Where Should You Live Your Freshman Year of College?

Dorm vs. apartment life: the debate of the century

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Where should you live freshman year? Dorm vs apartment

Decision day has just passed, but chances are you knew where you wanted to go to college long before May 1st. The real question for many students is where to live. 

While some colleges might have required you to already submit your preferences, there are still some students wondering whether to live in an on-campus dorm or settle down into their own apartment. Here are some of the most important factors to think about:

Socializing

At least 80% of my friendships in college originated from either my major or living in the dorms. Living in the dorms provides you with the opportunity for instant interaction, as you’ll probably end up hanging out in common study spaces or even talking in the bathroom. I know exactly zero of my current neighbors now that I live in an apartment. And while it might just be me, I’ve noticed that most of my friends in apartments also know, at most, one or two of their neighbors.

The flip side is that having an apartment makes it easy to hang out with the friends you make elsewhere. It’s harder to invite people over to a small dorm room and think of things to do. Game night always worked well, but the small space meant we could never have a big enough crowd. Having an apartment means you can having baking parties, movie marathons on a screen bigger than your laptop, and offer guests a proper place to sleep if they spend the night. 

Cleanliness

Having an apartment is work. Having common bathrooms can be frustrating when you get locked out wearing a towel, but you also don’t have to clean them yourself. Our kitchen gets dirty so quickly, so there’s a trade-off between sink cleaning and being able to cook. The size of a dorm room means that it’ll take you less than a fourth of the time to clean than it would in an apartment. 

Food Choices

Woman cooking

If you love to cook or are a picky eater, you might want to reconsider living in the dorms. Most likely, you’ll be eating all your meals in a dining hall or at restaurants. These tend to have less healthy options, and at some schools you might find that you can’t eat when you want. For example, my dining hall closed around 8pm, which meant that if I was in a meeting until 8:30 I’d have to head off-campus for dinner.

Convenience

Living in a campus dorm was the epitome of convenience for me. While some schools are more spread out, the majority of campuses that I’ve visited have dorms located on the campus itself, sometimes just a minute away from classes.

This can be nice if you know you have breaks between classes with nothing to do, because you can quickly return home to nap, chill out, watch Netflix, etc. Two of my classes freshman year were less than two minutes away from where I lived. Talk about a short commute!

Privacy

Unless you’re planning to live in a single dorm (which do exist), chances are you’ll have a roommate. There are no walls or strict divisions between your side and her side.

I absolutely loved my roommate freshman year (and she now lives in my apartment with me!), but not everyone I knew was as lucky. I had a friend whose roommate would have her boyfriend over until the wee hours of the morning. Needless to say, this was uncomfortable and distracting for my friend.

If you value your space and feel uncomfortable about having to sleep just a few feet away from someone else, it might be better to get your own room in an apartment. 

Final Thoughts:

Hopefully these points will help you consider where you want to live next year, whether you’re entering your freshman year or not. Living alone is a huge step and fun in its own way, so whether you live in a dorm or an apartment, make sure to embrace the opportunity to create your own space!

What do you think?

Do you prefer living in a dorm or apartment? What are some other pros and cons of dorm life? Incoming freshmen, where do you plan to live next year? Leave a comment below and tell us your thoughts.

6 thoughts on “Where Should You Live Your Freshman Year of College?”

  1. Many colleges actually require freshmen (unless they’re commuting) to live in the dorms. I spent my first two years in the dorms and it was a great experience, but I’m definitely excited to have an apartment this fall! I think freshmen should try to live in a dorm. It really is one of the best ways to meet people-nothing gives you quite the same experience. There are ups and downs, but I would definitely recommend at least living in the dorm for one year. It also is convenient and not having to worry about cooking food or trekking miles to class made my transition to college easier.

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  2. Ditto the previous commenter who said that colleges usually require freshmen to live on campus. It’s required at my university for all freshmen to live on campus for at least their first year. After that, you have to apply to live on campus here, and with over 20,000 students there’s no guarantee whatsoever that you’ll get a spot! So most people live off-campus after their freshman year here. Other schools basically require you to live on campus your whole time at the school. My best friend goes to a small private school (under 3,000 students), and you have to apply to live off-campus, and they’re very picky about who they decide to let live off-campus. Their campus is tiny and has plenty of housing (the school owns houses on campus and some small apartment buildings, so they don’t have only the traditional dorms that most of their freshmen live in). So where you live really depends on the school and the culture there, and while incoming freshmen likely already know what their living situation will be like, I really suggest future students to do research about what the living situations are at the schools they apply to!

    I came into my college as a second-semester sophomore transfer, and I lived at home while attending community college before my transfer. I live in an apartment and have never experienced dorm life. I do wish a little that I’d been able to experience it (even if I wanted to live on campus, very few transfers are given spots unless they come in as second-semester freshmen!), but I’m happy with my college living experience so far! My area has LOTS of off-campus student housing options, though, and most have extra amenities like pools, study rooms, gyms, etc, and most do roommate matching. I live in a normal residential apartment with my boyfriend, so I don’t have any other roommates, and it’s mostly quiet and I love not having to share space with people I don’t really know (since I came in halfway through the year as a transfer not really knowing anyone).

    I definitely agree that living on campus is more convenient. No bills to remember to get in on time, no big grocery shopping trips, and dining halls and easy transportation are almost always available (my campus is huge, and we have our own inter-campus shuttle system that’s part of the city’s transportation system and connects to the city’s main routes. I live just a little too far from campus to take a bus, so I’m forced to drive everyday). The food here was also just voted #1 in the country, so there’s lot of really good dining options, though the hours could be better. It’s so convenient to eat on campus that I’m getting a meal plan next year, because I didn’t get one this year and really regretted when I started to eat lunch on campus with friends almost daily about halfway through the semester!

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  3. I had the pleasure of living in a itty-bitty room with a roommate who I had thankfully known from high school. The dorm was a fantastic way to meet people, and I am definitely glad I did so. However, mentioned in the article that there is less cleaning when living in a dorm room, it should be noted that cleaning can be more difficult. with zero counter space and a small sink it was near impossible to do dishes. the vacuum was on it’s last leg, and unlike some, the dorm I was in would have a bathroom between every bedroom, so you didn’t have to go to a communal. Bathroom cleaning sadly must happen.

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  4. Oh, and I got around that rule where freshmen have to live in the dorms by being a transfer student. I started at a community college, went to a university, went to Oregon State University, and then came back to the first university I went to. Just in case anyone wants to get out of living in the dorms (and wants to save a bunch of money on tuition), community colleges are your friend.

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  5. Agreed with all of these! I’m several years out of college (I started following this blog way back when I was still an undergrad), but I think living in the dorm is 100% necessary. As you said, the social aspect is really key. I met some amazing people on my hall my freshman year who I still keep in contact with 8 years (!) later. It’s definitely a lot more challenging to meet people living on your own. Not to mention, you have the rest of you life to live on your own and have our own place. Do college right and live in the dorms!

    Annessa
    http://www.seekingsunshine.com

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  6. I’m in my fourth year of college (I will be graduating as a sixth year because I made a huge major change from nutrition to mathematics) and I have never lived in a dorm. I’ve had apartments with roomies and a couple boyfriends all throughout college and it’s been really great, but I also have only made a very small handful of friends in college, and that sucks. Dorms are really expensive and don’t have good options for cooking, but I think if you get your own apartment, you might want to consider joining some campus club or dining on campus or at the dorms, or something. I believe it’s much more difficult to make friends when you don’t live in the dorms.

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