Should You Live On or Off-Campus? 10 Factors to Help Decide


Last Updated on August 24, 2021 by David Shaw

Should you Live On or Off-campus?

As a college student, the question of whether to live on or off-campus can often be exciting or worrying. Whether if your choice is related to your budget, location, or housemate preference, there are major things you should take into consideration before choosing to live off or on-campus.

Especially for universities that require mandatory on-campus housing for their first 2 years of attendance, the decision to live off-campus can be tough to make or transition. To help you choose between living on or off-campus, here are several important and helpful factors to help you decide.

Costs of Rent Is Different

US and europe bank notes

When it comes to budget planning your housing rent, off-campus housing options are typically cheaper compared to on-campus housing most of the time. To be fair, on-campus housing usually isn’t cheap to begin with either, so if you’re potentially trying to reduce your rent in half or more, off-campus housing is the way to go. Not only is off-campus housing usually more value or your money for more space, but you also choose the location preference in your favor as well.

If you take into consideration how expensive tuition fees can get, being able to reduce your expenses on housing rent isn’t bad at all to lift off some burden for the overall cost of studying. With that said, If you’re looking for the best way to cut down on your overall study expenses in a university, definitely opt for off-campus if you can. Investing a good amount of time and effort into looking for good housing and housemates can also reward you nicely in the long run while you’re in college.

Commute Should Be Convenient

biker beside a bus shuttle

Commuting to school shouldn’t be an issue if you’re living at on-campus housing, however, it can easily be a problem if you’re planning to live off-campus. Unless you can find off-campus housing that is reasonably priced and located not too far from your campus, then you should go for it. But before settling for off-campus housing, there are things you should look out for when it comes to commuting to school:

  • Bus route availability

To make sure you’re not spending too much time waiting on the bus or commuting to campus, find off-campus housing that is located near a bus stop that can also drop you near school. This is especially important if you don’t own a car or not planning to get one in the near future. In the end, if you’re going to spending around an hour for a one-way trip to your campus, maybe you should consider a different off-campus housing location or stick to on-campus housing.

  • Bike, skateboards, or scooter friendly street
2 electric skateboards

If you’re living off-campus, will you be investing in a bicycle or electric scooter to commute to school? If that’s the case, then you should also check if the area is bike or electric-board friendly or safe to use on the streets. Make sure you won’t be limited and troubled with the local road regulations and laws, and observe if the streets are safely equipped with infrastructures to keep you safe from larger vehicles.

Additionally, if commuting to school will pose security, itinerary, and overbudgeting-related issues, you should really consider twice before living off-campus.

Overall, the best situation of living off-campus would be relying less on public transports or any sort of vehicle, and live somewhere within walking distance from your campus. By taking account of the time and you would’ve spent commuting to school, it should serve as a clue as to whether or not living off-campus is worth it.

Roommates and Housemates Are Different

When it comes to the freedom to choose your preferred housemates, having your preferred and compatible housemates or roommates is important to make sure you have a pleasant experience in college around your living spaces. Since you’re potentially living in a shared or private space with people, having friendly, respectful housemates ensure that you’ll have a peaceful living environment in your home whenever you need rest.

Not all on-campus housing gives you the privilege to choose who you’re living with — some universities will assign you with housemates according to your preference like substance-free, LGBTQ, study discipline, and several more. In contrast, living off-campus lets you choose your housemates before you finally decide to live together in the same home.

One thing I like about off-campus housing is the freedom and flexibility to include roommates, which could not only easily reduce your rent in half, but also create a fun living space.

Don’t forget, housemates in college could last for an extended period of time, so choosing the right housemates who are respectful, and be considerate of the common living spaces will avoid a lot of conflicts. Choosing off-campus housing simply gives you the option or authority to choose your housemates that you feel comfortable living with, so make sure to choose them wisely.

Rules Apply Differently

list of house rules

On-campus rules can sometimes just kill the fun due to strict rules and consideration for other residents in the building. Simple things like having guests over, sleepovers, keeping pets, or consuming substances are often prohibited if you’re living on-campus.

By living off-campus, you’ll not be constrained to these rules in most cases as you’re in control and more independent of adult responsibilities in the house. If you don’t need curfews anymore, off-campus housing will possibly give you the desired freedom to exercise your adulthood responsibilities and choices.

