A Guide to On-Campus Living

When you choose your college, you are not only selecting a school. For many, finding the best schools also means looking for the best ones to call home for the next years in their university life. 

College is the first time many students are compelled to live away from their families. That is why when you start scouting for the campus of your choice, it is also important to make the right decision as to where you will live during your college years or what type of housing you should have. This critical step is something you should seriously consider so that you can easily transition to college smoothly.

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Today, you get a wealth of options when it comes to the ideal college living. Whether it is off-campus or on-campus college living, the choices are indeed daunting. This makes it even harder to find the perfect place ideal for you. However, which between off-campus and on-campus living should you have?

Off-Campus or On-Campus: Which is which?

Like most undergraduates who attend a traditional four-year degree study, a college may be your very first real opportunity to live out of the comfort of your home. Your college years are the very moments you start to slowly spread your wings and discover the outside world, the time where you slowly make your way to adulthood. With this major transition, you certainly need to have a decent place to stay. 

While most colleges and universities provide dormitories to students, especially to the freshmen, some schools allow their students to live off-campus. However, for the most part, most schools require their freshmen to stay on-campus during their first year in college. 

If you are still confused about what decision to make,  below is a simple breakdown of the pros and cons of each campus living.

On-Campus Living

Living on-campus is both a practical and beneficial experience for students. Whether making new friends in apartments or campus residence halls, joining in student activities, or worrying less about getting to and from school, on-campus living can significantly reduce your stress, thus giving you time to focus more. However, it also has some downsides, like your lack of privacy and hefty price tags. 

Pros:

  • You can make new friends easily because the spirit of camaraderie is always evident in on-campus living.
  • All expenses are included.
  • It helps you transition to college easily since everybody else are also adjusting to a new environment.
  • On-campus living promotes healthy study habits.
  • Your daily commute to your classes, the library, the student centers, and cafeterias are generally shorter.
  • Some colleges honor scholarship funds to cover university housing costs.
  • Campus apartments and residence halls are constantly monitored by campus security, making everyone a safe environment. 
  • Most on-campus living includes meal plans. Thus, you do not have to worry too much about how you can feed yourself while completing your schoolwork.
  • After your freshman year, you can apply to become a Resident Advisor. This will help cover your housing costs in your succeeding years in college in exchange for your services.
  • On-campus housing usually has leadership opportunities and extra-curricular activities once in a while. 

Cons: 

  • It is more expensive than living off-campus.
  • You are required to pay for the whole semester’s rent in one lump sum.
  • There will be instances, especially in accommodations for underclassmen, where residents share a facility or a room with others with very limited opportunities for privacy. 
  • Although it depends on the school, you may have to abide by certain school policies. 
  • Residence hall rooms are smaller than private accommodations. This means you cannot bring most of your belongings.
  • Your grades will possibly suffer, given the nature of on-campus living.
  • The “feel at home” concept does not exist in a place where your personal space is very limited.
  • Campus apartments and residences halls usually close over extended breaks like summer or the holidays. Meaning, if you wish to stay in the same place during breaks, you may have to look for short-term leases elsewhere.

 

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Off-Campus Living

Off-campus college accommodation gives you several benefits like increased independence, more freedom, and lower costs. Whether you live alone or stay with your friends, there are still students who think leaving the campus daily is a good way to unwind and de-stress themselves from college life pressures. 

Pros:

  • Since costs are actual, the costs are expected to be lesser than the usually fixed rates on on-campus accommodations.
  • Living off-campus teaches you responsibility. You will be on your own cooking your food, cleaning, doing the grocery, paying the bills, and more.
  • You have more privacy. You have the luxury of time to unwind while making sure your school works are completed on time.
  • The stringent rules established in on-campus living do not apply in off-campus accommodations.
  • You start to build your rental history. With this record, you can easily find other living places, especially if you are a good tenant. 
  • The sense of diversity is there since you get to have neighbors from practically all walks of life.
  • You can easily invite your college friends over to your place without thinking too much about having roommates. 
  • If you love your living space, you can stay for extended periods instead of moving to another place every after the academic year.

Cons:

  • You must shell out extra money for expenses like utilities, WiFi, garbage removal, and more.
  • If something needs immediate attention, it might take some time to get through the landlord.
  • You need to have your car to get to and from school, not unless your place is within a large metro area.
  • You may get less involved in school activities, although this depends on your home’s distance from the campus.
  • Most off-campus accommodations need you to sign a 12-month contract. Sometimes this becomes a problem since there are students who are away during the summer months. 
  • For new college students, seeking out a roommate is highly probable because affording a one-bedroom apartment is somewhat heavy in the pocket. 
  • The lack of resident assistants means it is tough to go around when you need counseling or assistance. 

