How to Choose Between a College Dorm or Apartment

Four Methods:Considering Financial FactorsLooking into Your Social LifeIdentifying Your Personal NeedsConsidering the Academic Impact

Living away from home can be exciting. You will have a lot of new freedom and responsibility. Dorm life can be a great way to meet new friends, but you may want to move out of the dorm eventually. You may also want to start off college living off campus. When deciding between the dorm and an apartment, think about your finances, your social life, and your personal needs.

Method 1
Considering Financial Factors

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    Start by comparing the cost of rent. When you begin to consider your finances, see if there's a major difference in rent costs between an apartment and the dorm. Oftentimes, the cost of rent alone is cheaper off campus. The monthly rent for a dorm may be quite high. [1]
    • If you do not currently have an apartment lined up, you can browse listings online to try and get a general sense of what the price range tends to be in the area.
    • You should be able to find out how much a dorm costs on your university's website.
    • Write down a rough range of costs of apartments versus campus housing. For example, monthly dorm rent is $900 per month, while the average rent in an apartment is $550.
    • Remember, you do not have to pay rent alone. Usually, you will end up having roommates. When figuring out your rent responsibilities, consider if you'll be splitting the rent with a roommate.
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    Factor in utility payments. Rent is only one of many expenses to consider. While rent may be cheaper, you want to make sure you look at all your options. One advantage of dorm life is that many expenses are taken care of. Things like internet, heat, water, and other utilities may be covered in the dorms but not off campus.[2][3]
    • Do any apartment pay utilities? If not, you will end up having to pay things like a water bill, a heating bill, and an electricity bill. If you know anyone living off campus, ask them about how much they pay for utilities.
    • You will also have to contact an internet or cable company to set up your internet. See how much internet and cable cost per month through local providers.
    • Add how much you'll be paying for utilities to your monthly rent. For example, say you'll pay about $80 a month in things like water and gas and $40 a month for internet. Remember, the hypothetical average rent is $550. Now, the cost of living per month is $670 off campus versus $900 on campus.
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    Look into the cost of food. Groceries are probably the biggest extra expense when it comes to living off campus. You will no longer have a meal plan provided by your college, so you'll have to prepare your own food.[4]
    • Think about how much you will reasonably spend on groceries. Will you spend about $60 a week? Add this to your running total for off campus expenses. Now, you're looking at around $910 a month.
    • Keep in mind, you may be able to stay on your campus's meal plan for a fee. If you don't like cooking for yourself, see how much a meal plan costs per month.
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    Think about free amenities. In addition the perk of utilities being covered, does your dorm offer free amenities? For example, maybe your dorm has a gym in the building. Are there any on campus amenities only open to students who live in the dorm?[5]
    • If you don't use a lot of your dorm or university's amenities, this may not be a big deal for you. However, say you go to the gym every day. Losing your gym pass could cause problems.
    • Check to see how you would go about replacing any amenities you lose. For example, look into gym memberships. Is there anything in your price range? Maybe you find something for $40 a month. Add that to the $910 total of rent and utilities. The cost off campus is now roughly $950.
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    Compare the final costs. If your dorm is hypothetically $900 a month, it's slightly cheaper to live in the dorm in this scenario. However, this may not necessarily be the case given the factors in your area. Remember, cost is only one factor to consider. The impact on your social life and academic responsibility should also be taken into account.

