Why Must College Freshmen Live on Campus? How to Avoid Campus Housing


Last Updated on July 19, 2022 by David Shaw

why Am I Required to Live On-Campus Can I Choose to Live Off-Campus

Getting prepped up for college can be exciting, but some things and policies that universities or colleges require students to can be displeasing, like mandatorily living on-campus as a freshman for example. Western universities’ cultures are typically decentralized, and each of them can have its way to run certain standard rules and policies.

While some might ask, why do universities typically enforce freshmen to live on campus? Generally the case, universities enforce freshmen to live on campus for the purpose of making profits. Not only do they make a huge profit out of housing, but students who are typically required to live on campus also have to buy meal plans, which can further contribute to a university’s profit.

Universities will only let you have it one way or another, and in most cases won’t make living off-campus for freshmen year an easy option for their prospective students. Regardless of your preference, let’s further look into why universities require freshmen or new admits to living on campus, as well as the advantages of living on-campus.

Universities Profit From Their Housing and Boarding Businesses

money notes

In short, the reason why universities enforce college freshmen to live on campus has to do with money and profit! With these profits, the university board typically reinvests back into creating more housing facilities, other departments within the institution, or simply do it to recoup the investments put into the housing facilities.

Although I can’t speak for all universities and colleges on this policy, mandatory housing is a significantly large business opportunity for them. And you should know that when universities successfully sign up you for their housing plans, the next thing they will try to do is make you pay for meal plans (boarding), which might also be mandatory.

Should you live on or off-campus?

Other than the fact that universities and colleges enforce students to buy expensive meal plans, many university dormitories are designed to be not home-cook friendly as possible to make you spend and rely on campus markets or cafeterias as much as possible.

So yes, the real intention despite some good explanation or some ‘concerns’ as to why universities require students to live on-campus up to their freshmen or even sophomore year all boils down to profit!

Provides Convenient Access to Campus Facilities and Classes

Another important point that conveniently makes sense for universities to require freshmen to live on campus is the fact that it provides convenience and security for students to attend classes and access campus facilities, especially if the neighborhood is not safe after the day gets dark.

With that said, since your housing is within the campus compound or maybe in the center of campus, there are certain things you can benefit from or maximize your time by utilizing the free resources available on campus.

Food and Groceries Are Easily Accessed Within the Campus Compound

campus dormitory on top of grocery store

For students who don’t prefer to cook their own meals or don’t have easy access to kitchens, living on campus also means you’re easily surrounded by eateries within walking distance, which might save the day where you’re pulling through late-night or long hours of study sessions.

In some cases, if your campus dormitory or apartment allows you to cook, the on-campus markets often are your most convenient place to do a quick shopping for some cooking ingredients, snacks, or drinks.

Note: Food and groceries across almost all universities are known to overcharge unless it’s a franchise branch of a food or grocery outlet.

Take Advantage of Other Free On-Campus Resources On-Campus

Since you’re already going to be living on-campus, it gives you really convenient access to some of the free resource on campus that includes:

– Food Pantry

Food pantry or food banks offered by universities or colleges is a place and resource that combats food insecurity among students by providing groceries and food for free. Regardless of your income or financial situation, food pantries at universities typically welcome anyone who needs to drop by to get some groceries. So if you’re living on campus and running some groceries off-campus is not a convenient option for you, definitely look for your school’s food pantry to get some weekly groceries.

-Tutoring Services

Almost every university will employ students to tutor other peers which you can sign up for free. If you’re living around campus and looking for a way to improve your studies or just like the idea of having someone to study or guide you on your assignments, definitely sign up for tutoring offered by your university. You’ll never know when you’ll create new friendships through the people you meet during tutoring sessions with your senior peers.

– Buffet Deals at Your Campus Cafeteria

Some university cafeterias have great buffet deals that are made for students who want to linger around the cafeteria while studying. We all know studying makes us hungry easily, and some of these buffet deals that are affordable and stretch long hours over midnight or around a certain time of the day can save your stomach from growing while you burn the midnight oil.

– Club Events

Club events are typically always held on-campus, you can’t give any lame excuses for not joining a club if you’re already living on-campus. Get out there and meet new people, and experience the college experience because college clubs let you connect with peers of similar interests and help you find friends and create good memories.

– 24-hour Study Spaces and Facilities

Most college campuses have resources like their library which has private study rooms along with resting spaces to let students rest while working on assignments or long hours of revisions. You can also form group studies with your classmates by booking enclosed spaces where you can talk and discuss verbally with each other. Other than facilities like the library, you can also take advantage of your university’s free gym, though they are not always open 24 hours, they still tend to have long operating hours.

Applying to Your University for On-Campus Housing Exemption

filling up a form

The chances of requesting and getting approved for off-campus housing options for freshmen vary across different universities. Some universities and colleges explicitly provide an off-campus exemption form on their websites and those that do not typically require you to email or reach out to their university housing department directly.

If you’re wondering about the benefits of living off-campus, it includes things like paying cheaper rent, choosing your own house or roommates, and probably not needing to buy expensive campus dining plans. As a rule of thumb, it is more likely to get exempted from living on-campus if your university is public and has a high number of students.

If you ever want to request an exemption for on-campus housing, here are generally the documents university housing representations will ask you to provide:

  • Students aged 21 or older relative to admission year
  • Active or veteran military status
  • Students with proof of permanent residency address within the same county as the university
  • Students with medical/disability/independent student status circumstances
  • Domestic students with legally dependent children

If You’re Exempted From Compulsory Campus Housing, What Next?

The next thing you should do is definitely look for preferred off-campus housing! Some consideration you can be mindful of is deciding whether you want to prioritize cheaper cost or comfort and convenience.

As a good start, looking at university Facebook groups that are focused on housing for junior to senior admissions years will have many listings from students that do not have an agent in between deals. Let’s say your graduation year is 2026, then joining and looking at your Facebook university 2024 or 2025 graduation year groups can be a great place to find off-campus housing listings from your seniors.

If you prefer a more professional option, look for off-campus housing options through websites like Zillow, and Apartments.com which are very easy to use. If you have a generous budget to spare for a non-shared space, you can look into any affordable studio apartments around your school area which is very spacious and comfortable.

There Are Still Many Benefits to Living On-Campus

Under the circumstance that you have no other option but to live on campus for your first year, it is better to not waste time and effort fighting the system, but rather look into the benefits you can reap from this on-campus housing experience.

Learn to be self-Independent

Living on-campus inevitably teaches you to become a more independent person, which is definitely a good thing. You’ll have the golden opportunity to fend for yourself by doing your own chores, dishes, and laundry. If you’d never had the chance to live without constantly being under your parent’s wing and care, you’ll likely discover new traits of yourself, which can empower and mold you into a better and more outstanding individual.

Should you live on or off-campus?

You Build Great Relationships With Peers Living Together

Living on-campus probably means you’re gonna bunk in a bedroom-like shared space with a few peers unless it’s an apartment. Unless your peers really have a terrible personality, you should definitely be creating a few good friendships with your room and dorm mates.

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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