Moving away from home is a feat in and of itself, but there is no truer sense of independence than living in a building that’s not school-sanctioned, with complete freedom to do as you wish. After being on-campus for the past couple years of my college life, moving off-campus to live with my friends felt like a breath of fresh air, and a great way to kick off my twenties. There were no rules, no RA’s (resident advisers, usually an upperclassman who lives in your section and calls meetings), no restrictions outside of the basic guidelines my housemates and I agreed on. Of course, it’s not all sunshine and roses — there are definitely pros and cons to living both on and off-campus, and I’ll highlight some of the differences below.
Living on-campus: Coming to a college where you are required to live in the dorms can be daunting, especially if you have never lived away from home before. Being on-campus, within a small and personal section, can provide first years with a sense of belonging, especially as they try to find their place in the school. If you’re lucky, your section mates will be like your built-in friends, and your roommate may even become your best friend. During my first year, my roomie and I stuck together through most things — going to the dining hall, studying in the library, etc. We even made several mutual friends, and spent many nights talking and/or lamenting life. It was just nice to have somebody around.
The RA’s and SA’s — student academic advisers, who are similar to the resident advisers but help more with the academic side of adjusting to college– in every section are also amazing resources, as they are not only upperclassmen students who may eventually become your friend, but mentors who can guide you when you’re unsure about something. My SA definitely helped me figure out how to utilize resources on campus, such as the COWs (Center fOr Writing and Speaking) and the Student Engagement Center, which proved helpful when I was trying to write my first few college essays and find jobs on campus. The RA also held section meetings and section dinners, which gave me a chance to try and socialize with the people on my floor, which I appreciated. This group structure was extremely invaluable as a first year student, and something everybody should take advantage of while they can.
However, issues with living on-campus may include the proximity to academic buildings. While this is also an advantage, as classes are so close and accessible, I sometimes found it frustrating because I felt like I couldn’t separate my school life with my personal life, since my dorm was just a couple of minutes away from most of my classes; this became a bit suffocating when the academic load began to pile up. Also, being stuck on the meal plan can also be a disadvantage, especially if you already know how to cook for yourself. The general lack of freedom makes living on-campus difficult going into the second year, but makes the wait to be off-campus feel so much more worthwhile.
Living off-campus: Students normally get to live off-campus after four semesters of living in dorms. The best things about it relate to the cons I mentioned above: being able to separate yourself from the academic environment, cook for yourself, and reside with your closest friends. By this time, most students know the ins and outs of the campus and all that it has to offer, and are comfortable being off on their own without additional help. Most of the off-campus houses are relatively close to the school, so the commute is not a problem; it only takes me a few minutes to walk to school, as I live just a block down. Being in a house made me feel like a real adult, especially when it came to buying groceries and paying bills. Keep in mind, though, that these things also become an added responsibility on top of school work, and you have to learn to be careful and responsible about how you are budgeting your time and money. And unless you make the effort, you don’t see your other friends and acquaintances as often as you may the first two years while living in dorms.
In general, the main differences between being on and off-campus include the extent of freedom and personal responsibility, and some people may be better suited for one over the other. Personally, I have loved living off-campus because I have found that it works better for me, and am looking forward to getting through the next few semesters with my best friends.