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Should You Live on Campus or at Home? How To Decide

College is an exciting time for students. It’s also a time when people start making significant decisions in their lives. One big decision post-secondary students have to make is where they’ll live while pursuing their studies. 

You should live on campus if your permanent residence is over 50 miles (80.4 km) from the college. But you should live at home if you live closer to your university. However, you should consider several things, such as finances, transportation, housing policies, and academic aspirations. 

This article will discuss this subject in-depth in the following paragraphs by focusing on specific aspects of this decision. But, first, I’ll be highlighting the pros and cons for each living arrangement, financial considerations to make, and how living arrangements could affect your academic performance. 

How do decide whether to live at home or on campus.

Pros and Cons of Living at Home or Living on Campus

The choice to live at home or on campus is one of the first adult decisions you’ll make post-high school graduation. 

Sometimes, if you’re a traditional freshmen college student, your university may make the housing decision for you. Other times, other outside factors like your budget or transportation needs will make the decision for you.

If you’re one of the lucky ones who gets to make this decision based on your personal preferences, though, here I’ll outline some positives and negatives for living at home and living on campus.

When I was in college, I stayed at home and on campus, so I have some advice you can consider when making your decision. While I can’t choose for you, I can give you some reasons to consider both options (source). 

Pros of Living at Home

Honestly, living at home is downright luxurious compared to living on campus, especially when you’re standing in line to wash your clothes or get a hot meal. While there are some downsides, living at home with your parents can be fruitful and add to a positive college experience. 

If you live at home, the primary benefit is minimal financial stress.  

Let’s face it, college is expensive. No matter what your financial aid package looks like, expenses are everywhere at university. However, when you live at home, you’re not only saving money on room and board, but you won’t have to pay for groceries, laundry, or internet and cable.     

Beyond the financial benefits that you could reap from electing to stay at home with your folks, you could also continue to be a helpful resource to your family.

Depending on your unique family circumstances, you could continue to provide your family with needed resources such as: 

  • Household upkeep
  • Care-taking of younger siblings or pets
  • Financial assistance if you also have a job and use your earnings for household bills. 

Beyond continuing to lend a hand to your family, another benefit of living at home is the ease of transition. Sometimes, the life transition from high school to college can be complicated or intimidating. 

If you start by living at home, your transition could be easier.

Sometimes, though, living at home isn’t an option. If your school is far away, for example, and your home isn’t in close proximity, you may have to live on campus. Or, maybe your transportation needs require you to live on campus. 

If these aren’t considerations you have to factor into your decision, though, then let’s dive into some reasons why you may not want to live at home.   

Cons of Living at Home

Living at home can be significant, as it can ease financial stress, benefit your family, and ease your transition into adulthood.

At the same time, though, college is one of the first times you get a taste of complete independence. Your freedom may be compromised if you live at home, depending on your unique family dynamics.

It can be tough to break free from mom and dad at first. If you decide to live at home instead of on campus, you may find that you have less independence than you imagined you’d have.  

While a lack of independence isn’t always the case for every fresh college student, privacy can be a concern. 

If you had to put up with your parents snooping through your things in high school, it’s pretty safe to assume that this issue will remain even when you’re enrolled in your college courses. 

Another factor to consider is whether living at home will inhibit you from getting a complete college experience. For some students, living on campus is a huge part of college, while it’s less critical for others.

Being on campus puts you right in the center of the social scene, but if you’re living at home, you may miss out on some of the extra socialization that comes with college.

Consider what’s important to you when deciding whether to live at home or on campus. For example, if complete independence from mom and dad and an immersive college experience is what you want, you likely don’t want to live at home.   

Pros of Living on Campus

Living on campus has a lot of positives, some of them I’ve already briefly touched on, but let’s dig deeper into what makes on-campus living potentially excellent. 

First, you’re super close to class. 

You can easily walk, bike, or scooter to the classroom if you live on campus, depending on your dorm’s proximity to your courses. This can be a huge stress reliever because you don’t have to get up as early to get ready to walk out the door, and there’s little chance of a traffic jam on your way to class. 

Next, I mentioned earlier how living on campus could be a massive allure for some students looking for a complete college experience. College is the one chance most students get to live at school and immerse themselves in that experience entirely. 

So, if living on campus seems right to you, I’d encourage you to try it out.

Another plus to living on campus is the amenities. Most schools offer laundry machines, a shared kitchen or living space, balconies, and various other amenities that can add to your experience. 

