On-campus housing includes university-owned dorm rooms, suites, and regular apartments with full kitchens. Off-campus housing means privately-owned apartments with full kitchens, in apartment complexes, or in duplexes. Read on to find out more about the advantages and disadvantages of both.


Living in college-owned housing has a major advantage, namely proximity to classes. It is also easy to run home between classes and nap, change clothes, or study. Attending activities and working out at the fitness center is more convenient when you live on campus.

Living off-campus provides a break from the crowds. Students who do not participate in lots of activities may appreciate driving away at the end of a school day.


Dorm rooms are small. Period. The trend is toward building more spacious dorms and adding apartments. Off-campus complexes can offer larger rooms and kitchens, especially in older constructions.


The bane of college campuses everywhere is the shortage of convenient parking. The more historical (old) a campus is, the less parking will exist for students in areas near classrooms.

Large universities provide bus systems for getting around campus, and residence halls have bus stops. If you own an automobile, you probably will not need it during the week.

Off-campus students need to factor in driving time (and circling time) for their daily commutes. Off-campus life without a vehicle is hard unless you have good bus access. Think about grocery shopping when deciding.


Colleges vary in their requirements about meal plans. The old wisdom was that the only way a dorm resident would get nutritional meals was to be on the food plan.

Today, hungry students can find food whenever they want to buy it, except in very rural areas with small colleges. Microwaves and refrigerators are in almost all dorm rooms.

Dining plans are flexible and may include ‘dining dollars’ that students can use at campus bookstores, frozen yogurt outlets, and other non-cafeteria spots.


Campus security and the RA (Resident Assistant) system provide a level of reassurance to parents. But when kids are not in their rooms, there’s not much an RA can do to protect them.

Off-campus complexes have courtesy officers and may have gated entrances, also.


It is easy to make friends in a dorm, especially if the bathrooms and showers are common. Dorm buildings have lounges for studying and socializing.

Upper-class off-campus residents have generally made their core group of friends, and live with people who share similar interests, whether it is academic majors, sports, clubs, or religious activities.


On-campus housing is usually pricier than off-campus if you compare square footage or quality. A big reason that many people move off-campus is to be able to shop and cook for their own meals, saving lots of money over the foodservice plans.

Be aware that your parent’s homeowner’s policy will cover your on-campus belongings, but not off-campus. In addition, off-campus housing requires deposits and utility bill payments, something that is invisible to campus residents.


On-campus halls, even apartment buildings, come furnished with the basics. This can save a lot of hassle on moving-in (and out) days.

Off-campus apartments may be furnished or not. You should compare the cost of buying or renting the essentials such as beds and tables and chairs. Don’t forget the expense and hassle of moving them back and forth from home or storage units.

Bottom Line

Unless finances are a huge issue, most college kids are going to do what their peers and predecessors do. And this varies from college to college.