As an aspiring college student getting ready to move away from home for the first time, you have a lot on your plate. In addition to the demands of college courses and potential involvement in extracurricular activities, you have to weigh the choice of living in a dorm or apartment. The decision impacts your quality of life and school enjoyment.
Your level of freedom is typically greater in an apartment. Dorms normally have strict rules on drinking, noise and decor. Additionally, you share a small space with at least one other person in a dorm. In an apartment, you may have to rent with one or more people, but you have more freedom. Though you must follow the law and landlord requirements, you typically have more mobility, greater freedom to move about comfortably and the ability to have guests at any time, day or night. Of course, roommates have similar freedoms. You might prefer a dorm with more rules and oversight, where everyone is accountable.
Dorms are part of the broader residence life system at a college. This means you get access to planned campus activities and residence life events. Just by being on-campus more often, you see posters and flyers promoting various events. You can also walk to sports events and activities. You also have access to a number of residents on your floor. College apartments require a bit more creativity on your part, but you also have greater control over the social experience. You can invite people to your house, have parties within reason and avoid the pressure to get involved in dorm events if you desire.
Dorms offer convenient access to food and resources. You typically sign up for a room and board plan that comes with regular meals at the on-campus cafeteria. The dorm or floor may also provide access to cleaning equipment, supplies, game rooms and sporting equipment. In a house, you are normally on your own. You may purchase a food plan, but you'd have to walk or drive to campus. Normally, you have to buy your own groceries, cleaning supplies and entertainment products.
The costs of dorms and apartments are often very close. The total costs of apartment life vary based on your choices in location and roommates. In a dorm, you typically pay a semester fee for room and board. The amount can range greatly by school, but you often pay $3,000 to $6,000 per semester for room and board. In an apartment, you could pay anywhere from $300 to $700 or more per month, depending on your location and shared costs with roommates. You also normally pay for some utilities. By the time you add in your grocery and supply costs, the numbers work out fairly evenly.