These amenities can vary from campus to campus, but if this is something essential for you too, you might want to visit and tour your university before enrollment to ensure it has all the amenities you’re looking for. 

College wouldn’t be college without the socialization that comes with it. A significant benefit of living on campus is the friendships, connections, and social scenes you get to be a part of when you live on campus.  

And lastly, most colleges offer loads of security, from a doorman to 24/7 patrols. Of course, each school offers something different, but all of them are secure (source).

Cons of Living on Campus

Okay, college sounds excellent, and so does living on campus, but it’s not without some faults.

Some cons of living on campus include a lack of privacy, increased costs, roommates, and possible distractions.  

If you thought mom and dad were nosy, try having multiple roommates in a reasonably confined space. Now, if you luck out and get a room all to yourself, that could improve the privacy situation, but you’ll still likely be sharing bathrooms and living quarters with others.

The other issue with living on campus is the increased cost. Tuition tends to increase with room and board fees because you have to pay for amenities, security, or overhead.  

Another potential problem is roommates. 

Frequently you don’t get to choose who you bunk with.  Most of the time, roommates are predetermined based on age, gender, and college year. Sometimes roommates can end up being life-long friends. Other times, they can be a real pain (source).

Do Students Who Live on Campus Do Better?

When you start at college, it’s essential not to get lost in the fun, independent, social scenes and neglect your studies. After all, the primary reason for going to college is to learn and achieve the best grades you can to move on to a good-paying job or graduate school. 

Students who live on campus might do better, but then again, they might not do better. There’s a lack of research to support whether or not on-campus or off-campus living is more productive for student achievement. 

Living on or off-campus isn’t indicative of student academic performance; instead, high academic achievement varies individually. A recent study by a Ph.D. student from Old Dominion University suggests that students who live off-campus tend to have higher academic scores than those who live on campus (source).

I briefly mentioned in the section above that living on campus can be potentially distracting. 

That’s basically what this study is suggesting. Students who live on campus can quickly become distracted by the social aspects of college that they neglect their studies and end up performing more poorly than those who do not.  

Yet, despite this recent research, the presumed assumption is that students who live on campus perform better academically than those that don’t. According to this article from Penn State, students living on campus tend to earn a higher GPA than those that don’t (source).

The jury may still be out on whether or not your GPA will improve if you live at school, but you can still make a choice that’s going to benefit you the most.

For example, if you’re likely to get distracted by the social aspects of college, you may want to live at home to concentrate on your studies. But, if you’re a self-starter, then the living arrangement may not matter much in terms of your academic performance. 

Living on Campus vs. Living In an Apartment

If you’re considering other options for residence while you’re attending college, you may have considered renting your own space instead of living at home or on campus. 

Living in an apartment instead of an on-campus can be great to achieve a sense of independence and privacy. Still, it can also be difficult financially to complete and comes with added responsibilities.  

When you live in an apartment, the costs associated with it are entirely on you. 

Most of the billing is rolled together when you live on-campus, including meals, tuition, or your dorm room. But, when you have an apartment, you not only have to pay rent, but you also have to pay for all additional add-ons like electricity, laundry, groceries, heating or air conditioning, and internet.  

Getting an apartment is a much more significant commitment and responsibility than living on campus. Most apartments make you sign at least a year lease, and not all of the living costs are rolled into the rent.  

It also may not be easy for you to secure an apartment. 

Most landlords ask for the first and last month’s rent on top of a security deposit. So, if you don’t have several thousand dollars lying around for these up-front costs, it may not be financially feasible for you.  

Also, if you’re fresh out of high school, you probably don’t have much credit. This is important if you’re going to get an apartment because it helps a landlord determine whether or not they can trust you enough to rent to you.

If you don’t have any credit, you’ll likely have to have a parent co-sign on the apartment with you. You’ll also have to have a steady income stream to make all of your monthly payments. This means you’ll probably have to have a job while going to school, which can be challenging to juggle.     

You may be interested in our article What Do College Dorms Come With?

Conclusion

To conclude, going off to college is a significant moment in a lot of peoples’ lives and it comes with some big decisions to be made, including your living situation.

While living on campus and off-campus, each has its benefits and drawbacks. The ultimate decision is up to you regarding where you want to be. Remember to consider your financial situation, transportation options, and desires when making your choice.  

Make sure, also, to discuss all of your options with your support system. They may have other ideas or factors that you should consider before making your final choice. 

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