Should I Live on Campus or Off? Your Campus Housing Guide

Chances are, somebody's already asked the question: "So, you're living in the dorms, right?"

The fact is, most university students--especially those in their first year--live in on-campus housing. In fact, many universities actually require students to live on campus if they're registered as full-time students!

But what does on-campus housing look like for your overall college costs? Does it really make sense to live in on-campus housing, or should you make the trek to nearby apartments and rental-house living?

When you look at your college housing situation simply, it really boils down to one thing: You want the most from your college career.

But what's going to get you there? Apartment life? Renting a house? Or sticking to that trusty old dorm?

Regardless of where you're at in deciding the best way to go for this year's housing, you might be wondering--just how much do dorms cost???

The Cost of Apartment Living

As we work to get answer your question about how much dorms cost to live in, we'll start with...well...not that question.

In order to get a good idea of how much money university housing might cost you, it'll help you to understand the costs of student living outside of your university.

At face value, off-campus apartment living often seems a lot more affordable than most on-campus housing setups. You pay a few hundred dollars every month instead of a few thousand each semester.

There are, of course, loads of perks to living off campus. A lot of times, you'll receive free parking directly outside your living space, whereas in a dorm, you'll likely pay to park in a lot a few minutes' walk away.

Off campus, you'll usually be free of Resident Assistants and campus police, and you might have more freedom to choose your roommates and neighbors than you would on campus.

When looking at your rent in terms of simple dollars and cents, in many areas of the U.S., the cheaper housing option is typically the off-campus apartment.

Dorm Life in Dollars

The short (and unhelpful) answer to the question of how much dorm living costs depends.

This fact probably isn't surprising; costs of living vary a ton from state-to-state, and even within those states, average tuition costs and university housing rates can be super different from one school to the next.

If you're looking for an exact answer as to how much dorm life will run you at your university or college of choice, you should look at the school's housing and residence life web pages, or put in a quick call to the department.

Room and boarding rates can also be affected by your eligibility for federal student aid and scholarships, which is another reason there isn't a straightforward answer as to just how much dorm living costs.

On average, room and board (that's housing and food!) for on-campus housing can run about $10,440 for a public school and $11,890 at a private one.

That's a lot of money, and in a lot of cases, it can seem steep when compared with off-campus housing options--but there are several other aspects of dorm life to consider when factoring its overall value.

Dorm Life vs. Apartment Living

The only real way to decide between dorm and apartment living is to look at both options side-by-side and consider the pros and cons of each in relation to their overall costs.

The costs, of course, depend on the specific area and university you're looking at, but some things remain pretty much the same between the two, wherever you're at in the country.

From month-to-month, non-university apartment rental will probably cost less money. You'll have far more options as far as the area and style of housing you'd like to live in. Lots of students feel as though apartment living gives them more freedom and a better sense of independence at a lower cost than dorm living.

When it comes to university dorms, the face value cost is almost always higher--but it's important to consider all the factors that come along with what you're paying.

Most university dorm rates also include (or can include) a meal plan, which means you don't necessarily have to pay for anything food-wise on top of that initial rate you pay at the start of each semester.

Most dorms also factor students' utilities into the equation, so, unlike apartment living, you won't have to worry about hefty utility bills on top of what you're already paying to stay in the dorms. Most university dorms also include access to wireless internet access, whereas most apartment housing will require you to find your own way of accessing the complex's network.

It's also a proven fact that students who remain in on-campus university do better academically overall! Environment matters in a college setting, and often, on-campus dorms just provide a more productive environment closer to classrooms and libraries and surrounded by other academics-centered students.

So... How Much do Dorms Cost?

There's no one answer to this question, except to say that, a lot of the time, dorm living costs a little more than other off-campus housing options might.

But if you're still wondering--but how much do dorms cost?!--you should look into specific housing rates at the universities you're considering by checking their website or putting a call into the college's housing office. Remember to factor in the ways financial aid can help with dorm costs, too.

When it comes down to it, what you really need is a housing option you can both afford and love. Every student is different, and every budget is, too. You might also different options for different years.

Look closely at all the options your university offers, consider all the factors, and decide what's best for you this year!

While you narrow down your choices, check out our blog for more ideas on how to make your college experience totally unforgettable!

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