On-Campus Living: What are your options?

After knowing the pros and cons of college living options, you might want to take advantage of on-campus accommodation since you can find several options available. From single rooms to a shared residence, a Greek-affiliated housing, or a suite-style apartment, on-campus living has numerous housing options.

Residence Halls

Incoming freshman college students are expected to spend their first university year in residence hall-style accommodations. Residence halls are usually shared with another student. The rooms may come with a suite-style bathroom shared with an adjoining room. Sometimes, these rooms have communal facilities for a specific portion of the floor.

Residence halls do not have kitchens. Thus, students are required to have their meal plans alongside the accommodation. Apart from living areas, these on-campus living spaces also have numerous resources to help first-year college students easily transition to college life. These resources include computer areas, academic advising centers, or resident advisor offices. Also, students are usually assigned a random roommate.

Greek Housing 

For students who choose to join a fraternity or sorority, Greek houses are good options. These houses are maintained privately by a Greek organization near the campus. The availability of these types of on-campus living greatly varies by school. However, you can start applying to live in Greek houses during your sophomore or junior years. Normally, memberships exceed the actual number of spots available. Thus you should have a backup option if you do not get accommodated. Students under these houses have individual schedules, but they all gather together for chapter events and weekly meetings. Also, the room styles vary, with some students sharing spots and others living in single rooms. 

Graduate Student Living Options

This is only for graduate students. This on-campus living option is a good choice because, in most cases, students either know the people in the program, and they simply choose to go and share a room, or they can live as a group, especially if they come from the same program. The best part about this option is that the rooms come fully-furnished. This significantly lessens your worries about setting up the whole room while trying to keep your focus intact. Also, graduate students are not as closely monitored as freshmen. This gives them that feeling of independence while still enjoying the many amenities in on-campus living like computer labs, in-house catering, the proximity to the campus, and even tutors. 

Living Co-ops

Depending on the setting of the school, living co-ops may take in different forms. Take, for example, the University of Nevada’s Living Learning Communities. This on-campus accommodation provides its students with a  social environment and specialized education where everybody can gather and share similar professional and academic interests. Students under this community take classes together and even conduct joint learning discussions once in a while. 

Another living co-op option is the cooperatives of UC Davis. These are student-governed, self-operating spaces created to instill responsibility and sustainable living in its residents. Here, you learn how to work together as a team, and you are trained on how to make decisions and actively participate in building the community effectively. 

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Why Freshmen are Required to Live On Campus

Most colleges or universities require students to live in residence halls for the first two years of college. Even schools require their students to live on-campus throughout the student’s four years in college. While the thought of having to live in dorms and residence halls may be quite a challenge, especially among freshmen students, you should understand why it is critical and helpful for first-time college students to live on campus. Here are some helpful reasons why. 

  • When students feel like they are welcomed in a college, they are more likely to stay and survive the grueling years of university life. Having this strong sense of belonging creates a huge impact on a school’s retention and graduation rate. However, students living outside the campus are expected not to get involved too much in campus activities and clubs. Thus this makes it harder for them to make friends among their fellow freshmen.
  • Living on campus means your college can easily help you out if you encounter trouble on the social or academic front. Resident Directors (RDs) and Resident Advisors (RAs) are present in on-campus accommodations. They are trained to assist and intervene with students who are struggling with college life. They can even help guide a student to the right resources and people on campus.
  • There is more to college schooling than being diligent in the class and earning a degree. Life inside a residence hall teaches you many crucial life skills like dealing with conflicts with your roommate or other residents or learning to adjust to living with people with different backgrounds. 
  • Residence halls are closer to a school’s important facilities like health centers, libraries, or gym. This is particularly helpful for first-year students because it will take some time to get fully used to navigating around a big campus. 
  • First-year students can take advantage of the presence of upper-class students or RAs in the residence hall. These people can help you with your campus and academic expectation. Plus, it is very easy to find mentors in on-campus accommodation than in an off-campus apartment. 
  • It also helps you find peer groups in a residence hall that takes the same classes as you. This allows you easy access to study groups; plus, peers are often there to help you understand confusing lectures and more. 

10 of the Best College Dorms You Can Find Today 

While the thought of moving away from your family is very scary, how scarier does it get when you start to think about living in cramped spaces with a stranger for a roommate? Thankfully, that is not universally the case. Today, you can find campuses and universities with residences that feel more like five-star hotels than crampy and old shoe boxes. Here are ten of the best college dorms that will make your college life more comfy and exciting. 

