On-Campus or Off-Campus… Where Should You Live?

The Pros and Cons of College Living Options

If you’re a freshman, on-campus living is probably your only option. Sophomore year on, however, the world is your oyster and you’ve got a choice between living on or off campus. There are pros and cons of each living situation and you have to determine the best option to match your lifestyle to decide where you’d like to live.

On-campus living means dorm life, or if you’re lucky and your college has them, a campus apartment. Most campuses have several options for dorms.


  • Vicinity- You’ll be right in the middle of everything, near your classes, the library, the student center, etc. You’ll likely be able to walk everywhere and given how close you’ll be to your classes, you’ll be able to pop in and out of your room between classes.
  • No bills- All of your living costs will be covered through financial aid or tuition. You’ll never have to worry about the cable or the lights going out.
  • Cafeteria- Everyone needs to eat and campus cafeterias will provide plenty of great food options to meet most any tastes. Given most college students have neither the desire, nor the skill to cook 3 meals a day, that’s a pretty nice perk.


  • Lack of privacy- Having a roommate and living with 200 other students means your privacy will be limited. Someone (usually many people) will know nearly everything you do. Rumors run rampant and news travels at the speed of light.
  • Lack of control- Dorms have rules and there will come in a time in your dorm life when you would like to break a few, but breaking rules will usually mean losing your housing.
  • Public showers- If you are living in a dorm, prepare for public showers and the daily toting of your personal bath items down the hall in your fluffy robe. There’s nothing like a row of public showers to make you love a pair of flip flops.

Off-campus living will mean renting an apartment or possibly a house with a few of your college buddies. Many rental options cater specifically to the local college market and there should be rental options in most college towns.


  • Freedom- You are free to do what you want at your off-campus apartment (granted your roommates and landlord approve). You can throw a party, light candles and hang out with your buds all night.
  • Privacy- You may luck up and have your own room at your apartment, but even if you have to share a room, you’ll have much more privacy than in a dorm. Sharing a house with even 5 friends is a lot more private than a hundred or so.
  • Space- While most dorms are just one room, an apartment, or house, will usually give you multiple rooms and overall more living space.


  • Bills- You will have responsibility for rent, utilities, cable, phone, internet as well as groceries, paper goods and cleaning supplies. There is a lot of responsibility and if these responsibilities are not taken care of, your utilities and services could be discontinued or, even worse, you could be evicted.
  • Cooking- You won’t have the luxury of the cafeteria with off-campus living and unfortunately, most college students aren’t the best cooks. Unless you or one of your roommates is an aspiring chef, your meals will likely suffer or you’ll end up spending a lot of money on pizza and Chinese take-out.
  • Safety- Campuses are usually well-monitored by security, well-lit and overall safer than areas off campus. You’ll need to be extra careful when travelling to and from your off-campus housing, especially at night.

The decision to live on or off campus is a major one. Make sure you take the pros and cons of each option into consideration before you make a decision on where you’d like to live. It’s all about what’s important to you.

Photo credits (creative commons) by Paco Seoane

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