college tips :: living on campus vs commuting

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So almost everyone has started classes now, but since my main focus on HTPC is college, I'm going to continue with my B2S series in a way. Instead of it being named 'Back to School 2015,' it'll be 'College Tips'! You can always review my B2S posts here, though.


My freshman year I lived in the dorms on campus. I liked it and do miss it now, but it wasn't all sunshine and gumdrops. But neither is commuting / living off campus! In this post I'm going to highlight what I've found to be the pros and cons of both living situations. 

- Freedom. You don't have to abide by dorm rules (no quiet hours, you can have candles, you can have guests over whenever). However, if you're living in an apartment or shared house, you'll still have rules to follow. Chances are they won't be as strict, though.
- Saving money. This will vary from person to person, but generally commuters who live a short distance away save money by commuting, especially if they're living rent-free at their family home. The cost of a dorm and meal plan set me back about $10,000 for freshman year, which is a lot more than I've paid for living off campus. I'm within walking distance still, so car expenses were never a problem either.
- Kitchen + food is easily available. Some dorms have common room kitchens, but all mine had was a broken, locked oven and a broken toaster. So for a year I dealt with no kitchen and trust me, I hated it. While I got pretty creative with my microwave (that's a whole other post!), it got so boring. I was also on the middle meal plan, which meant 2 meals a day, 1 meal on Sunday. For the rest of my food I was at the mercy of my fridge or whatever place was open on campus (spoiler: not much past 12).

- "FOMO" or fear of missing out. This is a huge one for a lot of people, but it never really mattered to me. I missed having a kitchen, candles, my own bathroom, etc. But a lot of people feel that when you move off campus, you miss out. And to an extent, it's true. You can avoid this by scheduling your classes to span the whole day or just spending the day on campus until things start closing! Games and events will always be heavily advertised, so while you may have to go out of your way to attend, you can decide if it's worth it or not.
- It still feels like high school. If you live with your parents and commute, it may still feel a lot like high school and that could cause you to not enjoy college as much.
- Parking. This is also a con for on-campus people, though. Basically, parking always sucks. Invest in a bike if you're close enough.
- You're more involved. You can attend RA and floor events, always be on campus when things are happening (and not have to worry about gas money), and you don't really have to worry about travel time. There are so many events I'd love to attend on campus, but because it's usually about 20-30 minutes to drive, find a (super far away) parking space, and then walk to the building, I usually don't ever have time.
- There's a sense of community. When one person sets off a smoke alarm because they put plastic in the microwave, we all go outside in the freezing cold / rain / snow / etc. We all put up with hearing people fight in the hallways at 2 am. We're all in this crazy college mess together. You don't get that in an apartment complex, really. And if you do it's always with that weird neighbor that sits outside in their boxers, smoking.
- Security. For the most part, my dorm was safer than any apartment I've lived in. The doors automatically locked, you had to have an access card to get through 2 doors before you got into the hallways. There were night guards, police patrolled the area, so on. In my current apartment, there's one outside door that everyone props open because the lock sticks and then the locks on your apartment's door.

- Shared space. And generally, it's a small shared space. My freshman year roommate and I could fit our beds, dressers (under our beds), mini fridges, and desks. We had a decent sized closet that she put her fridge in, but other than that we were in a very tiny space.
- Community bathrooms / shared bathrooms with strangers. In every apartment I've had, there's  been at least one shared bathroom. The different between that and sharing a bathroom freshman year? I know the people. I was lucky to live in the dorms with a suite bathroom, meaning it was shared between my roommate and I and our suitemates (two other girls). That also included their boyfriends and friends at all hours of the night, apparently. One of my friends lived in the one dorm on campus with community bathroom (one bathroom with multiple stalls / showers shared between 22 ~ girls). That dorm was about 2 grand cheaper, though. 
- Small space. Just like I said above! Even if you're not sharing a room and have a private room, it's still not going to be huge. Probably enough for your bed, desk, and dresser!
- NO. KITCHEN. You may be lucky and have a hall with a community kitchen. Mine had a broken and locked oven + a broken microwave. :-(
- No candles. How did I survive a year without candles?!
- Every visitor you have probably has to be logged. If we had any visitors (students or not) after 9 pm, they had to sign in and show an ID. It's good for security, not so good for making you feel 'all grown up.'
- Parking. It's horrible. You're not going to get a good spot. Except for the one day you get the perfect spot, only you have to leave for work / class / something requiring you to drive in 30 minutes, meaning your good spot is practically useless. You might as well get some comfortable shoes!
So there you go! My own views of the pros / cons of both living situations. Overall, the choice is up to you. Here are a few extra tips for potentially choosing which living situation is right for you:
- Cost: My dorm (which required meal plan) cost $10 grand for two semesters. My apartments have costed, in order: $175, $340, and $300 a month before utilities. Even my most expensive apartment on a year lease, as opposed to the 8 months I was in my dorm, doesn't cost half of what my dorm costed. And I only spend about $50 on groceries every two weeks.
- Convenience: Freshman year I was from out of state, didn't have a car, and didn't have a job first semester. Living in an apartment would have been impossible and scary. After I got familiar with my area, got a job, and eventually got a car, living on my own was easier.
- Experience: Do you want the whole 9 yards of college? Live in a dorm. Don't really care and just want your degree (but you can still have fun!)? Get an apartment.

1 comment:

  1. It sure is a tricky one, but setting out the pros and cons in this way is so helpful! When I was at uni I knew a lot of commuter students and they seemed to be doing okay!