SIMMONS HALL

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)

Simmons Hall

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Simmons Hall is MIT’s dormitory that can house 340 undergraduates. With its striking design and distinguished architecture, alongside thousands of windows, a two-story movie theater, several terraces, a giant ball pit, and dozens of lounges here and there, this dorm is a haven for college students indeed. Aside from its amazing facilities, Simmons Hall is also home to the best group of students constantly doing exciting things. It also has a dedicated house team that takes care of its students like no other, and the residence’s excellent government system is designed for awesomeness and openness. 

As you walk your way through its hallway, you can see how vibrant your life awaits in Simmons Halls. The walls either have Pokémon drawings, maps of the Game of Thrones, or even physics equations. Stop by the Housemasters apartment and enjoy one of John’s oh-so-yummy smoothies, or enjoy the relaxing laughter coming from a group of students playing board games in the hall’s massive lounge.

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DAVENPORT COLLEGE

Yale University

Davenport College

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Davenport College is a Georgian style dormitory but with a gothic facade. Just one of the many residential colleges of Yale University, this college was first completed in 1933. Decades later, it underwent a major extensive renovation in 2004. The two main courtyards are separated by Crosspiece, a north-south component of the Davenport-Pierson complex that serves as the dorm’s administrative office. This also houses the reading rooms that extend from the campus’ Spitzer Library. 

The dorm’s dining hall also featured intricately carved wooden wall details, broad-wood floors, and a barrel-vaulted ceiling where the elegant Waterford Crystal chandelier proudly hangs. 

First-year students live in Welch Hall, a residence hall widely regarded as one of the best first-year dormitories. 

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NORTH LAKE VILLAGE

Florida Gulf Coast University 

North Lake Village

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North Lake Village (NLV) is situated on an 80-acre lake where Florida Gulf Coast University students can take advantage of the many unique outdoor opportunities that this on-campus living accommodation offer. NLV is home to mostly upper-class students. They have fully furnished apartments with a fully functional kitchen, two bathrooms, and a living room, all for four students per apartment unit. 

NLV has several high-end amenities like a fire pit, hammocks, a boardwalk, sand volleyball court, a swimming pool, gas grills, a computer/study center, a lakefront dining facility including Starbucks products, pizza by design, and a restaurant-style menu. It also has adjacent parking and is near recreation fields and tennis courts.

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MAX PALEVSKY RESIDENTIAL COMMONS

University of Chicago

Max Palevsky Residential Commons

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One of the most challenging and academically demanding universities in the world is the University of Chicago. Since its founding back in 1890, this university has reputed itself for very high academic standards and its very stimulating student culture and life. 

Popularly known as “Max,” the Max Palevsky Residential Commons is the most recognizable residence hall on campus. Residents at the Max are assigned to one of the eight in-hall houses. Each hall has its distinct character and community, but students share a dining hall, a basement, a courtyard, and more. It also has music practice rooms, an amenity you seldom see even in the best college dormitories. 

All freshmen of the University of Chicago are required to live on campus. Since residents are afforded comfortable amenities and ample support, 60% of first-year students prefer to continue living in these residence halls.

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THE ENID COOK ’31 CENTER

Bryn Mawr College

The Enid Cook 31 Center

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Most of Bryn Mawr College’s dorms are historic. Some halls were even built in the 1890s. The first new dorm was built in 1969 and was called the New Dorm. In 2015, the dorm connected to the Enid Cook Center also called the Black Cultural Center. This dorm has 101 single rooms and primarily provides housing for members of the school’s cultural student groups such as Mujeres (for Latinx students), the Sisterhood (for African-American students), BACaSO (for African and Caribbean students, and ZAMI (for the LGBTQ students).

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ROBERT LEWIS KAHN HALL

Oberlin College

Robert Lewis Khan Hall

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Oberlin College is one of the US’ top liberal arts colleges. This college is known for its forward-thinking and innovative spirit and continues confidently to maintain its reputation as one of today’s most politically active institutions in the nation: from LGBTQ Equality to the Civil Rights Movement. The college’s residential housing even practices this tradition, emphasizing diversity and equality.

The Robert Lewis Kahn Hall of Oberlin college focuses mostly on their students’ concerns and interests. Residents must pledge to live sustainably, including the use of alternative transportation and not driving their cars around the campus. This residence hall is certified LEED silver, and its residents can monitor their energy usage in the building. While all the residence halls of Oberlin College are nationally known, projects like the Kahn hall screams more luxury than any other halls. 

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MCMURTRY AND DUNCAN COLLEGES

Rice University

Mcmurtry and Duncan Colleges

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Rice University is globally known for its productivity and discoveries in applied sciences, from artificial hearts to computer programming to artificial intelligence. Moreover, like most highly demanding universities, this university is also known for its campus life that has come close to being ‘zany.’ 

