Photo of a dorm room in an article about living at home.

The Pros and Cons of Living at Home and On Campus

College is a difficult time, and deciding where you choose to live can drastically impact your success.
February 23, 2022
8 mins read

Growing up is sometimes scary. Add in college, moving away from home plus new experiences; it can be a lot to handle at certain times. Living at home while attending college is the alternative, yet neither is a universally better or worse option.

It would be easy to say that a specific percentage of students choose one of these two living situations if it weren’t for the fact that there are multiple types of colleges. Most four-year, non-profit private colleges have almost 60% of full-time students living on campus.

Between two-year public, for-profit, and four-year public colleges, the number of students choosing on-campus living is much lower. Most prefer to be off-campus. In addition, roughly 25% of students continue to live at home while in college, according to Urban Institute.

The Pros of Living on Campus

Living on campus allows you to build bonds with your peers, as living in a dorm can bring everyone together. One of the greatest reasons for living in a dorm is being able to create friendships with your roommate and people living on your floor.

Along with socializing at your fingertips, many dorms tend to have amenities such as laundry and shared recreational rooms like that of the Libra Community at the University of Central Florida. In fact, this dorm is reserved only for first-year students to encourage new students to form life-lasting bonds. Having a circle of friends makes living away from home easier.

If growing a social circle is not enough of a pro, the proximity to class might be. According to Inside Higher Ed, students living close to or on-campus had higher academic success than their commuting counterparts. A survey from Strada Education Network showed that 58% of students living at home had difficulties “keeping up academically” — a downfall that many Class of 2022 students can attest to.

On a lighter note, living on campus usually means there is a meal plan provided with the dorm. Jester West Hall at The University of Texas at Austin — the university’s largest dorm with a total of 14 floors — has two dining options as well as multiple quick eats like Wendy’s. At each location, Bevo bucks or the college’s meal plan currency can be used to pay. It’s an added expense to the overall price of the dorm, but well worth it.

The Cons of Living on Campus

Roommates can be difficult. Laundry rooms are often full, and your clothes can go missing. On a large campus, a single class could be a mile’s walk. Your meal plan could run out by the end of the first semester. In all honesty, homesickness will inevitably hit — even if your family is only a half-hour drive away. Being away from home can be scary and depressing, but also exciting and adventurous.

The Pros of Living at Home

It comes as no surprise that a big plus to living at home is saving money. Instead of spending roughly $8,900 to $10,100 for the school year, the cost is next to nothing. Unless parents decide otherwise, you can pay your way in chores. Not to mention, there is food! No need to go grocery shopping on your own, or drag heavy grocery bags however far the bus stop is from your dorm.

Parents are there and are probably willing to cook. There’s also access to a kitchen for those late-night study munchies. Additionally, the ability to do your laundry is just a few feet away (for significantly fewer quarters), and no one will steal your underwear or socks.

The Cons of Living at Home

The fun somehow seems to remain on campus. If you join an organization or “Greek life” community, it becomes difficult to be at every event. Even if it has virtual options, as is the case with Gamma Rho Lambda’s Tau chapter at the University of Texas, these online communities can never match the energy of being in-person. Commuting to classes becomes tedious. As mentioned before, over 50% of students find it hard to maintain good grades living at home or off-campus.

Parents are also like roommates. Only, they hold much of the power and control in decision-making for the house. What they say goes, including when your laundry must be done and out of the dryer. The autonomy and independence of growing up are harshened by the reality of still living under their roof by their rules. Privacy? Never heard of it while living at home.

Remember the class of 2022? Well, they have unfortunately faced both realities and many still do because of the ongoing in-person health risks of COVID-19. Over 50% of young adults in college and out have had to move back in with family, according to a 2020 Pew Research article. On a personal level, living at home for the last two years has been exhausting. Depression, lack of focus and anxiety have been a constant in many remote students’ lives, as acknowledged by Best Colleges. These factors are more than enough to drive someone back to campus, regardless of the pandemic.

Despite the possibility of catching the virus, students are still deciding between the two options. To live on-campus or at home, that is the question. While there are some universities like Ohio Wesleyan University that require students to spend their entire undergraduate year on-campus, many colleges advise new students to live in the dorms for at least one year — and not just because them doing so would benefit these institutions financially.

The University of Texas at Austin suggests students live on campus their first year to set themselves up for success academically. After that, students can live wherever they please. Even if your college doesn’t require on-campus living, many students immensely benefit from establishing bonds within the dorms and branching out to off-campus homes and apartments with a tight friend group in tow.

Make friends, get good grades, stuff yourself silly at the dining halls and have fun. Then, if you’re feeling homesick, go home for the following year. Save some money, hug your family and try to stay on top of things. Or don’t listen to these ideas and choose your own path! That’s the beauty of college — you get to decide.

Rebecca Trevathan, University of Texas at Austin

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Rebecca Trevathan

University of Texas at Austin

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