Should you live on campus or off? That’s a good question and one that should take some careful consideration. Of course, if you’re a first-year student, check their guidelines to see if you are required to live on campus your first year. If that’s the case, your decision to live on or off campus will have to wait, but when the time comes, here are some items to keep in mind.
Whether living on or off campus, your living expenses will be one of your higher expenses along with tuition. One way to reduce the cost is by having a roommate. If living off campus, it’s important for you to find someone you know will be reliable to help pay the bills and you won’t have to cover more than your portion. So, what bills might there be?
- Dorm room or apartment: The costs will vary for both, and you should also consider if you need to buy furniture. On campus living typically offers the basic furniture like a bed and a desk. When you live on campus, you pay a flat fee at the beginning of the school year or semester. You may have to pay an additional fee if you stay on campus over holiday breaks. You wouldn’t have to pay additional over holidays breaks while living off campus, but you would have to sign a lease or rental agreement and pay rent every month in an apartment or rental home. Leases typically range from six to 12 months with options to rent month to month after the term is up. If you don’t pay rent on time, you could be charged a late fee, and falling behind on rent payments could result in you being evicted.
- Utilities: This includes electricity, heat, water, internet and more. Some off campus rental properties will pay for some of these expenses as part of your rent amount. Often times, you’ll be responsible for some or all of them depending on the agreement. Most, if not all, of these expenses are included as part of your room expense when living in on-campus housing.
- Laundry: Unless you have the convenience of running home to do laundry for free, laundry is something to keep in mind too. On-campus living often offers free washer and dryers for you. Some off-campus rentals offer washers and dryers in the unit, but others don’t, so you may have to use coin-operated washers and dryers in your building or run to the laundromat.
- Commute: When you live on campus, you can typically walk to your classes and on campus activities and events. Living off campus you’ll need to pay for bus rides or gas for your car. In either living situation, if you have a vehicle, you may need to purchase a parking pass for campus.
- Food: This is another area where you will spend a few hundred dollars every month whether living on campus or off. When living on campus, most schools offer multiple meal plans to choose from, and dining centers are conveniently located. The most cost-efficient option when you live off campus is to buy groceries and make meals. The expense of eating out adds up quickly.
When you live on campus, you are minutes away and often within walking distance from your classes, student activities and more. Living off campus could take you more time to drive to and from school. While your apartment could be 10 minutes from campus, finding a parking spot could take you another five to 10. You may want to consider your work situation too, as living close to your place of employment could save you time as well.
Security is nearby and active on campus. The walkways are maintained and well-lit at night, and with a higher concentration of students on campus, traffic is more frequent which makes it a safer environment. Depending on the rental property, the building may have security cameras and limited-access doors, but not all offer this. If you choose to live off campus, consider the safety precautions that have been taken. Is the parking lot well-lit? Who can easily access the building? What kind of neighborhood is it located in?
Living on campus is said to be a good way to transition from living at home with your family to living on your own. It offers more of a structured freedom or independence. There are still campus rules that you must follow. When you live off campus, you jump right into more independence which also comes with more financial and behavioral responsibilities.
Some schools have also found that students who live on campus are more engaged socially and academically. This doesn’t mean you won’t be while living off campus, but it may mean you need to be more intentional about it. Working part-time can also help you academically as it forces you to have better time management knowing that you need to get your work completed outside of your class and job hours.
These items are all good things to consider and compare when the time comes for you to choose to live on or off campus. If you’re unsure and are looking for more information, contact your school. They know the cost-of-living facts and have other resources to help you decide what would be best for you.