Two of the school’s most fascinating dorms are McMurtry College and Duncan College, named after their longtime benefactors. The buildings are LEED-certified Gold and can accommodate up to 650 students. It utilizes innovative ways to boost sustainability like energy-efficient bathrooms pods in every room. Plus, its rooftop gardens add sustainability and a cooling factor. No wonder Rice University has one of the best dorms in the whole of the US.

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THE LAWN

University of Virginia Main Campus

The Lawn

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The University of Virginia was founded by philosopher, author of the Declaration of Independence, and President Thomas Jefferson. Being a great thinker, he designed this university as a clear testament to the ideals and beliefs of the Revolution with an emphasis on service, exploration, and science. Jefferson himself specifically designed UVA. He designed and oversaw the building of what he dubbed as the “Academical Village.”

At present, that village is still UVA’s main center, and The Lawn is the campus’ most sought-after housing facility. With 54 single rooms, the rooms are not as luxurious as the more modern dorms you see today, although the rooms have fireplaces. Still, UVA is the envy of many. Plus, only fourth and fifth-year enrollees can apply in this historical landmark. This makes The Lawn one of the best and the most exclusive college dorms to date. 

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NEWMAN TOWERS

Loyola University Maryland

Newman Towers

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Loyola University Maryland is a Catholic university in Baltimore. It is ranked as one of the best regional universities in the North and has been cited and up and coming university and one of the best values. This school is notable for its business schools and is known to have some of the US’s best dorms.

Newman Towers affords its students with all the best amenities like that of an upscale apartment. This 9-floor, a 2-tower apartment complex can accommodate two to eight students in each room and features a 24-hour common area and fully-furnished rooms. 

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MASSELL QUAD

Brandeis University 

Massell Quad

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Brandeis University was established in 1948 initially to provide an institution with an Ivy-league standard for Jewish students who were not allowed entry to liberal arts colleges and other elite universities. Today, this school is one of the best private research universities known for its politically active and progressive student body and a strong grounding in the traditional liberal arts. 

Brandeis University is popular for its challenging and intense education system. This school is sometimes dubbed as “the most stressful college in America.” Moreover, because Greek organizations are not allowed on campus, college life practically revolves around resident life and clubs.

The school’s Massell Quad is where first-year students are billeted. Next to the usual comfortable dorm rooms, Massell Quad also features the Kane Reflecting Pool and the Beit Midrash Jewish Study and Prayer Room. 

Things to Consider When Scouting for On-Campus Accommodations

Choosing the right on-campus accommodation is a very crucial decision you need to make before you enter college. Remember, dorms and on-campus residence halls are your home away from home. These are the places where you nurture new friendships. Finding the best dorm deserves some serious thinking. Here are factors you must consider when you choose a college residence hall. 

Location. This is the most crucial element when looking for a college dorm. Taking that into consideration, your dorm scouting should start by knowing the size of your campus. Think about the times you will walk from one building to the next. Is the dorm near your college? Can you hop from one class to the next without getting late to your next class?

All-Class Dorms vs. Freshmen Dorms. In most cases, on-campus dorms are designated both for newcomers and upper-level students. While there are still campuses that strictly implement a freshman-only accommodation, going for an all-class dorm is a better option. When you integrate yourself with your upper-class peers, this gives you that security of knowing these people can help you understand how a college community works. 

Novelty. Do you prefer having a new bathroom? Or do you need your room to have the best air conditioning unit? It helps to prioritize your dorm choices based on how you prefer them to be. 

Check the bathroom. While there are dormitories equipped with individual bathrooms, some may need you to share with other students. For example, those “Jack and Jill” bathrooms are shared between two dormitory rooms. Alternatively, there is the community-style bathroom shared among all the other hall residents.

Personality. Every dorm has a distinct personality. Go for that dorm that matches your personality so you can easily transition your way to college. When you are on an on-campus tour, ask students about the dorm you are eyeing on. There are residence halls that are vibrant and loud, while there are some that are more peaceful and quiet. Always pick the one that matches your personality. 

Amenities. Not all residence halls are created equal. Some dorms are equipped with top of the line amenities, while others provide only the basic. Think about important things like air conditioning, heating, closet spaces, in0room sinks, and personal preference. 

First Step to Independence

Even before they start to think about which college to enroll in, some students already know that they want to move out of their homes once they start university life. However, they are not so sure whether they are ready to have their apartments independently. On-campus living provides an in-between step. 

While you are starting to live independently, you need not worry about paying bills, dealing with utilities, and other things relative to owning an apartment. When you live on campus, this is the chance for you to start developing critical life skills required for adulthood. 

Indeed, college is the best way to meet new people and create lifelong connections. To easily adjust to college life, on-campus living helps you pave the way into adulthood while enjoying the best things a university life has to offer. From access to amenities to abundant support, these features should be factored in when considering on-campus living.