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If you’re anything like me you’ve got your mind totally made up about where you want to live in college. The thought of being on your own in a sweet apartment that’s styled similar to Serena Van Der Woodsen’s penthouse, surrounded by all of your close friends, makes you want to pack up and leave right this second. Well, let me just encourage you to throw all that shit out of your head right now because, in reality, whether you live on campus or off, you’re probably going to be pinching pennies and eating your meals on a couch that smells like mothballs, sweat, and stale crackers for the next fours years because you can’t afford a decent one (oh, the wonderful college life).
But, that’s not to discourage you (although it’s a shocking realization, I know) because we all go through it, so at least you’re not alone. Living the typical broke college life won’t always be ideal, but it’ll be just what you need to get you through — which is pretty much just four walls and a working toilet. Choosing where to live during your time as a college student is something that you should take a great time to consider. So, to help you decide, here’s a list of the pros and cons of living on campus. Don’t fret, you’ll be living it up like Blair Waldorf soon enough (you just have to get through school first).
Pros of Living On Campus
You’ll be Close to Everything
One of the best things about college, in general, is how much there is to offer on campus. Whether you live in the dorms, an apartment a few miles down the road, or even at home, all of the perks — like a killer gym, cafeteria, and professors — are just a short distance away. However, living on campus does make getting to all of these places and people (and many others) so much easier. I would say perhaps the biggest “pro” of living on campus is that you’re so close to practically everything that you could want and need (and then some). Most college students are much less likely to do something if they have to drive to it — for example, going to the gym. If this sounds like you, then on campus life will be perfect for you.
You’ll Get the Best Parking
Anyone who’s attended college or honestly even just visited a college campus for a multitude of reasons knows that finding parking is nearly impossible. And this isn’t just a problem at my university, it seems like all the heads of every college in America got together one day (a very long time ago, of course) and decided that they were going to underestimate the need for parking, always. If you’re a commuter, the parking lots are often far from the buildings your classes are in and, if you’re like my friends who live off campus, you’re probably going to have to get to campus way early to even have a chance at getting a good spot.
Also, the parking rules on campus for non-residents are absolutely insane! Each lot will usually have a different time that commuters can park there and if you’re even two minutes over that time they’ll slap you with a ticket. I’ve often wondered if those parking monitors that walk across campus even have friends — if not I should definitely befriend them, maybe they’ll let me off on parking violations. Moral of the story is that the parking nazis are always inevitable, so good luck avoiding unreasonable and overpriced tickets throughout the year if you live off campus.
Living on campus, however, changes this situation completely. There are designated parking areas for each dorm or quad so (unless there’s some big event going on) you’re more than likely going to be able to get a spot. This really comes in handy when you’re moving in and out or even if you’re just bringing up groceries to your room — trust me, lugging a bag full of food across the parking lot is NOT fun.
Living on campus gives you the opportunity to constantly be around and meet new people — which is especially nice for freshmen. In the dorms, there are mandatory meetings to get to know your neighbors — and speaking of neighbors you’ll more than likely be sharing a bathroom or an actual room with another person. Whether you’ve known your roommate and/or suitemates for forever or you choose to get random ones, you’re going to get to know some people better than you would’ve ever imagined.
If you’re a generally shy person and are worried about not being able to make friends, I would highly recommend living on campus — even if it’s just for your first year. It’s a great way to get plugged into the campus community, college life in general, and open you up to all sorts of cultures and ways of life.
You’ll Have a Meal Plan
Not having to worry about cooking or buying groceries is another great plus to living on campus. While the food might not always taste the best, it sure does beat having to spend an hour of your time prepping the equivalent of what you would eat at the cafeteria. As a college student, you already have enough stress, the last thing you need is to be thinking about food, and living on-campus takes all that weight off your shoulders.
Another thing that I personally loved about having a meal plan (and living on campus) is being able to eat with all of my friends every night. As strange as this may sound, the caf became somewhat of a bonding place where we could meet up in the morning, in between class, after work, and any other time just to chat about our days. I can’t tell you how many times last year my parents told me that I should just drop my meal plan — I have dietary restrictions that make it difficult for me to eat at school — but every time I had to explain that giving up that would drastically change my friendships. While you might not have such an attachment to your campus’ cafeteria, you’ll be able to save a lot of mental energy and have yet another chance to meet so many people. If all that doesn’t sell you just think about all the dishes you won’t have to wash (that’s enough to get me on board).
Usually, although I can’t actually give you any figures because the cost of every university is different, living on campus is more expensive. This probably has to do with the convenience of having everything at a walking distance but also because it’s the college’s duty to screw you out of as much money as possible before you get your diploma. While some universities require you to live on campus your freshman year, if after that you’re tight on money you might consider moving off campus.
If you’re wanting to get a furry friend to spend your nights with, you’re not going to want to live on-campus. Getting approved to have a pet in the dorms takes tons of time and energy (which is why no one really does it). If having a pet is really important to you at some point in college I would suggest living off campus where they can roam free in the backyard or on the patio, free from the clutches of an RA.
You Might Have Noisy Neighbors
The walls in the dorms are paper thin (and I’m talking about that cheap, flimsy stuff you get at Dollar General). Last year I could hear just about every conversation my suitemates had — it’s a good thing they turned into my best friends because they would’ve driven me crazy otherwise. So, living on campus is kind of a gamble (especially if you don’t know your neighbors) because if you get stuck next to some crazy loud people, there’s really nothing you can do about it.
If you like studying in your room and you’re afraid that the dorms might be too noisy I would suggest living off-campus because there at least you can better control your environment. But, on the other hand, if you’re a really outgoing person and are wanting to be surrounded by people all the time then this setup is perfect for you.
When I walked into my dorm room I nearly cried (okay not really, but I felt like crying) because the size of the entire room was literally half the size of my room at home — and I had to share this one with another person. I was also equally saddened when I saw my small twin sized bed and had flashbacks of waking up, well-rested in my California King just hours prior. The rooms are insanely tiny and cramped, and that’s just something that you’re going to have to learn to live with. If you can’t, I would say get an apartment that has the space you need. Ultimately, it comes down to where you’re going to be the most comfortable and how much you’re willing to adapt from how it was living at home.
For me, living on campus is the perfect fit. I’m able to walk to practically everywhere I want to go — which is fantastic because I despise driving. But, everyone is different. When deciding which option is best for you, make a list of the things that you feel you need in a living space and then go from there. College isn’t about having the nicest house with the biggest bed (although that doesn’t sound too bad), but about gaining knowledge and good friends. So just know that wherever you end up living you’ll be just fine.