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Headings, paragraphs, blockquotes, figures, images, and figure captions can all be styled after a class is added to the rich text element using the "When inside of" nested selector system.

Headings, paragraphs, blockquotes, figures, images, and figure captions can all be styled after a class is added to the rich text element using the "When inside of" nested selector system.

Headings, paragraphs, blockquotes, figures, images, and figure captions can all be styled after a class is added to the rich text element using the "When inside of" nested selector system.

  • after a class is added to the rich text element using the "When inside of" nested selector system.
  • after a class is added to the rich text element using the "When inside of" nested selector system.

Headings, paragraphs, blockquotes, figures, images, and figure captions can all be styled after a class is added to the rich text element using the "When inside of" nested selector system.

When it’s time to make the transition to college, you’ll be faced with a choice of where you can reside—either in the on campus dorms or off campus apartment. Typically first year students live in the dorm, but after that, what’s the right place for you? For many students, they want to get the most for their money, which is why you may want to consider what is cheaper, a dorm or apartment? 

While every student has different needs and there is really no wrong answer to where you’d like to live, we thought it would be helpful to examine some of the pros and cons of each, including which one might make more financial sense for your situation.

In this article we’re going to cover the following topics when it comes to dorms vs. apartments:

  • Why dorm living your freshman year is a good idea
  • The pros and cons of living in a dorm after your first year
  • The pros and cons of moving to an off campus apartment
  • Which option is cheaper and which one is right for you

Why living in a dorm freshman year is a good idea

Staying on campus in a dorm your freshman year has many perks

college dorm room
Staying in the dorm your first year is a good way to get acquainted with new friends and new schedules. Image courtesy of the Tribune-Review.

Your first year in college is an exciting one, and in order to get the most out of your experience, most colleges require first year students to live on campus in a dorm. While it may seem a little intimidating to go from living at home to having a roommate and shared bathrooms, it really is a good idea in the long run. When you’re new to campus, it helps to be around other people who are also new. That way you can navigate the ins and outs together, and learn how to fall into a good routine.

Because you are new to campus, staying in a dorm is a great way to easily get acquainted with your school and your classes. Not to mention you’ll be able to meet people almost everywhere you go! This is why most schools require first year students to stay in the dorm and to purchase a meal plan, so there’s no need to worry about having those basic needs met. Having everything you need right on campus can make the transition from living at home, to a more independent style a little easier on students. 

After your freshman year, you have the choice to decide whether staying in the dorms or moving to an off campus apartment is for you. Let’s see what some of the pros and cons are of each so you can decide which one is right for you.

The pros and cons of living in a dorm

What are some of the pros of dorm life?

woman's college dorm room
Your dorm room can easily become your new home with the right decor. Image courtesy of Society 19.

Before you decide whether you want to live in an apartment or in the dorm, you should consider a few things first. Depending on where you go to school, the cost of room and board of living in the dorm can be more expensive than renting an off campus apartment. Usually this is due to the fact that you are required to have a meal plan while you’re on campus, which can be one of the highest costs. However, there are many pros to living in the dorms on campus. 

Easy to get to class

When you’re living in the dorms, you can easily walk or bike (or take a shuttle if necessary!) to your classes. The point of a college campus is to function as its own environment, which means you  have easy access to everything you might need. The buildings where your classes are, the library, dining halls, administrative offices, professors’ offices, infirmary, and laundry facilities are all located nearby. 

This is why freshmen should live on campus their first year, so they can learn how to navigate the campus. Depending on where your dorm is in relation to your class buildings, you can easily plan to be at class on time. You can also find a variety of study spots throughout the campus where you can get work done away from distractions. 

You can change roommates if necessary

While you typically do not choose your roommate your first year on campus, if you decide to stay in the dorms, you will have the opportunity to choose who you live with. If the worst case scenario plays out and you end up not getting along with your roommate for whatever reason, it is easier to change rooms. While this process can still be difficult, you are not tied to a lease with a private apartment management company or landlord/landlady. 

If you are living in an apartment with a roommate you can’t get along with, it’s much harder to get out of a lease when you have signed a contract.

All your friends and activities are right there

Not only are you very close to all your classes and professors, but when you live in the dorms, you are also close to people and fun activities. As a freshman, it can be nerve wracking to try and make friends. But when you’re living with people all trying to do the same thing, it makes it a little easier. Living on campus in a dorm means that you’re a part of a community, and you will eventually start to get to know your neighbors in the dorm room as well, expanding your group of friends!

Everyone you know is all living in the same place, which makes it easy to visit your friends whenever you want to. In addition to friends and classes, living on campus gives you easy access to all the activities and events that occur throughout the year. Whether you enjoy speakers who come to campus, joining a club, or playing a sport with your fellow classmates, when you stay on campus you’re always right in the mix of everything exciting. 

