Should I Live at Home or on Campus?

Home vs Dorm

To Dorm or not to Dorm, that is the Question

So you’re going to a local college. It’s close enough to live from home, but you could also live on campus if you wanted to. This is your first chance to live independently. Should you take it? You’ve been sleeping in the same room since you were 2 and now’s your chance to finally get out on your own. Living in a dorm is at the heart of the college experience. It’s where life-long friendships are made and world renowned fun times are waiting to be had. Yes, it’s going to be expensive but it’s all part of the college experience right?

But wait.

On second thought, do you really have to move out? Your room is nice. It’s free. It’s bigger than a large closet. It has carpet that isn’t just 9 different shades of stains. It’s yours. It already has all your stuff in it. It has a fully stocked kitchen at the bottom of the stairs. The laundry machine doesn’t take quarters. It doesn’t sound like a rock concert 24/7.  Oh, and did I mention it’s free?

Pros and Cons

Now you’re faced with a tough decision, “should I live at home and save a few bucks, or should I live in the dorms and get the full college experience?” Let’s look at the pros and cons of each.

Living in the Dorms

Pros:Dorms

Convenience: When you live on campus you can walk to classes, cafeterias, computer labs, libraries, and any other buildings you might need to go to. There’s no driving time or worrying about a vehicle.

Ease: Living on campus is very easy. You don’t have to worry about the bills. You don’t have to worry about utilities, rent, or grocery shopping. Everything is taken care of for you.

Social life: Living in the dorm is a great way to make new friends. You will be constantly surrounded with other people your age and will have a lot of opportunities to meet new people and establish new friendships.

Exposure: Living on campus will bring about a new level of exposure and will enable you to learn from people who come from different walks of life. Being surrounded by so many new people can provide opportunities to make valuable connections and learn new interests and passions.

Cons:

Less Privacy: If you like having time to yourself and need a lot of personal space, then living in the dorms can be a real challenge. You will have to share your bedroom, your bathroom, and your living spaces. There will be almost no privacy.

Small Rooms: You’re dorm room probably won’t be nearly as nice as your bedroom at home. Dorm rooms are usually tiny and you will have to really limit what you keep with you at college.  You may have to buy new (smaller) furniture to be able to live in your dorm.

Difficulty Studying: The huge increase in social activities and being constantly surrounded by friends can often force high achieving students to lose their academic edge. Some student’s grades drop dramatically due to difficulty focusing and not being able to personally enforce good study habits among the distractions.

Exposure: You cannot control your environment when living on campus. You may find yourself constantly surrounded by people with drastically different world-views than your own. Dorms are often full of activities that may go against your beliefs or that might make you feel uncomfortable.

Costs: Living in the dormitory can be expensive. This cost is usually wrapped up with the student’s loans and it’s easy to forget about them. Living at home is much, much cheaper.

Living at Home

Pros:Home

Independence: Living at home doesn’t always mean less independence. A lot of dorms have strict rules that students must live by while living on-campus. These rules are nonnegotiable. Living at home allows you to establish those rules with your parents. You can be a part of the discussion on how to best increase your independence as you transition from high school to college.

Increased Privacy: Living at home can provide greater levels of privacy. Chances are you won’t be constantly surrounded by other students at home. Chances are there won’t be parties 24/7 either.

Improved Grades: When you live at home you will be studying in the same environment that you did in high school. It will be a very smooth transition. There are a lot less distractions at home and you can have a greater amount of control over what distractions you allow in your life.

Social Life: When you live at home you can still have a great social life, and as a bonus benefit, you can have it on your own terms. Living at home allows you to go out and engage in social activities with friends and then take a break when you need to focus on your studies.

Control: Living at home allows for a greater amount of control of your surroundings. If you don’t like a situation on campus or feel uncomfortable, you can easily remove yourself from that situation. You also can choose the types of people you will surround yourself; and as you know, people tend to become like those they surround themselves with.

Costs: Living at home is cheap if not free. Who doesn’t like free?

 Cons:

Independence: You may feel like staying home during college is cheating you of a valuable experience. It is easy to feel like you aren’t really living independently while living at home.

Transportation: Driving to and from school takes up time. It also costs money and requires that you have a reliable vehicle or mode of transportation.

Isolation: Developing connections is an important benefit of attending college. If you tend to isolate you may miss out on some important connections living at home.  But remember, you don’t need to become a party animal. Being an introvert is not a bad thing.

Decisions

It’s a really big decision, but like most decisions it isn’t just option A versus option B.  You have more options than choosing between the college-experience or saving money. There are a ton of different options.

Maybe you will…

  • Live at home for a couple years and then finish on campus.
  • Live at home, but spend the majority of your time studying on campus.
  • Live on campus, but go home on the weekends to be alone or catch up on projects.

Don’t Forget

You need to remember why you’re going to college. Is it to make friends and live it up? Do you really need to pay for that experience? If you think about it that way it sounds kind of lame doesn’t it. But, that’s exactly why a lot of students decide to live on campus, so they can make new friends be a part of the scene. Imagine that scenario outside of the whole college experience mentality. “Can I give you a bunch my money and in return you let me hang out with you and go to cool parties?” Lame.

What would you do with an extra $30,000 at your college graduation? If you can save room and board fees of $7,500 a year over four years you have a nice chunk of change at graduation.

As someone who lived at home, on campus, and in my own apartment during college, I can say without hesitation that living at home is by far the most cost effective and easiest. My social life wasn’t hurt in the slightest by living at home and I was able to give my full attention to my studies. Dorms are expensive. Apartments are even more expensive.  Home is free.

If cost isn’t an issue for you and you really feel the need to live on campus, then go for it and enjoy. But, whatever you end up choosing make sure you choose it because it is what’s best for you.  Don’t simply take the path of least resistance. Don’t follow along blindly doing what everyone else is doing. Figure out what you need to do to get you where you want to be and do it. Be creative, remember normal is mountains of student debt and a degree you probably won’t use.

Don’t be normal.

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2 thoughts on “Should I Live at Home or on Campus?

  1. Jered, thanks for a terrific post. I thoroughly enjoyed staying in the dorms my freshman year. I made valuable friendships that have only grown stronger over time, I met my first boyfriend, I was somehow able to study despite the cramped and noisy living situation and it was nice going to the dining commons at the end of the day to unwind. Although it would have been great saving money that first year as you point out, I’m still really glad I chose dorm life. Question: when you lived at home, how much effort did you put into getting together with friends? Seems like it’s easier to make plans with friends who also dorm! I’m curious.

    You should write a book. People would buy it, really! Your post titles are interesting and well thought out. You’re a logical, open-minded person as well. I look forward to new posts. 🙂

    –Jennifer

  2. Thank you so much for reading and thanks for the compliments! I really appreciate you taking the time to share your experience living in the dorms. Sounds like you had a great time and were able to get a lot out of it.

    To answer your question; yes, I think I was able to spend quality time with friends even when I was living off campus. To be honest, I don’t think there was much of a difference in my social life at all.

    Glad you enjoy reading and yes, keep an eye out for the book… it’s in progress. 🙂

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