Should I Live On or Off Campus?

Consider the pros and cons of both before making a decision

Female college students studying in dorm room
Hero Images / Getty Images

Living on or off campus can drastically change your college experience. How can you decide which is best for you?

Take some time to figure out your needs and think about the factors that have been most important to your academic success so far. Then decide what makes the most sense for you based on your individual preferences.

Living On-Campus

Living on-campus definitely has its benefits. You get to live among your fellow students and making it to class on time is as simple as walking across campus. Yet, there are downsides as well and while it may be the perfect living situation for many students, it may not be right for you.

The Pros of Living On-Campus

  • A stronger sense of community because you are surrounded by other students. Faculty and support staff are also readily available should you need them.
  • It is easier to make connections with people in your housing environment. You're all students, so you have at least one thing in common right away.
  • You're physically closer to campus than an off-campus apartment. Many students who live on-campus don't need a car while they're at school because everything they need is right there. A shorter commute time is a big perk because all you have to do is walk to another building on campus. You'll also be able to avoid traffic jams, parking tickets, and the hassles of public transportation.
  • Campuses usually have things going on 24 hours a day, so there is very little chance that you'll be bored.

The Cons of Living On-Campus

  • The room and board costs can sometimes be higher than living off-campus. Meal plans, dorm expenses, and other costs can quickly add up.
  • You're constantly surrounded only by students. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but you'll have to make an effort to get off campus to enjoy the broader community.
  • You may feel like you can never "get away." Living and studying in the same area can increase your boredom or make you feel cramped if you don't find ways to get off campus.
  • You have to share your bathroom and space with many, many people. Dorm life is not a solitary one and for some people who are more private or introverted, this can become an issue.
  • You are more likely to be required to have a roommate. It is very rare that you will not have to share a room which means that you will need to get along with a roommate while living in the dorms.

Living Off-Campus

Finding an apartment off campus can be liberating. It gives you a break from college life but it also comes with more responsibilities and, possibly, extra cost. It's important to consider all the costs and benefits of living off campus before renting an apartment.

The Pros of Living Off-Campus

  • You may not need (or be required to have) a roommate. However, sharing expenses with a trusted friend can cut costs and possibly get you a nicer or more conveniently-located living space.
  • You may have more space. Even a one-room efficiency apartment has more room than the average dorm which is a nice perk.
  • The set-up may better support your life and work outside of school. If you have a family or an off-campus job, an off-campus apartment may make life easier.
  • You don't have to worry about your apartment building closing during the summer or other school breaks. You can also hold onto the apartment through the summer, even if you go home, as long as you pay the rent, so you won't need to move out at the end of the school year.
  • If you do need a roommate, you can pick someone other than another college student. This definitely increases your chances of finding a great roommate.
  • You don't have strict rules over your head. Dorms come with rules and RAs who oversee students. If you're living on your own, you'll have more independence.

The Cons of Living Off-Campus

  • A longer commute is required unless your apartment is adjacent to campus. Many apartments dedicated to students can be found in close proximity, though these often come at a higher cost because of the convenience.
  • Parking on campus may be an issue (and can be costly). You may need to consider your public transportation options to reduce commuting costs.
  • You may feel disconnected from campus life. You can try to avoid this by attending events, games, and other campus activities so you don't feel out of the loop.
  • Costs may be higher. You must remember to consider utilities, food and other costs in addition to rent when figuring out your budget for off-campus housing.
  • An apartment complex may not be as flexible to student needs. If your loan check is late, will they give you extra time to pay the rent? It's best to know beforehand or have an emergency fund available.