How to Choose College Housing

Good work! You managed to get into college. You’re more likely to get a job, at least after a few months of post-graduation despair; you’ll probably make more money than the average non-college grad; in all likelihood, you’ll drink your weight in beer every month. Good stuff. But in the meantime, where should you live?

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Dorms

On-campus housing is the obvious choice for most freshmen. It’s easy—that is, you don’t have to figure anything out for yourself—and will allow you to meet tons of new people very quickly. You’ll probably get a meal plan, which means no having to fend for yourself food-wise, and you’ll have an RA who will hopefully keep you from majoring in party studies. You may have some choice about what kind of dorm you live in. Residence halls are traditional dorm-style housing, often with communal bathrooms, study rooms, and other shared spaces. You probably won’t have a kitchen, but you will have tons of social activity. Many freshmen prefer residence halls because of the opportunities to make friends and get involved, but older students or ones who prefer a quieter environment may want to consider other types of housing. The following options are useful if you go to a commuter school with limited dorm availability, if dorms are too expensive for your budget, or if you generally want to avoid 18 year-old wastedness.

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Apartments

Many students end up in apartments in their sophomore or junior years—by then, you’ll hopefully have met people with whom you could stand to live, and vice versa. Apartments are great if you want a quieter lifestyle, more control over your space, the ability to cook even the simplest meal, or discretion over how much you pay per month. If you’re looking to get an apartment as a freshman, you can either visit your college town and get a studio or roommate (consider the possible loneliness factor) or your school might maintain a  forum or listserv for people looking for roommates, especially if you go to a commuter school. If all else fails, post on Craigslist in the housing section.

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Co-ops

Some college towns have cooperative housing, often unaffiliated with the university itself. Co-ops are groups of people who have decided to share resources, and they can take very different forms. You could find a small group of people who agree to live under one roof and share rent and chores, and perhaps even meals. Places like Berkeley, Ann Arbor, Eugene, and Austin have larger organizations with several houses, where you might pay for rent and food all in one package. Many times, students don’t know about the co-ops until they’ve attended their first year and heard about them on campus, so if this option interests you and you’re still only a prospective student, do some online research.

Home

Going to school close to home? There are pretty serious pros and cons to living with your parents, so consider your situation carefully. Home is cheap, and sometimes easy, at least for those of you whose parents will still cook and do laundry for you. If you’re particularly immature or prone to bad decision-making, living at home for another couple years could be a good way to ease into adulthood. On the other hand, staying home can limit your growth. If you choose to stay put, it’s advisable to have a serious conversation with your parents about how your lifestyle might change, and about your mutual expectations and boundaries.

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