Should I Live in a Dorm or Outside Residence?

Should I Live in a Dorm or Outside Residence?

When considering your college housing options, choosing whether to live in a dorm or outside residence can be an overwhelming decision to make. Some colleges require students to spend their freshman year in a dorm-type living situation, but if the college you will be attending allows you to choose, weighing up the pros and cons of each will help you make an informed decision based upon your unique needs.


Dorm life is considered by many past and present students to be essential to the overall college experience, however it doesn’t suit everyone. If this is your first time living away from home, it can take a period of adjustment to become settled in your new living quarters.

Should I Live in a Dorm or Outside Residence?


Living in a dorm with 50 or more other students provides lots of opportunities to meet people and make new friends. There will most likely be a wide range of events and activities sponsored by the dorm so there will always be something to do. While always having people around to ‘hang out’ with can be comforting, particularly for those new to dorm living, privacy and the ability to study in peace can be difficult to come by.


Bathroom and laundry facilities are shared, so expect to wait in line for showers and use of the washing machines / dryers. In most cases you will also be required to share a room with one other person. While it is nice to have company it can also become a difficult situation if the two of you do not get along. If you find your roommate impossible to share with, a change of room / roommate can take a long time to achieve. Rooms are often quite small so keeping your side of the room tidy is vital and storage space is scarce so you may need to be creative in order to have anything but the necessities.


In most college dorm situations meals are provided. It is a definite advantage to not be required to shop for food and cook for yourself. While the meals are for the most part nutritious, food will only be available during cafeteria hours. Some colleges do not allow microwaves and / or refrigerators in rooms, so snacking outside of mealtimes can be a challenge.

Cleaning of the dorm will be undertaken by janitorial staff so there will be no requirement for students to partake in cleaning duties.


Dorms have Resident Advisors who can answer your questions, advise you on dorm life and help mediate should you have a problem with your roommate or another student in the dorm. For new students the support of Resident Advisors can make adjusting to dorm life easier.

You may be subjected to regular room inspections, so you will be required to keep your room tidy and clean.


Dorms are usually within walking distance of classes which removes the necessity to have a vehicle. Besides the obvious financial advantage, there is no need to spend extra time each day battling traffic.


Living quarters

In outside housing (shared apartment or house) you will often have a room to yourself. This is especially advantageous as you have somewhere private and quiet in which to study. You will have to share common rooms with the other occupants but in many cases it will be a select few that you have chosen to share a house with. Rooms tend to be larger and even if small the space will be all your own.


You will have to not only cook meals for yourself and clean up afterwards, but depending upon the arrangement you have with your other house mates, you may be required to take turns to cook for everyone. You will also be required to shop for food. You will also have to share responsibility for keeping the common rooms clean and tidy. In the case of a house you may also be required to do your share of the outside upkeep such as mowing lawns and weeding gardens.


Getting off campus at the end of the day can give you a sense of freedom and separation. There won’t be anyone doing random room inspections but at the same time you won’t have an adult to help you deal with in-house problems that may arise.


You will be required to pay your share of the utilities on a monthly basis as well as being responsible for your own personal expenses. You will have some control over your share of the cost but cannot force the other occupants to be frugal with electricity, water and such. It is better to have a College Budget that you should stick to. Look at the benefits of CU student loans here

Should I Live in a Dorm or Outside Residence?


You may end up in an area where the residents do not appreciate the presence of students for fear that they will cause damage and be particularly noisy. This is especially true if the immediate area consists predominantly of older people and / or young families.


Dependent upon the distance your house / apartment is from campus, you may need to have a vehicle or use public transportation, either of which may be unreliable. With either choice there are expenses, with maintaining and running a car being the more costly, of course. Extra time will need to be factored into your day to allow for travel. Finding a place to park your vehicle may be another challenge, unless the house you live in has plenty of off-street parking.


Unless the house / apartment you are renting / leasing is fully furnished, you may face initial expenses and challenges purchasing furniture and appliances such as a refrigerator and washer / dryer. Necessities for the kitchen and bathrooms will require purchasing also. Even if the costs of such items are shared among the occupants, with you being singly responsible for furnishing your bedroom, this can mean considerable expense at the outset.



For some students the single most important consideration when choosing between living in a dorm and living off-campus is the cost. While it may appear that dorm costs are higher than living in an apartment or house, the cost is once yearly whereas renting an apartment or house has ongoing monthly expenses plus additional expenses that may crop up unexpectedly as a result of appliance or vehicle breakdowns. You will be responsible for providing your share of the expenses on time every month. In a dorm there is the security of knowing all expenses (personal expenses excluded) are taken care of with the one payment at the beginning of the year.

Meal planning

For others not having to cook or clean may be the deciding factor. This is especially true for students with a heavy class schedule that doesn’t allow time for much more than attending classes and studying. Many young people don’t know how to cook so access to the dorm cafeteria is ideal.


Some students find the idea of having to share a bedroom with someone they don’t know unacceptable. Others welcome the opportunity to get to know someone new and hopefully forge a lifelong friendship.


Before making the final decision, make a list of all the questions you want answered and don’t decide until you have ALL the information you need. Talk to other students about their experiences. Whichever option you choose be sure to make your decision based on what you feel is right for YOU.

What do you prefer? Did you live in a dorm room and/or outside residence and how was that experience


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