Dorm Room Vs. Off Campus Living
Most of us are familiar with the well-known expression, “There’s no place like home.” While this is certainly true, all of us leave home hopeful that college will become a comfortable “home away from home” where we eventually feel relaxed and at ease. While most colleges require freshman to live on campus in dormitory style living, as an upperclassman you may find the living options opening up to include off campus opportunities. When weighing the options—staying on campus with roommates or venturing into the surrounding community with housemates or an apartment rental—there are several important factors to keep in mind.
Cost. Often this is the bottom line factor, as college students are constantly looking for ways to save money. At first glance, living off campus appears to be the cheaper, wiser option, especially if you plan to split the rent with several friends. However, there are hidden costs that don’t always get figured in such as gas, electric, water and internet which are usually part of your total room and board fee when living on campus. In addition, costs of transportation must be added in as well. Living on campus generally helps you save money in this area as amenities such as the gym, library and even work opportunities are often conveniently located within walking distance. Sometimes when renting you’re required to sign a year-long lease whereas room and board is usually just for nine months. And don’t forget about the costs of furnishing an apartment and buying your own food. Financial experts advise that there is not always a significant difference between paying for a dorm and living off campus, so calculate carefully.
Personality. If you’re more introverted, you may especially appreciate the space and privacy of having your own living quarters. It can be beneficial to pick out who you want to live with, and this is not always possible when you live in the dorms. Having your own place may translate into more peace and quiet than you’d experience in the average dorm setting and this could contribute to better study habits. However, studies have shown that students who live on campus generally perform better academically, so this is something to consider as well. While living off campus may be more peaceful, it can also make social interactions more difficult to obtain. On campus living tends to build a unique sense of community that’s hard to come by. Relationships are built most easily when there is close proximity, and those who show up for class and then leave sometimes experience a sense of isolation, so if FOMO is a thing for you, you may want to stay closer to the hub of social activity.
Motivations/Values. One of the most significant factors to consider when deciding where you’ll lay your head down each night (as well as when making any number of other big decisions) is this: What are your highest values? What is your motivation? If you strongly value convenience and saving time, you may do best to remain on campus where everything is close by and you don’t have to haggle with a daily commute to and from class. Conversely, if you highly value having freedom and independence, you may be ready to take on the challenges of cooking your own food, paying your own monthly bills and setting up your own rules. Something to ask yourself is this: In wanting to live off campus am I trying to escape from anything? For example, an uncomfortable roommate situation you may need to work through? Or the restrictions that authority has placed on you that you’d rather buck than accept? On the flip side, is fear a motivator in making you stay where you are? For example, sometimes we’d rather stay in a place that feels safe and secure than press out into areas of growth and responsibility that could be healthy for us. Decisions based on fear or the desire to escape are rarely best for us.
As with most life decisions, the choice of where you live is not always cut and dry. But thankfully, it is not an irreversible choice either. After all, “home is where the heart is” and we all know that heart transplants are possible!