The beginning of any school year comes with a plethora of decisions to make that can shape your entire year. Most of these decisions are fun because there is a certain reassurance knowing we can always change our minds later. Some may be a little harder to make if it’s a decision you’ll be stuck with for a while, such as choosing whether to stay in an apartment or a college dorm. No matter which one you choose, you’ll have to be fairly confident in your decision because you might, depending on your college, be stuck with it for at least a semester. Chances are you have already moved in to where you will be for the school year. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t still think about your decision (and maybe change it if possible), or prepare yourself for a change next semester/year.
Living in a college dorm is different from living in an apartment, but which is better?
The first thing you should consider when choosing where to live, is what kind of budget you’re on. Financially speaking, dorms can be a lot pricier than living in an apartment or house off campus because meal plans and utilities (sharing a bathroom, etc.) are included (and required) in the individual price. Dorm fees are usually cheaper with the more roommates you have, but this can vary upon which dorm you are in and can even still be too costly. Having roommates in an apartment can help reduce rent too, but usually this is still a cheaper option overall since you can all share costs of utilities, groceries, etc. However, the biggest difference in cost with an apartment and a dorm is usually when payments have to be made. Typically, living in a dorm requires payment in full upfront, while an apartment generally expects smaller payments each month throughout your stay. In order to make a payment for a dorm, you will likely either need to have saved up, have earned a grant/scholarship, or will need to pay the costs with a student loan. To pay for an apartment, you should have a part-time job to allow you to make these monthly payments.
Living in an apartment does generally allow more freedom. You can decide what you eat each day (and not have to stick to what the dining hall offers) and what time (dining halls are not usually open 24 hours), you can have anyone over (some dorms are gender restricted), and typically apartments have less regulations than dorms (no quiet hours, different policies on what items are allowed, etc). However, with more freedom comes more responsibility.
3. Personal Life
Aside from the fact that I just couldn’t afford to live in a dorm, the main reason I chose to live off campus was to separate my school life from my personal life. I liked being able to leave school grounds at the end of my classes. The separation of my personal life from school life meant I could go home at the end of the day and not feel like I had to socialize if I didn’t want to. It’s a different experience to live on-campus and be in the middle of the college buzz 24/7, but some people prefer to have that experience.
Most college students cannot afford to live alone. In dorms, roommates are generally assigned to you without ever having any idea of who they are, what they’re like, or if you’ll get along. Some schools allow you to make roommate requests, but freshmen especially are usually paired up since they may not already have friends at the school. Apartment life requires you to find your own roommates, which allows you the opportunity to find someone with your similar living habits and interests.
If you’re still having trouble deciding, make a pros and cons list for each option, or seek the opinions of friends and family. The more input you receive from those who have been there, the more assured you’ll feel about your final choice. Some college students even feel like they want to experience both the dorm-life and apartment-life and decide to live in the dorms for the first couple of years of college, and then get an apartment off-campus with some close friends. When you realize what experience and lifestyle you want, you will easily be able to decide what is best for you.