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July 15, 2020
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Which Student Housing Option is Right for You?

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You’re going to school to study, get good grades, and shape your future. But, where you live has a significant impact on your college experience. It determines the connections that you make, how involved you can be on campus, the price tag for your education, and let’s be honest - how much fun you can have. So which student housing option is right for you?


Let’s explore a few, with a focus on the expense and potential on-campus engagement level.


Live in a Dorm (High Expense, High Engagement)


Dorm life can be a blast! There’s never a dull or lonely moment because there’s always someone around to hang out with or be your study partner. And, who knows? Your dorm mates may become your lifelong friends. 


Plus, you can be really active on campus, truly taking advantage of everything your school has to offer. As a dormer, you can more easily join clubs, attend events, and fully utilize all of the amenities that you’re paying for.


The downside? Living in a dorm room can jack up the price of your education by $10,000 or more per year. That’s a lot of money to fork over - or a lot of student debt to take on. If you’ve been dreaming about dorm life since middle school, the price tag could be worth it. You just need to understand the cost.


Timely tip: If your school decides to close your campus in favor of online learning due to the pandemic, you may be eligible for a room and board refund. 


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Commute from Home (Low Expense, Low Engagement)


If you can’t stomach the thought of paying $40,000 more for your degree, and your school is within commutable distance, living at home can be a solid option. You already know your roommates, all of your stuff is there, and your parents are probably benevolent landlords. While it will take more effort to be social and get involved on campus, you’ll likely graduate in better financial shape. 


However, even though your room and board costs will drop to nil, you’ll still need to cover transportation to and from your school. Those expenses could include buying or leasing a car, car insurance, gas, tolls, vehicle maintenance, or a bus pass. Be sure to factor these costs into your budget.


Of course, not everyone has the ability or desire to commute to school from home. If that’s you - don’t worry. We’ve got a couple of other options for you.

Stay with Roommates Off-Campus (Moderate Cost, Moderate Engagement)


Want the camaraderie of a dorm room without the sticker shock? Consider living with roommates off-campus. Depending on where your school is located, you could save a ton of money splitting the rent on a multi-bedroom apartment.


Of course, your rent doesn’t include a meal plan. And, you may need to pitch in extra cash to pay for utilities. You’ll also need to get to and from campus. So, before making any commitments, be sure to do the math. If your savings would be negligible (or non-existent), it may make sense to go a different route.


And guess what? You’re still off-campus. That means it will be tougher to immerse yourself in the full college experience.


Caution: If you need to permanently leave your apartment, your landlord may not let you break your lease. That means you’ll still need to pay rent even though you’re no longer living there.

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Try Greek Life (Moderate Cost, High Engagement)


If campus life is calling your name, but you want to save some money, look into joining a fraternity or sorority. Your school may offer housing especially for members (not every college does). While you’ll need to cover rent and chapter dues, you could pay thousands less than if you lived in the dorm.


You could also form tight bonds with your housemates, access exclusive events, and improve your post-graduation employment prospects by networking with other members. Due to all of the benefits and the limited number of openings, spots in these houses fill up fast. If you’re interested, apply for admission ASAP and be sure to have a backup plan.


Final Thoughts


Figuring out your student housing situation is a very nuanced decision that should be based on your priorities and budget. To guide your thinking, reflect on these questions:


  • What do you hope to get out of the college experience? 
  • Is the social aspect of attending school important to you?
  • Are you OK with paying more for your education in order to fully enjoy that aspect? 


Your answers should point you towards the best student housing choice for you. Don’t forget -- we can help you manage your college costs. Create your free college funding plan today!

Photograph of Laura Gariepy
Laura Gariepy

Laura Gariepy is a freelance writer that specializes in personal finance, careers, and small business.  She owns Every Day by the Lake, a written content creation company that helps busy business owners connect with their target audience.  You can follow her on Twitter @EverydayLake.

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