College is an exciting experience, and for many students, their first opportunity to become independent and live away from home. There are many living arrangements for students, such as dorms, on-campus or off-campus apartments, and rental homes. While some colleges require younger students to live on campus, others may have more options. Each has advantages and disadvantages, so students should consider the pros and cons before making a decision on where to live while attending school.
For easy access to campus, a dorm is usually the way to go. Many dorms are in walking distance to meal halls, recreation centers, classrooms or campus bus stops. You may be able to find a home to rent near campus, but you will most likely pay a much higher cost due to its premium location. If you have to commute to campus, you will likely incur additional costs such as bus fare, gas or parking fees.
Safety and Privacy
Unless you are willing to pay a higher premium, you will most likely share your dorm room. Some colleges match you with a random roommate, whereas, if you rent a home, you can have more control over who will be residing with you. Depending on the campus, some dorms have shared, community bathrooms for an entire hall or floor. In a home, you may have your own room and, if you do share a bathroom, it would only be with your roommates. Many colleges also have controlled access to dorms, which makes them safer.
Cost of Homes
While rent can vary widely across the country, an article on Yahoo pointed out the "hidden costs" of off-campus living. If you rent a home, you will incur costs for furnishings, electricity, Internet access and other utilities that are normally included with dorms. Many rental homes require a security deposit and rent for the first and last month upfront, so the initial cost may be more than you planned for. And do not forget about the yard -- you may be responsible for maintaining it. Of course, if you are sharing the house with roommates, these costs can be split accordingly.
Cost of Dorms
Like rent, dorm fees can vary widely among colleges. Some colleges include the cost of three meals a day in your living expenses, while others may charge an extra fee. Scholarships.com reports that the average costs for room and board have been on the rise and can set you back $7,500 to $9,000 per year. Students can cut down on these costs by working as a resident adviser or being otherwise flexible in their choice of dorm, such as forgoing air conditioning or a private bathroom.
Dorm living will require you follow rules like curfews, visitor restrictions and room inspections. Living in a home will allow you more independence, as long as you do not violate the lease. Because many college dorms do not have kitchens, dorm residents often eat meals at campus cafeterias. Not being able to prepare your own food could be a downside for some students, while others might find it convenient. Living in a dorm is also considered a rite of passage, and Kent State University claims that students living on campus have higher grades and are more likely to stay enrolled.
Houston area native Marie Anderson began writing education articles in 2013. She holds a Bachelor of Science in exercise and sports science and a Master of Science in education administration. She has seven years of teaching and coaching experience within the Texas public school system.