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Living On-campus vs. Off-campus: a list of pros and cons

Where should you live in college? Is on-campus or off-campus best for you? This list will help you find out.

College is many things: fun, educational and full of growth. But is also comes with responsibilities and major decisions. One of the biggest decisions you’ll have to make in college is deciding where to live.

This decision is a tough one because of the multiple options and potential outcomes that come with it. You could live in a dorm, in an apartment or house, or, if your school is close enough, you could live at home and commute.

But all of those options really boil down to one major decision: do you want to live on or off campus?

Both choices come with their benefits and disadvantages, but after living both on and off campus, asking friends and researching, I made a list of pros and cons for both options. I hope it helps you when it’s decision time!

on-campus dorm image


On-campus pros:

-Built in community. This varies by school, but most universities treat their resident halls as a jumping off point for school community. The dorms are where you meet your first friends and get to know your resident assistant and hall mates. If you’re the kind of person that loves being among people, you don’t have to look too much farther that your school’s dorms. (Disclaimer: though community building in dorms in extremely common, not all schools emphasize it. Some schools utilize dorms purely as a place to live; however, your school’s stance on this shouldn’t be hard to discover with a little research.)
-Convenience. In college there’s almost nothing better (or more terrifying) than waking up 15 minutes before class starts and still making it on time. Simply put: living in a dorm is the most convenient option because you are centrally located to your campus. There’s no long commute, traffic or fear of being late.
-You have more social opportunities. When you live on-campus it’s easier to stumble upon friendships because you always have access to social opportunities. There are always new people to meet.
-You’re more plugged in. When you live in a dorm you typically hear about what’s going on around campus. You know when the best events are and what’s happening on campus that week.
-It’s SOMETIMES easier to furnish. If you choose the on-campus apartment route, it’s possible that you’re apartment will come furnished. This perk can save you tons of time, money and hassle.
-It’s simple. When you live on campus you pay one upfront fee and you’re done. No monthly rent, utilities or hidden fees. Other things are taken care of you too – if you go to my school you’d have toilet paper delivered to your door every week!

on-campus dorm image

On-campus cons:

-Less space. If you go the dorm route, accept the fact that you will sacrifice a lot of personal space. Not only is your room tiny, but also you have to share it with another person, and some dorms have community bathrooms. Things like size and amenities vary by school.
-Less privacy. Remember how I said you’re always surround by people? Well…you’re always surrounded by people. This is tough for people who need more alone time or simply don’t like crowds.
-Less independence. While the simplicity of dorm life is nice, sometimes it can make you feel a little too attached, and that can become unsatisfying for students who want to feel like independent adults.
-Rules. Dorm life comes with a few strings attached. Again, this varies, but tons of schools have required meetings, curfews and rules about having the opposite gender in your room (whether you’re going to a private or public school you should check out the rules before you make your decision).
-It can be more expensive. This depends on the pricing of your school, but it’s typically easier to cut costs when you live off-campus. On-campus housing isn’t negotiable, and definitely isn’t cheap.
-You’re stuck in the school bubble. No matter where you are, when you live on-campus it’s incredibly easy to get caught up in your schools’ community and forget that there’s an outside world. Your campus begins to feel like a small village, and I personally think you miss out when you ignore the outside community in your college town.

off-campus college house image

Off-campus pros:

-It can be cheaper. It takes homework, but it’s usually easier to find a monthly rent that is less expensive than your overall on-campus housing fee.
-More freedom and independence. Your place, your rules! When you move off-campus you get to set your own boundaries. It comes with a lot of responsibility, but it can also be refreshing to have more independence.
-More space. Ready for an upgrade? You could get your own room if you want it, and you have your own kitchen and living room. You also have more personal space because you aren’t constantly surrounded, and you never have to worry about that hall mate that plays her music way to loud at the worst hour.
-More flexible roommate choice. Unless you and a friend are going to the same school, when you live on-campus you play roommate roulette, and anything can happen. When you live off-campus you choose your own roommate, which typically equals better chemistry.
-Summer housing/Less moving. When you live in a dorm or an on-campus apartment you have to move out at the end of each school year. With your own place you can stay as long as you want as long as you’re paying rent. No worrying with storing your stuff for the summer, finding summer housing or packing up everything you own every nine months.
-You’re part of the greater community. Putting a little space between you and your campus doesn’t have to be a bad thing. In fact, when you live off-campus you can learn and experience more of the communities outside of your college world, and you have more opportunities to meet people of all ages.

off-campus college house image

Off-campus cons:

-Commuting. Plain and simple, driving to school is a burden. You have to wake up earlier and give yourself plenty of time to fight traffic and find a parking spot somewhat near your building.
-More complex. Instead of paying one basic fee at the beginning of the school year you have to keep up with rent, utilities and Internet. You could also wind up with a wacky landlord, and taking care of damages and repairs will be up to you.
-More responsibility. Plenty of schools have residential life offices available to help students with dorm life, but how many schools also have an office devoted to helping off-campus students? Not many. If you live off-campus and your roommate runs out on your lease, it’s your responsibility to find a new one, not your schools’.
-You can become out of touch with campus life. Word of mouth travels slower when you’re off-campus, and there aren’t bulletins advertising events on campus in your apartment building. You have to work a little harder to keep up when you have your own place.
-Costs can add up. While it seems cheaper to live off-campus, and it often is, the cost can add up quicker than you expect. You’ve got the usual monthly bills plus furnishing and maintaining the space. It may seem insignificant, but purchases like vacuums, curtains and doormats can get overwhelming.
-Less community. Instead of having a whole residential hall full of people to meet and interact with, your off-campus community consists of your roommate, existing friends and maybe the guys in the apartment next door. It isn’t impossible to build community, but just like staying in touch with campus happenings, it takes more work.

So, what’s the verdict? Are you pro on-campus or off?

Caroline Eaton

Lee University | 11 stories

Caroline is a full-time student, wanderer and writer that believes adventure can be found anywhere, whether you're on the other side of the world or in your own backyard. She celebrates all forms of travel and exploration, and dreams of writing her way across the entire earth. She blogs at, and you can send a tweet her way at @caro_eaton.

One response to “Living On-campus vs. Off-campus: a list of pros and cons”

  1. Jaque Christo says:

    I definitely like the idea of being close to the center of everything that’s happening. It makes having a social life much easier which can be a much needed de stresser from college school work. However, living in my own place, away from the constant noise of campus might also be a great thing. I’ll have to do some more research and see which option is best for me. Thank you for the information.

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