Headed to College? Here are the Pros and Cons of Living On & Off Campus


Decisions, decisions, decisions. Seems like the biggest side effect of becoming an adult, doesn’t it? First, you have to decide where to apply to college. Then you have to decide where you’re going to enroll. Now you have to decide whether to live on campus or not?

Before you go into panic mode, remember: housing is temporary. And any decision you make will lead to personal growth and understanding yourself better.

Here are some of the pros and cons of living on campus vs. living off campus. If you’re on the fence, this list will help guide you to a decision.


Pros of Living on Campus

1. Sense of community.

When you’re living on campus, you have many different options for getting involved and staying involved. RAs, or resident assistants, in your residence hall will organize building-wide activities throughout the semester that will help you meet other residents in your building and get to know students you might not have met otherwise.

Also, many colleges offer Living Learning Communities, where you have the opportunity to be on a floor or in a building of like-minded individuals (example: a Nursing program LLC, international students LLC, community engagement LLC). Take a look at your college’s Student Life and Resident Life sections on its website to find out what sort of offerings that are available to you.

Photo by  Ian Schneider  on  Unsplash

2. Easier to make friends and get involved on campus.

It’s easier to commit to campus activities and connect with others when you don’t have to worry about commuting home. If you’re commuting and trying to miss rush hour traffic, you’ll sometimes have to decide between joining that late afternoon study group and heading home to make dinner. Living on campus takes those types of decisions out of the picture.

3. Not having to cook for yourself or go to the grocery store.

Even if you enjoy cooking, being able to focus on studying and getting involved instead of spending time at the grocery store and cooking is a huge perk of living on campus.

Like not having to worry about driving around, you’ll also not have to worry about scheduling in a grocery store run, or figuring out how to budget your food since it’s all already paid for upfront when you’re on a meal plan.

4. Easier to work on campus.

If you’re looking for an on-campus job, which is a great way to network and build skills throughout school, living on campus makes it easier to schedule and figure out when you can work. In some cases, it could be harder to schedule a commuter student employee, only because of the more limited availability.

Cons of Living on Campus

1. Higher cost.

Room and Board often ends up being more expensive than living on your own, which is why many juniors and seniors decide to live off campus after they’ve fully immersed themselves in the campus their first and second year of college.

2. Difficult to find your own space/quiet time.

Living on campus means that you will be surrounded by people a lot of the time. It’s difficult to find your own space or quiet time, especially when you have roommates.


Pros of Living Off Campus

1. Independence

Being on your own means learning how to depend on yourself and having plenty of space for quiet and alone time. However, you’ll be jumping straight into adulthood, instead of gradually transitioning like living on campus allows.

So when the heat goes out, you’ll have to be the one to contact maintenance or your landlord about getting it fixed. When you run out of toilet paper, you’ll be the one to blame.

Being independent is an exciting challenge. But it’s not for everyone right out of high school.

Photo by  Fezbot2000  on  Unsplash

Photo by Fezbot2000 on Unsplash

2. More control over budget

Rather than depending on a meal plan and having to spend a set amount of money each semester, you’ll be able to set your budget and make decisions about what you want to purchase. However, while WiFi and utilities, etc. are provided on campus, you will be responsible for your own bills if you decide to live off campus.

Note: be sure to check with your providers. Often, your grants, scholarships, and loans may not allow you to use funds towards living off campus.

Cons of Living Off Campus

1. The process of commuting

One of the hardest parts of being a commuter is--you guessed it--the commute. Sitting in traffic, getting to campus, finding parking, then, in some cases, taking a campus bus from the commuter lot to the main campus, all adds up. For the first few weeks, it might not seem like a lot, but day in and day out will add up over time.

2. Not as cost-effective in some cases

While you can make a lot of budget-friendly choices, there are perks to living on campus that will help you save money in the long run. Living off-campus means providing your own furniture and having to pay for your gas, electric, utilities, WiFi, and more.

Your Decision isn’t Final

Again, housing is only temporary. You can decide after a year that you’d rather live on your own, or sublet your apartment if you decide to apply for campus housing. Allow yourself the space to test your comfort zone and make the decision that feels right for you at this time.