While you can of course have friends and attend activities and events if you live off campus, living in the dorm makes this exceptionally easy. 

Cons of dorm life

Typically must have a meal plan

Of course there are some cons to living in a dorm as well. One of the biggest factors that people consider when determining whether or not to stay in the dorm is the price of the meal plan. While it’s convenient to always have access to the dining hall, if you’re not using all your meals, you could be wasting a lot of money. 

While there are different levels of meal plans you can get, these may only be offered if you are living off campus. It’s best to check with your school first before deciding whether to change or forgo your meal plan.

Less freedom and privacy

One of the first things you learn when living in the dorms is that it comes with a different level of privacy than you may be used to. Not only will you have roommates, but you don’t often get your own room. That means you’re going to have to learn how to share a room with someone else. The same goes for communal bathrooms, as you will need to get used to showering, brushing your teeth, etc. in a bathroom with your floor neighbors.  

In addition, the dorms have stricter rules when it comes to curfews, gender restrictions, quiet hours, and alcohol bans. While these rules aren’t that hard to become accustomed to, you will find that an apartment offers a lot more freedom. 

Not as inclined to explore the city

If you’re living on campus, you may be less likely to want to get out and explore the area where your school is located. Everything you need is right on campus, so why should you need to go off of it? While of course you’ll need to make trips to stock up on snacks or to pick up new clothes, you may find that you’re limiting yourself and not checking out what areas off campus have to offer. 

Pros and cons of living in an apartment

Pros of living off campus

off campus apartment building
An apartment off campus could be the right decision for you. Image courtesy of The Spruce

If you lived on campus in a dorm like most freshmen, you may be wondering if the grass is greener on the other side—especially when it comes to cost. Although you’ll find plenty of articles that state living in an apartment can be cheaper, you’ve got to consider all the additional costs. At first it may appear that rent is cheaper off campus compared to room and board. While that may very well be the case, it's always good to know the hidden costs of living off campus too. We’re going to take a look at both the pros and cons of deciding to move off campus into an apartment.

More freedom and independence

Just as living on campus has more rules and regulations, living in an apartment will allow you greater freedom and independence. You won’t have all the rules that dorms have in an apartment, but you’ll still need to follow some such as: 

  • Quiet hours
  • Paying the rent on time
  • Noise limitations
  • No alterations to the walls of your apartment

Other than that, you’re pretty much allowed to get on with things! With greater independence, you’ll need to make sure you always get the rent and other utilities paid on time, as this can affect your credit score in the future. Typically you’ll be responsible for electric, water, sewage, and internet/TV, but apartments vary from city to city.

OCM storage shelf
When you move off campus into your own apartment, you’ll need to make sure it’s decorated! Check out all of OCM’s options for furniture and apartment decor. Image courtesy of OCM

Get your own room

When you’re living off campus, there’s a better chance you’ll get your own room. Living in one room with other people in a dorm can go well, or it can go not so well. If your first year experience with roommates went not so well, you may want to consider moving off campus and having your own space to study, sleep, and relax (where you can close a door). You’ll also get to choose which roommates you live with this time around, which is a huge improvement!

Cons of living in an off campus apartment

Commute to campus

One of the costs to consider when moving off campus is that you’ll need to commute. Whether that’s by car, bike, or bus you’ll need to factor this into the cost along with rent and utilities. Being away from the “bubble” that is your campus can be great for your independence, but it also means you’re further away from your school community and classes. Having a commute could even make it less likely you’ll get to classes, so you may want to really think about this one!

12 month lease

Unlike a dorm where you’ll reside for around nine months out of the year, a lease on an apartment is usually 12 months, although university-approved student housing may be different. You can always sublet your apartment for those last three months, or stay in school for the summer session. This all depends on what your situation is and what type of schedule makes sense for your goals.

Extra bills and responsibility

With greater freedom comes greater responsibility. You’ll need to make sure you’re making payments for rent and utilities on time, as well as finding an effective way to study and keep up with your classes. If you’re living off campus chances are you won’t have a meal plan, or you’ll have one that allows less meals on campus per day. That means you’re responsible for ensuring you’re getting a balanced diet. This is a lot of new things to deal with at once, which can be overwhelming for many students.

Which is cheaper, an apartment or dorm? And which one is right for you?

The costs of renting an apartment in many school locations makes it an attractive draw for students after their first year in order to save money. While the rent is cheaper for an apartment than room and board under many circumstances, you’ve also got to consider the other costs of living off campus. When you take into account transportation, utilities, food, and other incidentals, you may not be saving that much money in the long run.

It comes down to which lifestyle sounds better suited to your needs and personality, and which choice is an environment you can thrive in. Think about the pros and cons of each, and then make the choice that works for you!