For most students, the college provides the opportunity to live away from their parents and make critical decisions independently. One of these decisions is choosing where to live while pursuing studies. As a student, you have the option of staying in the campus dorms or renting an apartment outside the university. Either way, you will inevitably end up with some kind of debt.
The cost of college housing, both on-campus and off-campus constitutes one of the biggest expenses after college tuition, and therefore, students should make a financially sound decision when choosing a housing option. Knowing the costs involved, benefits and challenges of each option will put you in a better financial position.
Here is a breakdown of the pros and cons of the two accommodation options.
Living in the Campus Dorms
In most colleges, incoming freshmen are required to live on-campus at least for the first year. The choice of living on-campus or renting an apartment is majorly a decision for upperclassmen who are already used to the college life.
For a freshman, living in the halls of residence provides the easiest way to transition to college life.
One of the advantages of living on the campus is the easy living. You are guaranteed access to all sorts of facilities such as libraries, classrooms, hospital and the gym. Apart from the quick commute to the lecture halls, you also get fresh meals prepared for you. Also, there is support staff employed to clean the bathrooms and common rooms, and sometimes the dorm rooms.
Living in the dorms presents an opportunity to interact with new people and build lasting friendships.
Not forgetting that the halls of residence gives you an opportunity to network and create business relationships that will last long after the graduation. Most campus friendships grow to become business empires and avenues to make the world a better place.
Regarding student and property security, college dorms have their own police and security personnel who are responsible for protecting the residents and their property. Also, dorm room floors have hall monitors who ensure that only dorm residents have access to the halls of residence. These security measures ensure that strangers with ill intentions do not have access to the halls of residence.
Residing in the campus dorms also eliminates the need for buying furniture and other utilities.
Students are provided with essential furnitures such as beds, study desks, and chairs. Students can use the study desks to do private studies after classes. The common areas are equipped with couches, TVs, and other essential furniture.
The cost of cable TV, the internet, water, and electricity is covered in the dorm room charges.
On the downside, dorms have limited privacy because you will be sharing a room with other students who are randomly selected. Also, the dorms have bathrooms that are shared among students living in a whole floor, and you may find yourself fighting for space during shower time.
Another drawback of living in the dorms is the limited access to the kitchen. Most dorms have small kitchens that are shared among several students, making it an unreliable option if you prefer cooking for yourself.
The student cafeterias have limited healthy foods, meaning that students may be forced to buy groceries even with a meal plan.
Living in a Shared Apartment
If campus dorms are not for you, you have the option of renting an apartment off-campus. Residing in a shared apartment gives you more freedom since you decide what to eat and there are no rules like those dictated by dorm monitors.
You are in a position to manage your budget, and you choose what to buy and what to eat, and this will help you save money. Off-campus housing may be higher or lower than on-campus accommodation depending on college location.
Living in an apartment gives you a chance to build a positive rental history and establish credit. Paying rent and utility charges every month and dealing directly with the landlord will give you a sense of independence and responsibility. You have more control over your daily expenses, and you will learn how to manage debt effectively.
Renting an apartment will give you more space and facilities. You get your own bathroom, bedroom, and kitchen, or at least shared among few roommates.
In campus dorms, the bathrooms are shared among many students, denying you the luxury of having your own bathroom. With your own kitchen, you can cook healthy meals and ditch fast foods. Plus, you can host your friends once in a while and let them sleep in the guest room.
If you are sharing an apartment with several roommates, you can cost-share the rent and utility charges. For example, if you have rented a two bedroom apartment, you can find a roommate to occupy the extra bedroom and share the costs involved. Also, you can contribute money to buy furniture and groceries. That way, both of you can save money every day and manage finances properly.
If privacy is a priority, renting an apartment will give you additional privacy and a peaceful environment. You are likely to find the apartment more comfortable and much quieter than living in campus dorms. Also, an apartment will be a great place to study and work on your assignments without disturbance.
Unlike on-campus housing where you are assigned a room, searching the best apartment may be a hectic exercise. You will be required to sample from an extensive list of apartments on websites, visit the potential apartments and deal with cunning landlords.
You might be lucky and get a cozy apartment for less, and sometimes, you might get a crappy basement. To avoid such bad experiences, you should contact the college housing department to get recommendations on the best apartments around the college.
Further, leaving off-campus means that you have to find means of getting to school every day. Some colleges provide transport to students living outside the school, which is a more reliable option. In the absence of college transport, you may choose between public buses, walking to school or using your car.
You may decide to walk to school if the apartment is not far away from school. Getting your own car is a reliable option, although it comes with additional expenses such as fuel, insurance, and college parking fees that will hurt your budget.
Another drawback of living in an apartment is paying for utilities. In most apartments, the service charges are separate from the rental charges, and you will be required to pay for them every month. The utility costs may include telephone fees, electricity, water, gas, the internet, cable and other recurring charges.
Also, most apartments requires tenants to pay a refundable deposit equal to an extra month rent to cover any damages to the property.
When it comes to choosing between on-campus and off-campus housing, there is no answer on which option is the best. The decision solely depends on the student’s individual needs, preferences and budget. You will need to compare the costs involved in living in college dorms and shared apartments. These costs may comprise rental charges, the cost of meals, utility charges and transport costs. Before narrowing down to your favorite option, make sure to do the maths.
Kostas Chiotis is an economist and blogger who shares tips on how you can manage your finances and stay debt-free. Connect with him on FinanceBlogZone.com, Facebook and Twitter.
Sylvia @Professional Girl on the Go says
Great post! Sharing accommodations was never an option for me. I didn’t want to share the space I was living with anyone so I just stayed by myself. I rented an apartment that was 2 blocks away from my school and walked most days.