Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Apartment vs. Dorm Living (As a Freshman)

         It can be difficult to decide between living in an apartment or living in a dorm for your first year of college. Some colleges and universities don't give first year students the option; living in a dorm is a requirement. For those of you who do have the option, I'll tell you about my experience, and give you some pro's and con's for each living situation.

     When I found out I was accepted to my first choice university, one of the first things I thought about was where I would be living. I ended up choosing to live in an "off-campus"
apartment, that wasn't affiliated with the school but was in the same town. Basically, any living arrangement that isn't university housing is considered off-campus, even if you are living in a house right next to the university library- I know, it's weird. Anyway, I'll give you some reasons why living in an apartment your freshman year of college (or really in general) can be great.

Image fro http://www.flickr.com/photos/missnita/2086268311/ author: Ani-Bee
  •  Roommates: When you live in an apartment, you can pick your own roommates (or no roommates)! Many colleges and universities randomly match you up with someone for a dorm. When you choose to live in an apartment, you can decide to live with whomever you want.
  • Car: Living in an apartment means you can have your car as a freshman! Most colleges and Universities don't allow first year students/freshman to have their cars on campus. While they makeup for the lack of personal transportation with a bus or subway system, it still can be difficult to get to where you really need to go, like work! Living in an apartment, means you are exempt from the no car rule, and can cruise around as you please.
  • Cost: Living off campus can be a huge money saver. While you will most likely have to work to be able to pay rent, you will be able to take out fewer/smaller loans for school! For me, living in my apartment all year (which I usually don't) is about $4,000 cheaper than living in a dorm during the academic year. It's even cheaper if you go home for the summer and over winter vacation.

      While living in an apartment your freshman year has some advantages, so does living in a dorm. Dorms can have a completely different atmosphere than apartments, and hold different opportunities. Here are some highlights:

Image from http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Fromm_379.JPG/ Author: Steohcooper21
  • Roommate: When you live in a dorm, unless you choose a single, you will have at least one roommate. This person will probably be your best friend, at least for the first week of classes while you still don't know anyone. Plus, you can usually change roommates for the second semester, and live with your best friends!
  • Social: Living in a dorm can be quite the social experience. You have people next to you, across from you, above, and below you! There are tons of opportunities to meet other people your age, as well as a variety of personalities! This can be great, because you have a huge opportunity to meet a ton of people from all different majors, instead of just people in your classes.
  • Area: Because you are living on campus, you are close to everything you could need, as well as your classes. There is nothing better than being able to take a five minute walk to your class, instead of fighting for a parking space and (sometimes) being late!
     Now, it's time for a dose of reality. No matter where you choose to live, there will be some downsides. You just need to figure out how the pro's and con's for each living situation balance with you. Here are some downsides to living in an apartment as a freshman:
  • Social Scene: Or lack thereof. As a freshman in College, you probably don't know anyone. Living in an apartment won't really help you meet bunches of people. You will know your roommates (if you have any) and probably some people from your classes. If you are a social butterfly, then meeting people won't be a problem. But if you are a bit more reserved or shy, not having the opportunity to have tons of people your age around you can be a bit of a downer.
  • Finding Roommates: Unless you have a friend who also is going to be living in an apartment, finding a roommate can be difficult (and sketchy).
  • Distance: Unless you score an apartment in the heart of the campus, you will probably have a long walk, or at least a car ride, between you and your classes. A 3 minute car ride isn't a problem, but a 20 minute commute (and some traffic) can be a bit annoying.
  • Parking: I don't know if it is like this at every college and university, but for me, parking is a problem. I can either park way far away and take a bus to my classes, or I can fight for a parking spot in the single commuter lot on campus. There are some times of day where finding a spot is easy, but there are other times (11:00am Monday-Thursday) where I feel like a tribute in the Hunger Games- May the odds be EVER in your favor.
Image from http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:LoyolaMD_Dorm.JPG#

     While apartment living may not be all that it's cracked up to be, neither is dorm life. Here's why:
  • Noise: It never ends. Unless of course you live in one of those honors/academic dorms...but...for the most part, dorms are noisy. Everyone has that story about the neighbor who played  the guitar or sang until 3am. Hope you're a heavy sleeper!
  • Cost: Living on campus means you have to pay the housing fee (usually an extra $10,000 minimum), and you also have to pay for a meal plan. Meal plans range anywhere from an extra $1,000 to $3,500 at my school. Woohoo.
  • Space/privacy: Let's be real, dorm rooms aren't big. Most people will be in a double their freshman year, meaning they share a room with one other person. There's a bit of a lack of privacy because of this, and you need to learn to share your space.
     There are probably ton's of other pro's and con's that can be added to my lists, but these were just the big factors for me when I was deciding between living in an apartment or dorm. Obviously every school is different, so some of these factors may not apply to your personal situation, but in general these are things to think about when deciding where you will live as a freshman/first year in college. Good luck!



  1. I too opted to live in an apartment when I was in college. The perks of living alone just beats the relatively low cost of dorm-life, especially the bathroom system. But it's right not to count out dorm-life though. This is a great list, and it'll probably help any freshman who's still in doubt about his/her living arrangements.

    Susan @ BallaratApartments-Newington.com.au

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