Protecting Your Privacy

girl peeking over window

Privacy is a whole different story for both on and off-campus housing. For on-campus housing, you will constantly have resident advisors monitoring your living spaces and conduct, or having random residents or guests roaming around in the residence hall and common amenity spaces. Unless you have nothing to keep away from the public eye and wouldn’t mind people butting in about what you’re doing, you’ll be just fine living on-campus.

On the contrary, If you’re someone who prefers a more level of privacy around your living spaces, off-campus can easily give you the privacy you desire since you can choose to have a room to yourself or your preferred roommate you can trust. Whether if you want to keep your personal stuff, projects, or work to yourself, getting the desired amount of privacy while you staying on-campus is hard.

Understanding Lease and Contracts

signing legal documents

Unlike on-campus housing where you just pay the boarding fees and read through electronic agreements, leasing details may be different or have more specific regulations for off-campus housing. Some landlords or leasing companies require a security deposit or a large sum of the deposit in your bank in order to meet their requirements. Be prepared to set aside a reserved amount of cash in your bank to rent off-campus if you’re signing your name on the leasing contract.

As for penalties and liabilities, off-campus housing won’t go easy on you unlike on-campus housing if you violate the lease agreements. On-campus leases and contracts are typically more lenient as there will be resident advisors to monitor you, but off-campus housing can be a nightmare if your renter or leasing company gives you a hard time.

A good tip to remember while looking for off-campus housing is to make sure either the renter or company of the property owner is easy-going, not too and strict about the rules and policies, and more compromising towards college students. That way, in the event of unfavorable circumstances, you won’t risk having to face legal charges or being evicted but rather warnings.

Security of Your Safety

security staff in building

According to the statistics of campus sexual violence by RAINN, about 13% of students have fell victim to sexual violence and campus and this issue is only getting more pervasive.

Security should be prioritized no matter the place you’re living. If you’re living on-campus, there’s a good chance the campus is equipped with security and police departments to ensure the safety of the residents at all times. Most campuses have patrolling units at night to make sure students are safe, and even provide escorts whenever they feel needed to get back home.

However, security infrastructure could be lacking if you’re living off-campus. In any situation you feel your safety is being threatened, you can’t expect to reach the appropriate security police department as easily compared to on-campus housing. Make sure you won’t be walking alone at night, or maybe have a parking space very near to your house. So to avoid being a victim of sexual assault on campus, always make sure where you will be staying will grant you convenient and easy access to the appropriate help.

Getting Your Parcels Protected

parcel at door

Students in college love to shop online and have parcels delivered given the convenience of Amazon and many other online stores with free shipping. On-campus housings usually have package concierge systems to keep your parcel in a safe place for pick-up, while off-campus housing might not have these facilities or services.

If you’re someone who likes to shop online a lot, you should look for off-campus housing that has these package concierge services or at least a safe neighborhood that won’t allow your parcels to get stolen.

Access to Kitchen

simple kitchen design

If you prefer to home cook your meals or regularly use the kitchen, then off-campus housing may be a more suitable option for you. For on-campus housing, dormitories typically don’t have a kitchen space equipped in every unit but have a shared kitchen instead, which is used by all residents in the building. Unless the on-campus housing unit is an apartment, only then should you expect kitchens to be present in the living unit.

Everyone has a different preference for the use of kitchen space. If you haven’t already known, university residence halls or dormitory units usually provide small fridges and do not allow cooking appliances like water boilers and a few others. If you simply don’t like these regulations and options, off-campus housing typically does not have these policies.

Furnished Rooms

dormitory room

Living spaces in college typically need furniture like a bed, frame, table, chair, cabinet, and closets. On-campus housing always comes pre-furnished with basic and heavy furniture as mentioned before, but know that most off-campus housing comes unfurnished.

If you’re going to live off-campus, make sure to check if you will be able to furnish your new place with the basic furniture like a bed, table, chairs easily or better yet, if they come furnished. Some universities located in towns might be limited in their convenience of delivery services of big furniture, which can be a problem getting if you don’t own a car.

If you’re going to move to an unfurnished off-campus unit, make sure you won’t run into trouble getting like moving the furniture around, getting them sold, or relocated in the future. And if the costs and inconvenience of owning your own furniture far outweigh the benefits of moving off-campus, then maybe it is better to stick with your current on-campus housing.

David Shaw

I enjoy blogging about the college experience, teaching people how to navigate and hack their way through college. I also enjoy promoting financial literacy among young individuals.

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