Dorm Life vs. Off-Campus Apartments: What You Need to Know

One of the big decisions you’ll need to make is whether you want to live in a dorm or in an off-campus apartment. Statistically speaking, most students live in on-campus dorms their freshman year. Some schools even require it.

But for the colleges and universities that don’t, many first-year students find the idea of an off-campus apartment much more appealing. There are pros and cons to each option and it’s important to explore both before making a final decision.

Living in on-campus dorms


  • You’ll be in the heart of everything on campus! This means you’ll be close to social events, the cafeteria, the library, your classes, etc.
  • You most likely won’t need a car. Living on campus makes things very convenient and you can walk almost anywhere you need to get or take the university bus.
  • You’ll meet a lot of people. Living on campus in the dorms is a great way to meet people, especially if it’s your first year.
  • You’ll have less responsibility. You won’t have to worry about buying groceries nor will you have to do a lot of upkeep. This gives you time to focus on other things like studying, socializing and enjoying your first year of college.
  • There’s a lot of security on-campus, which will ensure you feel safe at all times during your first year away from home.


  • If you value alone time and quiet time, it can sometimes be hard to find any of that in the dorms. The dorms are very social and interactive.
  • Less alone time means less privacy. You might feel like you don’t have a lot of privacy in the dorms since you’re living with another person (or multiple people) in a small space.
  • Bathrooms are typically pretty small and sometimes communal, which means you might have to wait to find the best time to shower and get ready. This can cause a lot of annoyances.
  • If you like to cook, cooking space is typically limited in the dorms. You won’t have access to a personal kitchen which can be seen as a con for some students.

Living in off-campus apartments


  • You’ll have a lot of privacy and personal space. Need we say more?
  • You’ll get to experience what it’s like to be fully independent for likely the first time, which is a big step into adulthood.
  • You’ll have a lot of cooking space and the freedom to buy your own groceries.
  • You can have friends over regularly and will have ample space for entertainment, unlike in the dorms.
  • It’s typically cheaper to live off-campus since universities charge a lot of money for on-campus dorms.


  • You’re further away from campus which means it’ll take more motivation to get to campus for class, sports games and other events each day.
  • Security is a bit unknown. You’re more at risk off-campus and will want to consider the security aspect of things if you’re considering living off-campus.
  • You’ll need a car since you’ll be driving essentially everywhere. This could increase your overall living costs.
  • The upkeep of an apartment can be a lot and is usually overlooked by young students. An apartment comes with an increased demand of responsibilities. Maintenance can be time-consuming.
  • You could end up feeling isolated from your peers since you’re further away and have more alone time than usual.
  • There are a lot of rental scams out there, especially in college towns.

So, what’s the right option for you?

Many students will choose to experience the dorm life their freshman year and then opt to move to an off-campus apartment for the remainder of their college career. This seems to be a “traditional” path many college students take. Although, some will opt for the off-campus apartment from the get-go. At the end of the day, it’s truly up to you.

We’ve listed numerous pros and cons to each option, but it really comes down to what priorities are the most important to you and your college experience. If you want to be immersed in the student body and meet a lot of people your first year, living on-campus in a dorm is probably the right decision for you. If you’re seeking a more private environment, living off-campus in an apartment might suit you better.

Choose both

Where you decide to live in college isn’t set in stone for the entire four years. You can experience both kinds of living, which is typically what most college students end up doing. If you live in an on-campus dorm your freshman year, it doesn’t mean you can’t move into an off-campus apartment the following year.

Don’t stress your living situation too much. Enjoy the process and most of all, congratulations on getting accepted into college! The next four years will be some of the greatest years of your life.

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