College Life: Living in Dorms vs. Off-Campus

College Life

Spring semester is underway which means one thing: you’re most likely trying to figure out your living situation for the next school year. Should you stay on campus where you often have to wake up at 2 a.m. because some idiot made the fire alarm go off trying to microwave a Poptart? Or should you deal with having to go to sleep for dinner because rent is due tomorrow? I’ve been fortunate enough to get a taste of both and have realized that I don’t have a favorite because each option has its positive and negative features. There is no single answer that can suit everybody, and it all depends on what you’re willing to take on or deal without.

Living on campus:


  • You inherently develop a sense of community with other students and establish long-lasting friendships without having to go out of your way. There are countless events both in your residence hall and around campus that are free and only a couple minutes away. Living on campus is a fun experience that you won’t be able to come across again after graduating.
  • Most resources are made easily available to you for free. There is most likely a security guard up front at all times, maintenance people who keep the place nice and clean (don’t forget to thank them when you see them!), and nearby facilities such as the gym, student resource center, and dining halls. You don’t have to worry about buying furniture or toilet paper, and it’s just easier.
  • You are most likely within walking distance to all your classes which is super convenient when you accidentally sleep through your alarms and have three minutes to run to your midterm.
  • Nearby dining halls. Cooking can be hard and time-consuming when you’re adjusting to college life and weekly grocery trips are also a hassle, not to mention the limited fridge space doesn’t help.
  • There are no monthly bills or payments you have to worry about; why stack on something else to stress about in addition to all the work and responsibilities you’re already overwhelmed with?


  • Space and privacy are limited. Sharing a closet-sized room with a complete stranger is exciting at first until you realize you haven’t had any time by yourself and you have no where to store your half of your belongings.
  • There are a lot of sacrifices you must make to keep peace with your roommates. You must respect quiet hours and adjust to your roommate’s sleeping schedule, and bringing friends (and “friends”) over requires strategic planning and agreement.
  • You must also take into consideration the rules placed by the residence halls or your RA’s. These can vary from monthly mandatory RA meetings, not being able to bring your own furniture into your dorm rooms, or not being allowed to burn candles(if you’re into that kind of thing.) While you are living here it is not your space to have full control over.
  • You are stuck in a bubble and don’t really put in the effort to get out and explore outside of campus. There is more to life than your college community, and there are so many different places to see and people to meet that allow you to escape this bubble. It’s easy to forget that there is an outside world when you’re constantly involved on campus.
  • Communal bathrooms. Need I say more?

Living off campus:


  • You have much more freedom and are further introduced to adulthood, meaning you have complete agency over your living situation and no longer have to worry about your RA’s or residence hall’s rules. You earn more real-life experience and consequently become a more responsible person. Independence is fun and very rewarding if you know how to be responsible and discipline yourself!
  • If you have your own bedroom/apartment the privacy, space, and are able to do whatever you want whenever are great! There are no rules to how you want to decorate, where you want to store your belongings, etc. This space is 100% yours.
  • It is most likely cheaper to rent than to dorm. A year-long lease means you will also have a place to stay for the summer if you plan on staying to either take up an internship or job or enroll in summer classes.
  • You’re not required to pay for a meal plan and can cook for yourself. This is not only cheaper but also allows you to be more flexible with your diet: you can pick healthier foods and will actually know what ingredients are going into your meals for a change. You also won’t get tired of eating the same icky dining hall food every day.
  • You get to escape the crazy campus life for a little and meet people outside of university, whether it be your neighbors or other students and young professionals living nearby. You are exposed to other opportunities outside of school and are able to explore new places and points of interest. It is a really nice change from campus grounds.


  • You have much more freedom and are further introduced to adulthood, meaning there’s a longer list of responsibilities you are obligated to manage. You have to pay your rent and bills on time, you have to abide by your landlord’s leasing terms and maintain your place neat, and you have to buy your own toilet paper (and remember to restock before it runs out!)
  • Renting an apartment can be tricky. If you live in New York City apartments may only be in the market for ten minutes before they’re gone and you’re required to have a guarantor who makes at least 80 times the amount of rent in salary (this number can vary). You have to have all of your paperwork ready and understand how a lease works, which is challenging if you’ve never been exposed to this before.
  • While it is cheaper to rent you must account for other expenses such as furniture, household necessities, and groceries. You also have to keep track of these and budget wisely each month since you do still have to pay rent.
  • You are most likely living further away from campus and must commute to class every day, and you have to plan your day according to your commute ahead of time. It becomes harder to be as involved in extracurricular activities and campus life when you’re not actually on campus most of the time. It can also get lonely if you are living on your own or if your roommates are never home.


Any other suggestions you’d like to share from personal experience?

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