thoughts on these college living options?

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