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How College Housing Options Work

Last updated September 1, 2022

Congratulations on getting accepted to college! Finding housing is an important part of summer preparation to ensure you have a smooth transition to college in the fall. Unsure of what else you need to do to be college-ready? Be sure to check out our complete summer before college checklist!

Here are some common housing options for your freshman year of college, as well as the pros and cons of each.

Living on-campus in a residence hall (aka dorming)

Many colleges require first-year students to live on-campus. While there are typically exceptions to this, most students prefer to dorm their freshman year to meet new people and make friends.

This summer, be sure to look out for communications (via email, mail, or text) from your college’s admissions or financial aid office. They will send you a message asking about your interest in living in on-campus housing (if you’re an incoming freshman, that likely means the dorms). If you want to dorm, be sure to follow the steps they lay out for you to register when the time comes. If you have any questions about the cost of dorming, you can contact either the admissions or financial aid office to learn more.

Pros of living in a residence hall:

  1. Make community. Living in a residence hall can connect you to so many new people - and possibly some new friends! Everyone is likely in the same boat as you- living away from home for the first time, maybe even feeling a bit nervous, and excited to meet new people.
  2. You’re close to everything on campus. This means you won’t need to commute (drive, take the bus, etc.) to get to classes, meetings, or places to eat & study. Need to grab a snack? Head to the cafeteria. Need to study late tonight? Head to the library. Need new school swag? Check out the student store. Whatever you need or want, it will most likely be on campus.
  3. Amenities. Dorms try to be as welcoming as they can to their students. It’s common for dorms to offer things such as TVs, pool tables, or video games for students to use in their downtime - typically for free. In addition to these amenities, schools typically require students living in dorms to purchase a meal plan for the dining hall. Dorms are typically small spaces, so unless there's a shared kitchen, cooking options are limited. With a meal plan, you have access to on-campus dining that you already paid for upfront.

Cons of living in a residence hall:

  1. Cost. Dorming is typically more expensive than living in off-campus housing - the specific cost will be broken down in your financial aid award letter from your school. Some schools will require students to pay for their housing up front, while others allow students to pay every quarter/semester. Be sure to check in with your school’s housing portal to look for a payment schedule. Your meal plan can potentially be another con. Because you're required to buy a meal plan, you could be spending more money up front, and you may be limited on your options - cost of meal plans are usually divided by meals per week (i.e. 10 meals per week), and the more meals you want to purchase during the week, the more expensive your meal plan is going to be.
  2. Noise/lack of privacy. With many people on your floor or in your building, it might be difficult to get some privacy and find some alone time. While having people around can be fun, it can also be distracting at times - especially when you need to focus on your schoolwork.

Off-campus housing

Leaning towards living in a house or apartment off-campus? This is a great option for students who want to cut down on the cost of living during their freshman year and gain some independence.

Many colleges/universities have Facebook groups for students to find off-campus housing - if you’re interested in this, ask an admissions officer or talk to someone in your school’s student life office. They can help you get connected to these groups and start searching for housing.

Pros of living off-campus:

  1. 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 security deposit and lease, moving fees, keeping up with bills and paying rent on time, groceries and food for yourself, laundry, and managing your mail. This can be a challenging experience for those who have never done it before, but so rewarding in the long run!
  2. Privacy and space. If you’re someone who needs some extra privacy, living off-campus might be for you. Even if you have roommates, there will likely be fewer people around than if you were living in the dorms. This means less distractions and a bit more privacy.

Cons of living off-campus:

  1. Difficulty making friends/community. It can be more challenging to make connections (and friends) in college if you’re not on/around campus as much as a student who’s dorming.
  2. Less convenience. Depending on where you live, you might not have the same access to food, study spots, and more as a student who’s living on campus. You might find it’s a bit more inconvenient to grab a snack or find a quiet study spot.
  3. Getting to campus. Even if you don’t live far from campus, you will still need to make an effort to get there daily, or whenever your classes are. Walking/driving to campus can take time out of your day to study or see friends.

Commuting from home

Some students attending college close to home prefer to live there and commute to school. This is a great option for students looking to cut down on some college costs, such as rent/the cost of dorming.

Pros of commuting from home:

  1. Saving money. You can save a lot of money on housing if you’re living from home - especially if you’re living rent-free. This can significantly cut down on college expenses in the long run.
  2. Being close to loved ones. Starting college can be an intimidating or even scary transition for many! Having your loved ones around during this time for extra support can be beneficial.

Cons of commuting from home:

  1. Lack of independence. Those living at home might find it difficult to get some time or privacy to study, do homework, and decompress after a long day.
  2. Difficulty making friends/community. It can be more challenging to make connections (and friends) in college if you’re not on/around campus as much as a student who’s dorming. 

Need some help deciding which housing option is best for you? Text us! Send #Hello to 33-55-77!

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