An exciting part of going to college is having the option to move into a new dorm or a new apartment. With this in mind, you might be wondering, what’s the difference between living in a dorm versus living in off-campus housing? (In this article, off-campus housing will not include living at home.) If you’re interested in either living in a dorm or off-campus housing, keep reading to learn about some of the differences that come with each!


For some reason, before I started college, I thought everyone had to live in a dorm all four years of college. Ironically, I never ended up living in a dorm, but that’s a whole other story. While some schools require freshmen to live in a dorm, there are many that don’t. So, what are some pros and cons of living in a dorm? Let’s look over them!

Classes are at walking-distance – If you’re living in the dorms, it can probably take you between 5-15 minutes to get to your class. With this commute, you can really take advantage of sleeping in as long as possible. Another benefit of this is, if you have a significant gap between classes, you can go back to your dorm and do some homework or take a nap!

Dorm community – Living in a dorm means that everyone else who lives in the dorm is also a student. This makes it easier to make friends, especially when there are events taking place in the dorms. Lots of students keep their doors open during move-in week and during the first week of school which makes it easier to socialize with your new dorm mates. 

Shared bathroom – Whenever I did sleep over in the dorms, I absolutely hated that there were no bathrooms in the dorms. This especially sucks if it’s late at night. Now, some dorms may have bathrooms but most of the ones I have visited did not. So have some slippers/shoes prepared if you wake up at 4 a.m. with the sudden urge to pee. Remember to take your key to get back into your room later on, or else you might be spending the rest of the night in the hallway. 

Meal plans – Another benefit of living in the dorms is that you likely don’t have to worry about preparing meals. Sure, you might keep some snacks in your room but for the most part, you’ll be eating in the dining hall. Not having to worry about preparing your meals gives you more time to focus on your school work and your extracurriculars. 


Living off-campus forces you to be independent. Maybe you’re getting an apartment with some of your friends or maybe you’re living with total strangers. Regardless, while living off-campus does have some similarities to living in a dorm (like being independent of your parents), there are still lots of differences!

Save Money – a huge benefit to living off-campus is that it tends to cost less than a dorm. That is because with a dorm, you pay for room and board but with an apartment, you pay for what you use. 

You’re More Independent – If you’re living in the dorms, you likely haven’t had to worry about cooking your own meals or even bring your own furniture. This will likely change with an apartment. You now are responsible for figuring out how you will be eating breakfast, lunch, and dinner. There is no more dining hall to meet up at with your friends. Of course, you can eat out but as a student, is that an affordable option everyday?  If you plan to live in off-campus housing, remember that you now have to rely on yourself if you want to be fed. 

School May be a Little Far Away – A great benefit of living in a dorm is that you are basically living at school. Living off-campus maybe a bit different. Maybe you still live super close to school, that’s great! If you do live a little farther away though, make sure you become accustomed with a commute schedule. Can you get to school by taking a bus? Can you afford to go back to your apartment between classes? What time do I have to wake up to make it to class on time? 

Signing a Lease Agreement – Talk about adulting! Signing a lease agreement is your formal contract with your landlord basically saying that you agree to your landlords terms in exchange for renting the apartment they provide you. For more information about what signing a lease is like, check out this article

You have a Landlord Now – If you’re living in a dorm, you have a RA. With your apartment, you have a landlord. As mentioned previously, you sign your lease agreement with your landlord. You don’t just pay your rent check to your landlord, he often is also your point of contact when a problem arises at your apartment. No, not a problem with your roommate, but say there is a plumbing issue. You should contact your landlord about that. Maintain a good relationship with your landlord, you never know if you will need him as a reference! 

Your Own Bathroom – No more running around the dormitory to get to the shared bathroom, you now have your own bathroom just a few steps away and I call that a win! You may have a roommate to share the bathroom with, but it’s better than sharing with 10 or more dorm floormates.

Regardless of whether you chose to live in a dorm or in off-campus housing, both options allow you to have a sense of independence and they will be a vital part of your college experience!

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