Dorm vs. apartment: Which should you choose?


The choice between living on- or off-campus can be as difficult as choosing which college to attend. Just as you debated the pros and cons of each college campus and how each one best served your academic needs, similar consideration should be given to your housing choice. For incoming freshmen, the choice will probably be made for you; many colleges require first-year students to live on-campus. But if you are a sophomore or upperclassman, you might want to consider living off-campus. Before you make a decision, let’s take a look at what each option has to offer.



Utilities Included – Unlike apartments, the Internet, telephone, cable, water, and electricity is typically free in a dorm. Some colleges may charge a small connection fee for cable or Internet, but it’s not nearly as expensive as the monthly fees you would pay in an apartment.

Social Life – Most college dorms have planned social activities each month that help students meet new people and make new friends. There are several campus activities, usually within walking distance of your dorm.  For example, you might be able to go to a football game, watch a movie, or attend a club function. Don’t forget, most campus activities are also free to students!

Resident Advisor (RA) – Someone is always on staff at the dorms to handle emergencies or to lend a shoulder to cry on after a hard day. Think of your RA as a combination of building superintendent and your big brother/sister. He/she may also surprise you with goody bags and other trinkets around the holidays, as well as the occasional pizza party to celebrate finals week. Free stuff rocks!

Less Chores – Many students who live on-campus also purchase a meal plan. This means you don’t have to cook or clean any dishes! The college may also provide cleaning services for the common areas and community bathrooms, so you’ll only be responsible for making your bed and washing your clothes. If you live in an apartment, expect to do everything yourself.

Free Amenities – Some college dormitories come equipped with game rooms, pool tables, and a large-screen TVs for watching movies or sports. Some of the newer dorms, like the University of North Florida’s Osprey Fountains, also provide an on-site gym and even a lazy river! Living on-campus also cuts down your travel time, so if you tend to wake up right before class, you may be better suited for a dormitory.



Privacy – Let’s face it, it’s nearly impossible to have any privacy in a dorm, unless you spend a generous amount of money to live in a private room. Apartments provide much more privacy.  Even if you choose a ‘shared’ apartment arrangement, which are popular at communities near college campuses, you will typically have a private bedroom and bathroom.

Fewer Rules – In the dorm, you will have very strict codes of conduct and possibly even a curfew. When you live in an apartment, you can come and go as you please, often with fewer restrictions on what you can do within your own space. Another advantage is less surprise inspections. Although the apartment manager may have access to your space at any time, he/she will typically notify you in advance. Dorm inspections can happen any time and occur frequently.

More Space – In most cases, your apartment will have much more space than your dorm. You’ll have a full kitchen, a living area, a bedroom, and a private bathroom. In the dorm, you’ll be lucky to have enough space for your bed and a desk.

Food is Cheaper – In many cases, shopping for groceries and making your own meals is cheaper than the campus meal plans or ordering fast food. On-campus, you have fewer options for meals and you are at the mercy of the cafeteria’s hours. Living in an apartment gives you the option of more menu choices and you can eat whenever you feel hungry.

Entertain Guests – Unlike the dormitory, you won’t have to ask permission of the RA or your roommate to have a guest over for dinner or to spend the night. Parties are also easier to host off-campus, but keep in mind your neighbors will not take kindly to loud music at all hours of the night.


Living in the dorm is a good choice for those who have never been away from home. It may also be cheaper than the rental fees in the communities surrounding your campus. But keep in mind that most colleges require students to leave the campus during breaks, which means you’ll need to find someplace to crash for a few weeks every now and then. For those who require more freedom and privacy, apartment living is probably the best option. Some college apartment communities are actually cheaper than on-campus housing fees; many even include the utilities in the monthly rental fee. These properties often offer a 3- or 4-bedroom option that includes private bedrooms and bathrooms with a common living area and shared kitchen, so you still get a bit of the dorm experience without all the regulations. Just be sure you have reliable transportation and can stick to a budget. Unlike your college housing fee, your rent and utility bills will be due every month.

Before deciding which option may be best for you, consider all the costs associated with both living arrangements. Each will offer different challenges and perks, but both will help guide you on your path toward adulthood and parent-free living. In the battle between dorm and apartment living, there’s really no wrong or right answer; it’s a personal choice every college student will need to make.

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