You’re headed to college! It’s an exciting experience however you slice it, but there are a lot of decisions to make before you go. One of the first is about where you’re going to live. While living in a dorm and living in an off-campus residence both have their advantages and disadvantages, it’s important to consider all angles before you make a decision. With that being said, let’s look at the pros and cons of dorm life and off-campus housing.

Dorm Life

When many people think of student life, they think of dorm life. Living in a dorm is one of the hallmarks of the American college experience, and can be a rite of passage. The pros of dorm life are many, even if your school is not among the large number of colleges which require incoming freshmen to live in dorms.

Dorm life provides a great array of social opportunities, and forces new students to meet each other as they’re all “warming up” to a new school. If you’re living in a double or triple, having one or more roommates can make school feel less lonely. Plus, there’s always an RA (resident advisor) around to help with any concerns. Finally, living in dorms is handled through the school, sometimes guaranteed for incoming students and beyond, and often includes a meal plan. As such, dorm living can take the stress out of your housing search—and new college students can always use less stress!

On the other hand, dorm rooms aren’t exactly known for their luxurious material comforts, and dining hall meal plans can be limited for students with particular dietary needs. Living in dorms means shared bathrooms and laundry facilities, and likely minimal kitchen space. Study space may also be limited or loud. For those who like their privacy, or require a lot of space, such as music students who need to store and practice large instruments, dorm life can present a challenge.

Off-Campus Housing

When you ask students what they like about living off campus, the first thing they’ll say is the freedom. Off-campus housing, in an apartment or house with other students, gives students the opportunity to live on their own terms, whether that’s in how they decorate, whether they have guests around, or the hours they keep. There’s also the material comforts of off-campus life—a bedroom to yourself, fewer people sharing the bathroom, and a kitchen for those who like to cook.

However, living off campus can be a stressful process: finding a place to live, ensuring that relations with your housemates stay cordial and friendly, and negotiating a contract with a landlord. Further, off campus, you’re “on your own." If you don’t already have a social circle at your school, the lack of opportunities to meet people can lead to loneliness.

There are other considerations, like finances, that vary from school to school and student to student. Ultimately, spending your college years in a dorm, off campus, or some combination of the two is a personal choice. Every student needs to decide for themselves. When you’re choosing where to live at college, look at the pros and cons, and talk to your fellow students. But ultimately, the most important person to consult with is yourself!

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