College Advice: Should You Live in a Dorm or in an Apartment?
Moving off to college is a huge life change. It’s a major event that you should enjoy, but that you should not take lightly. You’ll also need to decide if you want to live in a dorm or an apartment. Now, some universities may require you to live on-campus, in a dorm, for your first year. If that’s the case for you, then you’ll want to make a decision whether to move out or not later.
Here are some pros and cons of each with a bit of advice sprinkled in.
The Advantages of Dorm Life
There are some nice advantages to living in a dorm. Some of these will depend on the college you’re attending, while others are universal.
Let’s start with your resident assistant (RA). The RA is an older student assigned to the dorm who makes sure you’re following the rules. This may sound like a downer, but a good RA can also be a helpful friend, a sort of big brother or big sister. If you’re having problems adjusting to life away from home, they can help. If you have questions about campus life, you can go to your RA. Yours may also give everyone presents on Christmas, throw pizza parties, and generally do things to make your dorm experience better.
Your dorm fees will also include all utilities, making payments easier. If you purchase a meal pass, you’ll never have to do dishes. Also, college cleaning staff will maintain the common areas, so you only need to worry about your room.
You’ll be invited to all sorts of on-campus events, have easy access to the school’s workout facilities, and perhaps have a shared game room and TV room in the dorm. Yes, some of these amenities are there for all students, but you’ll be right on campus. You’ll always be able to get to class easily and quickly. If you need more space, you can always rent a self storage unit for an affordable price.
Overall, dorm life can be a good transition between home life and having your own place. The thing is, in time you’ll start to see the cons of living in a dorm.
The Disadvantages of Dorm Life
Disadvantages of living in a dorm include having to share a communal bathroom with an entire floor of people, noise at all hours making it hard to study, and sharing a small room with a stranger. Sure, if you’re lucky, you’ll get to be friends with your roommate and things will be fine. But you could just as easily get assigned to someone you won’t be able to get along with. It can be tricky to personalize a room you’re sharing with someone new. Parking can also be limited on campus, so if you drive, you may need to park a block or more away.
The Advantages of Apartment Life
Once you’ve lived in a dorm, you’ll really like the advantages of apartment living.
You can expect to have more privacy. Even though you’ll probably be sharing an apartment with one or more roommates (depending on the size of the apartment), you’ll have your own room. Oh yes, and that room will probably be bigger than the dorm room you shared. This will make it easier to study and to have some space to yourself.
Don’t be surprised if you’re paying less in rent as well, but don’t forget that you’ll need to pay more for utilities unless they’re folded into the price of rent. You’ll save money buying groceries over having a meal pass.
You can also move into an apartment with friends! Once you’ve made some friends in your dorm, or if you’re going to the same college with friends from high school, this is a great option. It’s nice to share a place with people you know.
Finally, you can make your own rules and work those out with your roommates without worrying about what the RA wants. You can invite guests over without asking your RA, for example.
The Disadvantages of Apartment Life
You can glean some of the disadvantages of living off-campus in an apartment by reading about the advantages of dorm life. You won’t have an RA to go to should conflicts arise. You’ll have to work those out with your roommates. It will be tougher to get to on-campus events, and you may not be made aware of some. You’ll have to do your own cooking, dishes, and cleaning. You’ll also have to head to class earlier than you would if you lived on campus.
As a basic plan, we suggest living in a dorm room for the first semester or year, then moving into an apartment. This will give you an adjustment period between living with your parents and living fully on your own. It will also make it easier to make friends and connections in that first year, which will last throughout your college career, and perhaps for the rest of your life.
While the social aspect of college is important, remember to study! You’re there to prepare for your life after college, so do your best.