By Jack Zheng, former CSP Intern
The thought of college is both invigorating and terrifying. Trust me, I’ve been there. One of your biggest decisions after you accept your admissions offer is how and where you will live. There’s no one single way to attend college, and the housing decision is one you may need to revisit throughout your college journey, but most students will either live in a dorm, commute, or live off campus in an apartment or townhouse. Depending on your preferred living style and financial situation, one of the living options may be your obvious and immediate choice. However, for those who need to give the housing decision some thought, we’ve broken down the benefits and drawbacks of each of these living arrangements.
Dorming: The Pros and Cons
Dorming, a shorthand way to talk about living in a dormitory, is when you live in a residential building especially designed to house college students like you. You will typically find the dorms on the campus of the college that you attend. Sometimes colleges call dormitories residence halls, and the people who look out for groups of freshmen during their first year are typically called residential advisors or RA’s. To help you make the best living arrangement choices, let’s cover the pros and cons of dorming.
The Pros of Dorming
One of the biggest benefits of dorming is how close it is to campus! Being minutes away or directly on campus, commutes will be short and sweet, usually either a quick walk or a ride on a bus system typically provided by larger campuses. You won’t have to set aside significant time to commute, which will free up time for classes, studying, and on-campus academic and social activities.
You’ll be able to make friends more quickly and with less effort than when living off campus or at home. Since other students live in your dorm, you’ll be able to schedule hangout sessions in seconds, sometimes spontaneously.
Dorming can also help you to learn valuable daily living skills. For many of us, moving away from home and living in a dorm is the first time we truly get to live independently. With real practice at independent living, you’ll be more ready for life after college. However, your practice footprint will be small and manageable at first. Because the part of a dorm for which you are most responsible is essentially just one room, you’ll be able to familiarize yourself more quickly with the layout than with an entire apartment. That also means less cleaning for you!
The Cons of Dorming
The biggest pitfall of dorming is that there is little or no privacy. You may or may not get your own room, and you will almost always need to share a bathroom with other students or have to change in front of your roommate, if applicable. Certain dorms have single rooms, but most freshmen share a room with a roommate. Living with other students can be challenging. Even if you’re a perfect match with your roommate, you still have to worry about other students. For instance, your dorm neighbors may be loud and rude, especially on the weekends. Conversely, quieter neighbors may think the same of you!
If you don’t have enough independent living skills, you might face some trouble when transitioning from home into a dorm. You’ll be responsible for your own laundry, food, and cleaning. Luckily, independent living skills are not impossible to learn with a bit of time and effort, even if you are learning them on the fly! Many sighted college students are in a similar boat, as they navigate laundry machines or cleaning living spaces for the first time. With a little forethought and researching alternative techniques, you can overcome any lack of preparation you may have had at home.
One other drawback of dorming is that it’s expensive. Living in a dorm can cost as much as or even more than tuition at certain colleges! Not to mention the meal plan and amenities.
The final drawback of dorming is that you will probably miss home! You’ll be able to visit your family, but you may feel homesick the first few weeks away from home. Fortunately, it’s easier than ever to keep in touch with family and friends from your hometown, as you begin to reach out to make new friends and connections where you live.
Commuting: The Pros and Cons
Commuting refers to walking, public transportation (e.g., bus, disability paratransit services, subway/train) or private transportation (e.g., car, Uber). If you commute, you will travel from home to campus each day that you need to be there and return home again when your day is over. Here are the pros and cons of commuting to college.
The Pros of Commuting
The biggest appeal of commuting is that housing is very cost effective, and in many cases, free for you. Dorming and off-campus living can be expensive, and it’s not something that everyone can afford on top of tuition.
Privacy is another great benefit of commuting to school. When you come home, you’ll have your room all to yourself — except for the occasional pesky sibling. Sure, you won’t have complete privacy with family around, but it’s much better than sharing a bathroom with strangers.
Comfort is another staple benefit of commuting. Being at home means that you’re already familiar with living layouts, face fewer uncertainties, and have family and friends right around the corner or in the next room.
Academically, being at home is what you’re used to, and you’ll know how to perform well and be successful in school.
The Cons of Commuting
Commuting to school means that you’ll have fewer opportunities to experience college life. You’ll still be able to attend campus and college events, but you won’t have the immersive connections to other students that living with them can lead to.
When you commute, your need based FAFSA assistance plummets. At the same time, transportation costs can be pricey and will add up when you commute to campus every day.
With each commute to and from school, you’ll lose time. Whether it’s time that others would spend socializing, studying, or working – you will spend additional time on the commute itself. Many students figure out ways to maximize their commuting time by reading and listening to study materials on headsets while riding back and forth.
Living Off Campus: The Pros and Cons
Living off campus occurs when you move closer to your campus, but your college does not provide the living arrangements. Instead of living in a dorm, you will rent an apartment either by yourself or with a group of roommates. Here are the pros and cons of living off campus.
The Pros of Living Off Campus
By choosing to live in an off-campus apartment by yourself or with friends, you will find more comfort than a traditional dorm room. Usually the apartment will be more spacious. Compared to a dorm, your apartment may even be less noisy or have fewer distractions.
Apartments often come with fully equipped kitchens and bathrooms. This is a huge benefit if you plan to cook your own meals or don’t want to share a bathroom with a whole floor of students.
Living off campus allows you to have a genuine sense of the “real world”. There won’t be a resident assistant or parent to make sure things are going smoothly. Having this experience can help you decide how you want to live after college.
The Cons of Living Off Campus
Living off campus is essentially living by yourself. That comes with an entirely new set of responsibilities. These include but are not limited to cooking, cleaning, setting up appliances, handling bills, and setting up internet/cable.
While the apartment rent itself might be cheaper than a dorm, there are fewer amenities in an apartment than a dorm. In the long run, you might spend the same or more money on an off-campus apartment because of groceries, furnishing, utilities, cleaning supplies, transportation, and whatever else you may need.
Like living at home, you may be isolated from campus and other students. Being away from campus means that you are more likely to miss out on campus events and activities. Plus, it’s harder to make plans with fellow students. But like living in a dorm, you may also miss your family and home friends at times. Apartment living means that you can get very close to the people you live with or have more time to yourself.
To Wrap Up
There’s nothing quite like college no matter which living option you decide on! At the end of the day, college will be a new experience and you will learn both academic and practical skills out of it. Best of luck to you and stay optimistic as a new chapter in your life unfolds!
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Envision’s College Success Program (CSP), a part of the William L. Hudson BVI Workforce Innovation Center, is committed to serving college and transitioning high school students who are blind or low vision. The CSP is a virtual program that provides a holistic support system and engages students through online resources, events, mentorship, and more, all at no cost to them. Contact the CSP at firstname.lastname@example.org.