Reasons You're Required to Live on Campus Your First Year of College

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At many colleges and universities, you will need to live in the residence halls for your first year or two of college. A few schools require campus residency for all four years. Even if your school allows students to live off campus, consider the pros and cons of living on campus before making a final decision.

Why You're Required to Live on Campus Your First Year of College

  • Students are most likely to stay at a college when they feel like they belong. This sense of belonging has a direct impact on a college's retention rate and graduation rate. When new students live off campus, they are less likely to get involved in campus clubs and activities and will have a harder time making friends among fellow students.
  • When a student lives on campus, the college has an easier time helping out should that student encounter trouble on the academic or social front. Resident Advisors (RAs) and Resident Directors (RDs) are trained to intervene and assist when students are struggling, and they can help direct students to the appropriate people and resources on campus.
  • A college education is about much more than taking classes and earning a degree. Residential life teaches many important life skills: resolving conflicts with a roommate, suitemates, and/or students on your hall; learning to live with people who may be quite different from you; building a living and learning community; and so on.
  • At most schools, campus residence halls are much closer to important facilities (library, gym, health center, etc.) than off-campus apartments.
  • Colleges have little ability to monitor illegal behavior off campus, but within the residence halls, activities such as underage drinking and illegal drug use can be detected and responded to much more readily. 
  • When you are a new student, it can be a huge benefit to be living in the same building with upper-class students and/or RAs who know the campus and academic expectations well. You're also more likely to find mentors in a campus residence hall than in an off-campus apartment.
  • Along with having upper-class mentors, you'll also have a peer group that will include students taking some of the same classes as you. Living on campus gives you ready access to study groups, and peers can often help if you are forced to miss a class or if you find material from a lecture confusing.

Along with the obvious benefits of living on campus, colleges have a few reasons for keeping students on campus that may be a bit less altruistic. Specifically, colleges don't make all of their money from tuition dollars. For the great majority of schools, significant revenues also flow from room and board charges. If dorm rooms sit empty and not enough students are signed up for meal plans, the college will have a harder time balancing its budget. If more states move forward with free tuition plans for in-state students at public universities (such as New York's Excelsior Program), all college revenue will come from room, board, and associated fees.

Exceptions to College Residency Requirements

Keep in mind that very few colleges have residential policies that are set in stone, and exceptions are often made.

  • If your family lives very close to the college, you can often get permission to live at home. Doing so obviously has significant cost benefits, but don't lose sight of the valuable experiences you might miss out on by choosing to commute. By living at home, you won't be getting the full college experience, including learning how to be independent.
  • Some colleges with two- or three-year residency requirements allow strong students to petition to live off campus sooner. If you've proven your academic and personal maturity, you may be able to move off campus earlier than many of your classmates.
  • At some schools, it may also be possible to petition to live off campus for reasons related to specific health and wellness needs. For example, you might be able to petition to live off campus if the college can't meet your atypical dietary requirements or if you need access to regular healthcare that simply isn't feasible in a college residence hall. 

A Final Word About Residency Requirements

Every college has residency requirements that were developed for the unique situation of the school. You'll find that some urban schools as well as some universities that have been experiencing rapid expansion, simply don't have enough dormitory space to handle all of their students. Such schools often cannot guarantee housing and may be happy for you to live off campus.

At any school, it's important to weigh the pros and cons of living off campus before making a decision. Time spent cooking meals and commuting to campus is time that won't be spent on your studies, and not all students do well with too much independence.

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Your Citation
Grove, Allen. "Reasons You're Required to Live on Campus Your First Year of College." ThoughtCo, Apr. 5, 2023, Grove, Allen. (2023, April 5). Reasons You're Required to Live on Campus Your First Year of College. Retrieved from Grove, Allen. "Reasons You're Required to Live on Campus Your First Year of College." ThoughtCo. (accessed June 2, 2023).