Should I Live on Campus?

So, you made the cut and were accepted into the university or college of your choice—way to go! You also have your courses picked out and paid for—even better! Now you have to figure out how you’re going to get to class every day. Anyone a fair distance from campus will inevitably ponder the option of living on-site. It’s an option with many perks, but are there any reasons not to live on campus?

Let’s look at the obvious upsides of living on campus. You’re never more than a few minutes’ walk from any given class (depending on the campus, of course). This not only reduces the risk of being late for class, but it eliminates the hassle of a commute via car, bike or public transit. Another obvious advantage: you get to enjoy the freedom of being off on your own, away from the homestead. You can relax in your own domain without your parents and/or nosy siblings constantly looking over your shoulder. No one will nag you to make sure you go to bed on time, floss your teeth and eat your vegetables. The on-campus option means extra privacy and a comfortable space to spend your time exactly as you choose, and with whom you choose—personal relationships will have room to bud and flourish.

It sounds great, doesn’t it? What possible downside could there be to living with people your own age, in your own self-contained environment, only minutes away from your farthest class? The list of pros and cons looks a little one-sided. But watch out: some of the cons won’t rear their ugly heads until you’ve already settled into residence, at which point it will be too late to back out of the deal. As a university grad who lived on campus for three consecutive years, I was unlucky enough to experience the following three doozies for myself.

Con number one: Living on campus is COSTLY!

When you do the math, you’ll discover that campus apartments, townhouses and dorms cost considerably more to occupy per month compared to your average off-campus abode. What’s even more unsettling is that the costs are steadily rising. In my second year, the fee to live in a university-owned townhouse unit for eight months skyrocketed by a whopping $900! Post-secondary institutions take advantage of a captive market; they know that you’re paying for the convenience factor, and there will always be students (not to mention parents of students) willing to pay extra for an ideal location. Moreover, upper-year students may notice these drastic cost increases year to year, but new students may assume that fees for living on campus have always been hugely expensive. Education is a business, and business is booming!

Con number two: House checks are a pain

Although you may not have to contend with parents telling you what to do, living in an assigned campus residence is anything but a free-for-all. Scheduled house checks mean that a don will visit you and your roommates once a month to make sure your townhouse, apartment or dorm is in impeccable shape. Your place doesn’t have to be spotless all the time, but you have to be prepared for a serious cleaning frenzy a day or two prior to the house check, because the don who shows up at your door to inspect the premises will expect nothing short of perfection. Depending on how thorough you don is—and, sometimes, the mood they’re in—they may not hesitate to investigate your bathroom faucet with a scrutinizing eye, check the top of your fridge for rogue dust particles, or even pull the stove away from the wall to make sure the uninhabited space back there is immaculately spotless. It sounds absurd, but these are some of the pitfalls that can result in a failed house check, with stern warnings issued to every member of the household.

Con number three: Assigned roommates are a gamble

What could possibly go wrong when you’re assigned to a living space with up to three people you know nothing about? Well, if you live with roommates for more than a couple of years, you are almost sure to encounter one or two that you won’t get along with. You won’t recognize these people as a threat to household harmony right away—they will reveal their undesirable traits over time. They’ll bring large groups of friends over every other night to hog the living room and monopolize the TV, and they’ll party loudly and obnoxiously until at least 2 a.m. when you have to get up early for class the next day. They’ll cook a multi-course, noxious-smelling meal and then leave their dishes and pots to fester in the sink for days, adding to the already pungent aroma of the kitchen. And, if you’re really unlucky, they’ll invite their alcoholic paramours over to park themselves at your place while they ransack your fridge and pick fights with your friends.

As you can probably tell, I underwent some memorable, eye-opening and occasionally harrowing experiences in the three years I spent living on campus. Reflecting back, I probably wouldn’t have done anything differently, but I still believe I made the right choice when I decided to rent a place off-campus with three close friends in my fourth year of university. The rent was cheaper, I didn’t have to fret over domineering dons and house checks, and I pretty much knew what to expect from the people I lived with. My advice, finally, is this: try living on campus for a year or longer. Meet new people and get a feel for the campus. Then, once you’ve made some friends that seem stable, reliable and compatible, invite them to join you in finding a place off-campus!

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