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How College Housing Options Work

Last updated September 27, 2020

Housing is a tricky component of the big picture of attending college. Should I live on-campus in dorms? How expensive will that be? Is off-campus a better option? But how do I even find off-campus housing and get approved for lease? Should I just stay at home and commute?

Don't worry! We're here to help walk you through your options.

1. Living on-campus in a residence hall

If you want to live on-campus in a dorm, look for communications from your college's admissions or financial aid office. You should have received a prompt asking about your interest in on-campus housing - possibly even in your financial aid package. If you haven't, contact your school's office of admissions. Here's an overview of what on-campus life is like:

  • Community - Many schools require their students to live on campus the first year of college. With so many freshmen living in the dorms, it’s impossible to not meet new people. Together everyone will have the shared experience of living on a college campus for the first time. Your new BFFs may be waiting for you at the dorms!
  • Campus Life – By living on-campus, even during COVID-19, you are in the center of your campus life. Attending classes, meetings, or socially distant club meetups is easy because you’re so close to all the action.
  • Commute – What commute? Living on-campus means if you wake up ten minutes before your 8:30 AM class, you can run to the classroom. No need to get in your car or wait for a bus.
  • Convenience – Need to grab a snack? Head to the cafeteria downstairs. Need to study late tonight? The school library is 5 minutes away and open 24 hours. Need new school swag? Check out the student store around the corner. Whatever you need or want, it will be on campus.
  • Cost – Dorms can be expensive, but you don’t pay extra costs for rent or utilities. All on-campus housing expenses are summed up in your room and board bill within your financial aid package. In the residence hall, you have to access to phones, internet, and all the necessities.
  • Amenities – Dorms try to be as welcoming as they can to their students. It’s common to find pool tables and table tennis in the common rooms. Your dorms may also have video games, big TV screen, and vending machines. No need to buy anything when everything is around!

2. Off-campus housing

Independence - Whether you choose to live off-campus alone or with roommates, you'll be independent in the sense that you're responsible for your lease, keeping up with bills and paying rent on time, groceries and food for yourself, laundry, and managing your mail.

Cost - Off-campus housing in some cases is cheaper, but you'll be financially responsible for many more things than you would living in a dorm. Whereas dorm costs are typically paid in a lump sum, off-campus rentals are paid in monthly installments of rent. To secure off-campus housing, you'll need to pay rental application fees, and a security deposit as well. (Less) Convenience - Be sure to factor in that there won't be a dining hall nearby, and you'll have to figure out transportation to your campus. You'll likely also need to figure out internet for yourself. 

3. Commuting from home It's cheap - If your home is nearby where you'll be attending college. Living at home is a decent option. Safety, distance from campus (requiring transportation), and how well you're able to focus on studying around your family are all potential concerns. During COVID-19, it can be especially difficult since you'll be around other people at school, and could potentially transmit to your family at home. All that being said, if it works for you, it is by far the cheapest way around the costs of college housing. 

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