College is full of hard decisions. Get McDonald’s or cook ramen? Go out to a club or catch up on sleep? Watch Netflix or study for an exam? While these questions seem to have obvious answers, one dilemma that students are often unprepared to face is whether they should settle for staying in a dorm or choose to rent off-campus housing.
In a perfect world, this decision would be easy. You’d go off to college and live in a perfectly decorated, spacious dorm room with your best friend from childhood. While this happens for a lucky few, more often than not, you’re stuck living in a cramped, bleak room with a total stranger you have nothing in common with. If you’re on the fence about why you should forfeit the proverbial dorm room experience, here are five reasons why you should choose off-campus housing instead.
1. Off-campus housing is cheaper
In general, most off-campus student housing is far cheaper than living in a dorm. The steep price of living on a college campus includes room and board fees for laundry facilities, recreation and other utilities. More than that, universities often require the full semester’s rent in one lump sum before move-in. For a student who might not have an extra $2,000 to $5,000 laying around, choosing to live in a dorm can be costly.
What’s worse is that most dormitories close during major holiday breaks (like Thanksgiving, Christmas, etc.), meaning that students are forced to go home or temporarily relocate until the dorms open back up. Not only is this unfair for students who pay for a full semester of housing, but it’s inconvenient to the individuals who have to work over the holidays. Save your money for your student loans and choose to live in an off-campus apartment.
2. It’s safer during the pandemic
With the ongoing pandemic increasing in severity as time goes on, navigating the world in a safe manner is becoming more and more difficult. The worst possible decision that someone looking to protect themselves from the virus can make is living in a dorm room.
Not only are you living in the same room as another person, but you typically share a bathroom with two suitemates as well. Without requiring your roommate to wear a mask full-time and sanitizing the toilet each time you use it, it is nearly impossible to take the necessary precautions to keep you and others safe.
Opting for off-campus housing means your space will be equipped with your own microwave, mini-fridge, bedroom and bathroom, which also makes it easier to quarantine if you do get sick. Avoid restless nights spent wondering whether your roommate will give you COVID-19 in your sleep and sign a lease to an apartment instead.
3. Off-campus housing establishes independence
Living in a dorm room gives students a nice sense of security and ample opportunities to participate in their room advisor’s cheesy team-building activities. This might be nice for a semester or two, but by the second year of college, students are usually ready to get an off-campus place. While it’s comforting to have an RA right down the hall and a vending machine on the bottom floor, living away from campus can push you out of your comfort zone and get you ready for the real world.
After all, once you graduate from college, the safety net of living on campus is no longer available. Start early and consider renting an apartment instead. Signing a lease for off-campus housing can also help you build up your credit score and develop a relationship with an apartment complex that can vouch for you in the future.
4. It’s not as gross as living in a dorm
The fact that you have to wear shower shoes in your shared dorm bathroom should tell you all you need to know. Sharing living spaces and bathrooms with other college kids and their friends can undoubtedly get messy. Besides the hundreds of unsanitized hands that touch every door and elevator button, shared kitchens are usually left in poor condition by the students whose parents never taught them how to cook (or clean up).
While custodians usually do a good job of cleaning up the hallways, drunk freshmen coming home after a night out will inevitably leave their fair share of trash. And there’s always the possibility of having to share a room with an individual who is unkempt and inconsiderate, potentially making your shared room smell or look bad. To avoid these possible mishaps, make arrangements to live in off-campus housing.
5. Off-campus housing offers more amenities and freedoms
Dorms might be nice, but do they come with a pool, gym or game room? Off-campus housing provides a wealth of services you won’t find in dormitories or Greek life houses. Apartment complexes also afford students the possibility of adopting a pet. While having a pet in a dorm room can be arranged in special circumstances, off-campus housing allows most pets in return for a small fee each month and might even have a dog park as an added feature.
Along with these obvious perks, off-campus housing usually has fewer restrictions than living in a dorm. While it’s never acceptable to play loud music or make noise in the middle of the night, it’s much easier to get away with late-night redecorating or a music-filled workout when you live off campus. The sooner you sign a lease for an off-campus apartment, the sooner you can enjoy all of these amazing extras.
While there are some cons to living off campus, like fewer opportunities for school involvement and longer walks to class, the benefits far outweigh any negative qualities. If I could go back in time and give a piece of advice to myself as a freshman, it would be to skip living in a dorm and go straight to renting an apartment. Living in an apartment will give you more freedoms, amenities and personal space. Save the dorm fantasies for Hollywood movies and pick the more obvious choice of off-campus living.