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Dorms v. Off Campus Housing

For all college students, where to live is a big question.

Should you live in the dorms on campus or find an apartment off campus?  Who do you want to live with? Do you want to live by yourself? What about living in a fraternity or sorority house? 

These are all important questions to ask because where you live can really set the tone for your whole college experience.

Most universities require freshmen to live on campus.  Some also require sophomores to stay in the dorms as well.  You should check with the residents life department at your school to see which one applies to you.

If your university does require sophomores to stay on campus, there are loopholes you can find to get out of your contract with the dorms.    By getting out of your dorm contract, you would be able to move off campus for a little more freedom.  You can also investigate the age requirement to be exempt from living in the dorms  or the commuter status exemption.

The biggest reason most student want to move off campus is cost.  Living on campus generally costs several thousand dollars more that an off-campus apartment.  Plus, most on campus living arrangements require you to buy a meal plan as well.

For example, at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, a one bedroom private apartment costs $5,265 per semester (2023-2024 school year) plus the cost of a meal plan.  The average meal plan is $1,796 per semester.  Bringing your total cost per year at $14,122 for housing and your meal plan.

Compared to a 1-bedroom apartment with B&L Properties across the street from campus only costs $3,995 per semester saving you over $6,100 per year.  That is a lot of savings.  Plus, you get to eat wherever you want, with no meal plan required.

In Bloomsburg, the savings are even greater with on campus housing costing upwards of $4,600 per semester plus the cost of the required meal plan.   The average meal plan is $1,649 per semester.  Bringing your total cost per year at $12,498 for housing and your meal plan.  Compared to in town living with B&L Properties (5 minute walk to campus) can cost as low as $2,495 per semester, saving you over $7,500 per year. 

Another big factor to consider is your roommates.  How many do you want to have and who will you pick?  Living in a large house with 10 people is exciting but is it the right situation for you?  Would you do better with a smaller group of friends in a three bedroom apartment or are you a solitary person who needs to live alone?

Spend some time picking your roommates because whomever you choose, you will be stuck with for the year.  Some factors you will want to consider are:

-          How long have I known this person?

-          What schedule does this person keep?  Are they up late making noise when I want to be sleeping or vice versa?

-          What is this person’s level of messiness?  Does it match mine or if they leave dishes in the sink will it drive me crazy?

-          Can this person afford to pay their share of the rent and utilities (if applicable)?  It’s not easy to talk to your friends about finances… but before signing a lease together this is a really important conversation to have.

Bottom line is this… The two biggest factors in picking a place to live are cost and housemates.  If you want to save money and have more freedom, move off campus.  There are some great apartments in town for a fraction of the cost to living in the dorms.

Second, think hard about the roommates you pick to live with you.  Consider all the points listed above and that will help guide you to the right decision.