Let’s Talk College: Pros and Cons of Living in Student Apartments vs Dorms

By FPL_Jenni

Going off to college is an exciting and nerve-racking development in a young adult’s life. You get to be on your own for the first time and focus on what you want to do. However, before you could do that, you have to decide on where you want to live. 


There are two main options that a student has when it comes to deciding where to live throughout their collegiate career. You have Dorms, which is student housing within the actual university, or you have Student Apartments, which are apartments off-campus that primarily house students (that may or may not be associated with the university). Both have their own pros and cons, and it is ultimately up to you to decide which is better suited for your needs. 


Let’s start with dorms because it is the most common for first-year students. Some pros about living in a dorm are that you live on campus, so there is no need for a car and it will be easier to get to classes. Dorms also force you to interact with other students via roommates or dorm hall activities. And finally, dorms come in a single cost that is not dependent on external factors (meaning dorms are all-inclusive: electricity, water, and Wi-Fi is all a part of your contract).


Sounds great on paper, but let’s discuss the cons... Privacy is essentially non-existent when you live in a dorm because you will have at least one roommate (sometimes more) and everyone will be sharing one public bathroom in the dorm hall (meaning that you will be sharing a bathroom with possibly 40+ people...yikes). Your actual dorm room will probably be really small (it will be considered a “luxury” to have a closet) with small chances for decorating that don’t go against campus rules (no painting, no holes in the wall, etc.). Lastly, living on campus in dorms in usually way more expensive than living in student apartments because you will need a meal plan when living on campus which could cost the same as your classes (AKA thousands of dollars per semester). 


Let’s move on to student apartments... If you have ever wanted to live with your friends, but still have your own room, student apartments are just what you are looking for. Besides having your own space (and personal bathroom, in most cases), you also have the freedom of entering and leaving your home whenever you please (dorms normally have curfews). And finally, living in student apartments is normally significantly more affordable than dorms because one can make their own food in student apartments as opposed to relying on an expensive school meal plan. 


So, more privacy, more space, and cheaper than dorms? Could there possibly be any negatives to living in student apartments? Yes. There are. First, you’re off campus. If you want to drive to campus, you will need a car and a parking permit (which can be extremely pricey). If you don’t have a car, then ride sharing, taking a bus, or simply biking or walking are your only options to get to class, which means you will need to plan accordingly (which could hinder your sleep schedule). Second, leases for student apartments are by year as opposed to per semester, which means come summer you will either hunker down for summer classes, or search for someone to sublease your apartment (live in your apartment for the rest of your contract). Finally, utilities costs change based on roommates and weather, so be wary for expensive electric bills in both the summer and winter. 


There you have it, folks! Some important pros and cons when deciding where to live during college. I lived in both during my undergraduate career, and although living in student apartments got a bit tricky sometimes (utilities, renewing leases, etc.), I much preferred the space and privacy I got from apartments than the close quarters I was forced to endure in dorms. However, I don’t regret living in dorms for my first semester; in fact, it made everything easy because I didn’t have to worry about what to eat or if I would make it to class on-time. The choice is yours! Good luck!