Before I came to the US for college, many people told me I should move off-campus as soon as I can because on-campus housing, aka dorms, are so over-priced. So I thought I would move off-campus once my freshman year was over. However, now after 2 years of studying in the US, I still prefer staying in a dorm to an off-campus apartment, and I’m not the only one.
Indeed, living in a dorm can be much more expensive than living in an apartment off-campus. For example, the dorm I lived in, a traditional double room, when I was a freshman cost me almost $1000 per month. And if the dorm is a suite-style room, it can cost up to $1300 per month. In spite of the price, there are many good things about living on campus.
The first thing is, of course, you get to live inside the campus. This actually makes a difference. Staying inside the campus means that you are always not very far away from places like classrooms and dining halls. For example, if you have a morning class, staying on-campus means you can sleep in for a little while.
Living in a dorm also means that you are living within the community of the university. Your roommate, your floor mates are all college kids. You have things to talk about; you can always hang out with them, and you will never feel being left out in the community.
Also, when you are living on-campus, safety is the least thing you need to worry about, because there will always be campus-safety staffs patrolling around the campus 24/7. So, for instance, if you are coming back from the library at 2 am alone, you don’t really need to worry about being robbed or anything.
Of course there are something not so good about living on-campus. Except for the price, the thing I hate the most about staying in a dorm is that you have to move out at the end of every academic year. This is like a nightmare to me, because you will never realize how much stuff you have until you have to move. Also, being an international student means you will never be able to take all of your stuffs home. So you have to look for some place to store your stuffs. Having to move out also means that if you want to keep living on-campus, you need to apply for housing, and due to the fact that the housing spots on campus are limited, there are odds you can’t get housing and, in that case, you will have to look for apartment off-campus. By the way, this is what happened to me at the end of last academic year, and I will be living in an apartment with a few friends for the next year.
So now let’s talk about off-campus housing. The first good thing about living off-campus is, of course, that it is cheap compared to on-campus housing. But living in an apartment can’t be cheap unless you are sharing with other people. For example, the 2-bedroom apartment I got for next year cost $3000 a month, and I’m sharing the room with 3 other people. So it will only cost me some $700 per months.
The other good thing about living off-campus is that you don’t really have to move out every year and looking for other housing. Usually the contract is valid for one year, but you can always extend the contract if possible. Also, compared to living on-campus, you have more privacy living in an apartment. At least you won’t be going through room inspections and floor meetings, and you don’t need to bare with thing like loud music coming from the next room through the thin wall when you are trying to study or sleep.
But the cons of living off-campus are also obvious. The first thing is you have to look for apartments you like. For example, you may want to find an apartment that is not so far from campus, and have some public transportation around. You will have to go through this process, and then you will probably need to go check the rooms and do other things like sign the contract.
Besides the room choice, you will also have to find roommates. Otherwise, as I mentioned, it can cost even more compared to living on-campus. I hate saying that, but it’s not so easy to find “good” roommates.
Sometimes the room can be un-furnished, which means you will have to rent or purchase your own furniture, including bed, table, desk, chair, and probably fridge, microwave, etc. You will also have to worry about things like cable, internet, TV, etc., because in many cases, these things are not included in your rent.