By now or at least very soon, some of you will be making one of life's big decisions — where you'll go to college. But once you've made that choice, you'll be faced with lots of other choices, including whether you want to live on or off campus. Just as there are many things to consider when you’re picking your future university and what you’re going to major in, deciding your living arrangements could make or break your college experience.
I lived off-campus for the entirety of my time at college, and I know that it was the right choice for me. And when I say "live off-campus," I mean not with my parents (though that is totally cool too). But I had a lot of friends who lived on-campus in the dorms — at least for the first year or two. Some of them had amazing experiences, but I also had a lot of friends who had terrible experiences living on campus — they had awful roommates, too small a space, or a noisy or uncomfortable dorm life. I even had one friend who switched schools because her first year roommates were so bad.
Now, I’m not saying this to try and scare you — but I can tell you from personal experience that living off-campus has a lot more pros than cons. Here are eight reasons why you should consider trying out college life away from the dorms.
1. You Get to Be an Adult
Probably the most valuable thing I gained from going to college, besides the actual education part, was learning how to be an adult. Because I lived off-campus, I had to know how to pay my rent, pay my bills, keep my room and house clean, cook meals, do laundry, and all that jazz my parents used to handle for me. I also had to learn how to be in charge of myself and my time, including going to bed at a reasonable hour and getting myself to school. Living in a dorm kind of cuts down on all of that. You're usually on a meal plan, so little to no cooking is necessary. Your rent is included in your tuition, so no writing checks every month. You get the picture. I cannot even begin to tell you how much learning these real, adult skills will help you after you've graduated.
2. You Have More Freedom
Living on-campus means designated friendships, an RA to monitor you, and more structure to life. If that sounds appealing to you, be my guest, but it never appealed to me. Living off-campus means you have more freedom to do what you want. I'm not talking about partying all the time or whatever — I mean little freedoms like being able to come home late from studying and not getting the evil eye from your roommate. Or watching what you want on TV without having to take a vote from the rest of the dorm floor. You might still be living in a place with other people, but you won't feel like your every move or action is being scrutinized.
3. You'll Have Some Damn Privacy
Unless you're a mega people person with little to no boundaries, sharing a room with someone all the time can get a little old. I shared a room with my sister growing up, and I can tell you that once you reach adulthood, the cuteness wears off. College is a time for studying, learning, and growing, but let's be honest — it's also a time when you're making friends and developing romances. You're probably not super comfortable bringing your new friend or crush over to your dorm and having your roommate (who you may or may not like) sitting just a few feet away from you. Like I mentioned, you might still be living with other people off-campus, but just being able to have your own room will offer more privacy than a dorm ever could.
4. You Can Build Lasting Friendships
Look, I know how hard making friends can be, especially if you're in a new place. And I'm sure the idea of basically having built-in friends on your dorm floor is an appealing idea. But what if your roommates turn out to be mean or weird or clingy? It can be even harder to find other friends because you feel awkward not hanging out with your roommates. Living off-campus makes you search out friends in your classes or job or neighborhood who you actually enjoy spending time with — and not because you live together. Believe me, the number of people who remain friends with their dorm mates after they stop living together or graduate is pretty low.
5. You Can Actually Be Alone
Just like you have the freedom to be with people when you live off-campus, you also have the freedom to be alone. So much of dorm life is spent with other people — you share rooms, you share bathrooms (sometimes with the whole floor), you all eat dinner in the cafeteria. But having your own place or your own room allows you to be alone whenever you want. No more hiding in the library just to watch Scandal before your roommate can ruin it. All you have to do is shut your door and enjoy some alone time.
6. You Get a Break From Being On Campus
I worked part to full-time to help put myself through school, so I was not one of those people who spent eight hours a day, three days a week on campus. But if you are one of those people who will be spending that much time on campus, you're probably going to want a break. Living on-campus means you'll probably always be in "school mode," since you're basically never leaving.
7. You Can Save Money
Depending on your school and the general cost of living where your school is located, you could save some money living off-campus. Colleges usually list the estimated cost of attendance — including tuition, room and board, food, etc. — and you could do a little research as to how much living off campus will cost. Generally, you can save a lot of money on food, because living on-campus means you have to pay a typically over-budgeted food plan. And if you have a car, you'll have to pay for a parking pass to keep it by the dorms. The expenses can add up, so make sure you factor in everything.
8. You Might Be Safer
Real talk here: college campuses are not as safe as we'd like to think. Aside from the absolutely disgusting amount of on-campus sexual assaults, dorms are notorious for having theft problems. Your roommates could steal stuff, people they bring over could steal stuff, and, heaven forbid, someone forgets to lock the door before going to the showers — anyone in your dorm could steal stuff or get into your place. Campus cops may have a better response time due to their proximity, but you'll be able to protect yourself more by having a private space and being more in control of who can come in and out of your house.