Method 2
Looking into Your Social Life

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    Think about meeting new people. Are you a freshmen or a sophomore? If so, now may not be the best time to move off campus. The dorms provide you with a lot of opportunities for socialization, especially early on in college.
    • In the dorms, you're living with many different students your age. People may be eager to make new friends. There may be get togethers hosted by your dorm, where you'll have an opportunity to meet fellow students. You will also eat in the cafeteria with other students, allowing you to bond over food.
    • If you're an older student, however, you may already have an established friends group. If you feel confident you will still see your friends off campus, you probably won't miss out on much by leaving the dorms. If anything, you'll get the chance to experience something new.
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    Consider how often you entertain. Do you like having get togethers? If you're the type to host things like game nights, movie nights, and other festivities, you may want to consider an off-campus move. Dorm rooms are generally small, and may not leave you enough room to have guests.[6]
    • There are also frequently more restrictions in dorms than apartments. Entertaining may be more relaxing if you're living off campus.
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    Look at your current social circle. Older students may already have a large social circle. If you're a junior or a senior, now may be a good time to try off campus living. You have likely met people through the dorms, which has led to other friendship.[7]
    • Many people enjoy living off campus once they feel socially secure. If you feel like you have a solid social circle, off campus life may work for you.
    • If you're a freshman, you may feel you have a solid social circle. Maybe you have a lot of high school friends attending your school. However, keep in mind college is traditionally seen as a chance to branch out and make new friends. Living off campus may limit your opportunity to meet new people.

Method 3
Identifying Your Personal Needs

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    Weigh your need for privacy. The dorm can be great for making friends and socializing, but there is a real lack of privacy. Sharing small living quarters with a roommate can cause stress. If you're someone who values your alone time, an apartment may be a better option. You may be able to get your own room at an apartment, or at least get more living space.[8]
    • If you have a mental health issue like social anxiety disorder, living in a dorm can be particularly stressful. It may be best to seek out a quiet apartment.
    • You can also look into a single room in a dorm. While these may be more expensive, it's a good in-between. You are able to get the social experience of living in the dorm while still having your own space.
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    Factor in the freedom of apartment life. If you value personal freedom, an apartment may be better for you. There's a lot more freedom in apartment life.[9]
    • As there are less rooms and people, noise may not carry as easily in an apartment. You will be able to play music and video games, and watch television, without as much fear of disturbing someone.
    • Dorms often have strict rules. You may, for example, have to sign in overnight visitors You may also have to sign in when coming back to the dorm late. In an apartment, you will not have these restrictions.
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    Consider whether you need a resident adviser. A resident adviser, called resident mentor at some schools, provides support and guidance to students. If you're struggling with something personal or academic, you can always ask your resident mentor for help.[10]
    • If you're prone to stress, you may have a greater need for a resident mentor. You may feel better living somewhere where you have someone to rely on for support.
    • However, not everyone feels they need a resident mentor. If you prefer managing stress on your own, or seeking support from friends or family members, a resident mentor may not be necessary.

Method 4
Considering the Academic Impact

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    Be honest about your personal responsibility. Students who live in dorms often do better academically. It's easier to stay on task with less distractions. If you're on campus, you may also have easier access to places like the library.[11]
    • Be honest with yourself. Are you a responsible person? Will you be able to get to classes on time if you live off campus? Will you be able to stay on track with your homework with the freedom of off-campus life.
    • If you're generally the responsible type, living off campus will still be an adjustment. However, if you tend to finish assignments on time and have a solid work ethic, you have a good chance of staying on track off campus.
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    Think about your access to campus amenities. If you move off campus, you may be farther away from things like libraries, resource centers, and similar buildings. If it is more difficult to run to the library, for example, you may find you're doing it less often.
    • A lot of this will depend on where apartments tend to be located in your area. If you're attending school in a college town, apartments may tend to be close to campus. This would make this less of an issue.
    • You should also factor in the cost of parking and gas. If you end up needing to drive to certain locations, the costs can add up each month.
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    Think about distractions. The freedom of an apartment can be great. You can have guests over whenever you want, and are generally able to make more noise. However, this can prove to be a distraction. In the dorm, there may be things like quiet hours. You also will not be able to have a lot of people over at once.[12]
    • If you're the responsible type, you may be able to better cope with distractions. However, it will always be an adjustment. If you decide to live off campus, be prepared to work extra hard to stay on track.
    • It's okay if you think you cannot handle the responsibility. Many students live on campus for all four years. Remember, the most important thing about college is learning.

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Categories: Campus Life