To live on campus or to live off campus? It’s a classic debate many students across the world face as they enter various stages of their college careers. Check out our interactive infographic on which choice makes the most financial sense.
It’s a huge decision, and it’s not often an easy one. Choosing a living situation can greatly affect not just life as a student but quality of life overall. There are many reasons why living in a private residence off campus would be attractive, but what if it could be more conducive to your success?
As students mature during their college tenure, things that they might have found endearing may not be so great the following years. It might be worthwhile to align yourself with like-minded people who share the same values for accomplishing their degree of study.
Making the choice to live alone or to be responsible can seem daunting, especially if this is your first time out from under your parents’ roof.
Pros and Cons of the Choices
Comfort vs. Convenience
What’s that old real-estate adage? Location, location, location. That’s one of the most common arguments for on-campus housing.
However, while planting yourself on campus seems like the obvious choice due to the convenience of being around everything, there are some things to consider that might make keeping campus at a distance seem a little more appealing.
Living on campus means living in the dormitories, or “the dorms,” as they’re called. Dorm rooms come in all shapes and sizes. Some are luxurious and can be even more comfortable than off-campus apartments. Some rival closets.
Depending on the school, you may be unable to choose which dorms you’re offered. Some schools give their best rooms to upperclassmen, meaning freshmen are relegated to the low-end rooms.
Due to the limited nature of on-campus housing, the same thing could happen. They may run out of space altogether, leaving you without an on-campus option.
When living off campus, you’ll be able to choose your own apartment rather than worry about what you might get assigned, allowing you to find a space that fits your lifestyle rather than having to work around a space that doesn’t.
If you like peace and quiet, the dorms may really shock you. Dorm walls are not famous for thickness, and if you get stuck with rowdy neighbors, you’ll be at their mercy.
Due to the size of dorms, you’ll usually be in close contact with whomever you room with, so you’ll have to make sure you love your roommate – if you even get to choose at all. During your stay in college, you will make a lot of friends and run across a lot of personalities. Be warned: Great friends don’t always make great roommates. If you choose wrong, you can watch a good relationship turn sour quickly.
Another disadvantage to dorms is sometimes you won’t even have your own bedroom, so make sure to buy some earplugs if your roommate snores. Even if you do have your own bedroom, you will be sharing a common area, and you will probably end up sharing your bathroom with someone else, a sure recipe for brewing a war between roommates.
That’s not even the biggest downside of dorm living. Universities even have additional rules for dormitories that are enforced, meaning less freedom over your own living space. Mt. Royal University, for example, has policies that prevent students from displaying messages in chalk on their windows or playing drinking games.
A customizable experience
Off-campus living is a solution to these problems. In addition to having more freedom to do as you please, you’ll be able to choose your roommates – something not always guaranteed with dorm living – and you’ll be able to choose how many you’ll have.
Once you’ve found a roommate or two you like and can live with, you can put your heads together to find the level of privacy you’ll be comfortable with. You’ll have the opportunity to make sure everyone has their own room and bathroom – or not, if that’s what you prefer.
One advantage of living in dorms might be the on-campus meal plans schools offer. If you are attracted to the idea of living on campus because you think you’ll be able to save money on food with your meal plan, keep in mind not all schools limit meal plans to students living on campus. Plus, preparing your own meals in your kitchen could very much lower your food expenses overall.
Also, even the location advantage of living in on-campus dorms is mitigated if you can find off-campus housing within walking distance of your classes.
The big upshot of off-campus housing is the experience is totally up to you. By shopping around online first, you can find a good living situation with relative ease.
And if you don’t like what you see, don’t sign the lease.
What about the cost?
Alright, so living off-campus might sound great and all, but isn’t it generally more expensive?
The short answer is yes.
However, there is no hard and fast rule for which option is going to save you more money because the answer depends entirely on a whole range of factors.
How many rooms and roommates will you have? What kind of area will you live in? What amenities will your place offer? Is it an apartment or a house?
These are just a few of the kinds of questions that determine the price of off-campus accommodations.
We calculated the average price for on-campus housing versus off-campus housing for 84 Canadian campuses, and we found that 70 percent of on-campus housing options were cheaper than the average price of off-campus housing in those areas.
While the dorms may be cheaper on average, in almost every city there will be off-campus housing available for cheaper than the dorm rooms. It just takes a little work to browse around for the best deals.
Making the best choice for your lifestyle
While it may ultimately be less expensive to live on campus on average, the flexibility of off-campus housing allows you to find a bargain that fits the lifestyle you want, puts you with the people you want, and provides you with the amount of space you want.
Even if you do end up paying a little more to get the setup you desire, there are always 118 other ways to save money other than by shacking up in the dorms.
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