Living on Campus vs. off Campus: 4 Things to Consider

by Ashley Eneriz

Where you live during college plays a major role in shaping your overall experience. There’s no wrong decision when choosing between living on campus vs. off campus, but there are plenty of aspects to weigh as you decide. Whether you’re an incoming freshman or an upcoming senior, read on to explore some key factors that can help you make the best choice for you.

Living on Campus vs. off Campus

On-campus housing gives students the opportunity to be in the midst of the university’s social scene and form close-knit relationships with roommates. Off-campus living can mean living with your parents or another relative, but it often means finding your own housing (like an apartment or shared house) outside of the university’s residential facilities.

Some colleges don’t allow students to live off campus for some or all of the years they attend college. For example, Azusa Pacific University requires freshmen and sophomores to live on campus unless they’re 21 years or older, living with a parent, or married.

4 Things to Consider When Making Your Choice

Many students can live on campus for the entirety of their undergraduate program, depending on how much room is available. Some students transition from on-campus to off-campus housing during their junior or senior year as they crave more independence and a different living experience.

No matter where you are in your journey, consider the following:

1. Financial Impact

Depending on your university and location, dorm life can be cheaper than renting an apartment or a room in a shared house. At APU, prices start at $2,887 per semester, including utilities. Since a semester is about four months long, APU campus living prices break down to about $721.75 per month to start. In contrast, two-bedroom apartment rentals in Azusa average $2,200 per month. Divided by two people, the rent split would be $1,100 per month. You may also need to split utilities like internet, electricity, and gas.

In some cases, living off campus might also affect your financial aid package. Some universities add on-campus housing and meal plans to the overall cost of attendance, allowing you to cover these expenses with scholarships or student loans. Consult your university’s financial aid office to understand whether living off campus might adjust the amount you receive.

Finally, consider whether you’ll need a vehicle to live off campus and what your commute to school will look like. It’s important to factor gas and parking costs into your budget.

2. Academic Support

Living on campus means your classes are always close. While this doesn’t necessarily guarantee you’ll be on time each day, it can help since you won’t have to navigate traffic or hunt down a parking spot. Resources like campus tutoring, the library, and the writing center are also more easily accessible when you live on campus. Consider how important these resources are to reaching your academic goals, including coordinating group projects or study sessions.

On the flip side, if you’re easily distracted by on-campus events and social life, living off campus may help you stay focused.

3. Convenience

On-campus life is undeniably convenient. For example, you have access to dining halls and, depending on your campus, coffee shops and other eateries. The meal plan at APU averages out to under $10 per meal, and with all-you-can-eat venues on campus, this will likely cost you less than grocery shopping or eating out. Living on campus also means easy access to laundry facilities. Many off-campus apartments and houses include laundry, but it’s not guaranteed.

Of course, living off campus comes with its own set of conveniences. If you like to cook, you may enjoy having access to a full kitchen where you can make meals and host dinner parties. Plus, you’ll ultimately have more storage space, including closets and cabinets. Many rentals have more lenient rules than on-campus housing, too. This means you can decorate more freely and generally enjoy an increased sense of independence.

4. Personal Responsibility

Since it more closely resembles the “real world,” living off campus can help prepare you for life after college. It’s a good chance to practice budgeting and juggling bills and household chores on top of other priorities. You may also need to communicate with a landlord or property manager about repairs and other issues, like a leaking faucet or insect problem.

Transitioning to off-campus housing can be easier if you make the move with people you’ve already lived with on campus. Figure out what’s available, how much you can afford on your budget, and how you’ll split your expenses. You may consider remaining on your university meal plan so you don’t have to deal with too many changes all at once.

If you decide to live off campus, keep in mind that your rental contract may extend for a whole year, so plan for this additional expense.

Making the Best of Your Environment

Whether you choose to live on or off campus, the experience is ultimately what you make it. You can have an amazing, connected college experience either way. APU’s Academic Success Center can help you navigate the tricky parts of college life and support your academic journey no matter where you rest your head at night.