Should You Live On Campus Freshman Year?

Nathan Wilgeroth / Colleges of Distinction »

Whether you’re going to college a few miles away or hauling yourself across the country, you might be wrestling with the idea of whether you should live on or off campus. 

It is important to note that colleges often require first-year students to live on campus (unless they already live within a certain radius of the school), but for good reason! Staying involved in residence life has shown to be, more often than not, entirely beneficial for undergraduate students. If you’re faced with the option to live on or off campus in college, we at Colleges of Distinction have listed some of the main points to consider. But don’t just take our word for it—Chad Fehr, Assistant Dean of Students and Dean of Residential Campus at Marymount California University has witnessed class after class of undergraduates through their college experience:

Living on campus offers a chance to feel connected to the heartbeat of college life. Students are more in touch with what is going on, and they have a greater chance to make close friends they would have otherwise never met. Going to college is not just about going to classes and getting a degree. It’s also about learning life lessons and enjoying experiences that happen outside the classroom. Many of those opportunities are spontaneous or after hours, and one must be physically present to experience them. If you are on the fence about living on campus during your first year, I highly encourage you to take the plunge. Even if you currently live close by, move onto campus and live the full college experience.

Read on for more reasons to consider living on campus as you prepare for college!

1. Convenience and Proximity

Location, location, location, right? When you live on campus, you are just a few steps away from everywhere you need to be. In most cases, on-campus housing is just a short walk away from class. You don’t have to deal with waiting for the bus, driving, sitting through traffic, or parking; you can just roll out of bed and into class. This will especially come in handy when you have class early in the morning after a long night of studying, participating in a student organization, or whatever shenanigans you get into. College is busy, so you’ll probably want to get as best of a night of sleep as possible. Even if you think you’re an early bird and that morning classes don’t sound too bad, just be warned that 8am classes in college just hit different. 

It’s also very helpful to have your home so close by in between classes. Depending on your schedule, you might have hours of empty space to fill. You will save the hassle (and gas money!) if you need to go home and back to school multiple times a day. 

2. Nearby Facilities

Not only does living on campus put you a few steps away from class, but it also centralizes you among all the resources you need to thrive both personally and academically. As Chad Fehr from Marymount California University points out, “Students who live on campus have on average higher GPAs than those who commute. It is easier for students to attend study groups, spend time at the library and visit faculty during their office hours.” 

It is so much easier to stay on top of your school work when you live among others who share the same goals. Campus housing is surrounded by study spaces and all the people who use them. This is also why retention and graduation rates are shown to be higher in those who live on campus for at least two years; academic support and solidarity lead to measurable success!

3. Student Life

Built-in support is both academic and personal when it comes to living on campus. One of the most exciting and fulfilling benefits of living in a residence hall is that it keeps you connected to the myriad clubs, activities, and events happening among the rest of the students! “Students who live on campus are less likely to transfer or take time away from school, and overall, they are more satisfied with their college experience,” says Chad Fehr. “It is easier to get involved in student organizations that meet after hours and build more connections with other students, faculty and staff. As a bonus, because it is easier to get involved with clubs and organizations, residential students are also more likely to take on leadership roles within their student organizations.”

Resident assistants and residence life staff are other crucial features of the student experience. The transition to college can be just as challenging as it is rewarding, so you would be greatly supported by the trained community members on campus who understand the different personal and emotional difficulties that may arise. 

Dr. Delton Gordon, Associate Dean for Residence Life at Arkansas Tech University, assures students that student staff are “trained to engage with their residents and help them build connections with other residents.” These compassionate peer leaders “create environments which support the development of their community and provide educational activities to support social, educational, and leadership goals of their residents.” 

A strong community is one of the greatest cornerstones of a positive college experience. Mental health is a top priority of the student and faculty staff at the Colleges of Distinction, so it is with these leaders that involvement in social clubs, sporting events, or other programs that students are primed to thrive.

4. Meal Plans

In most cases, room & board are a package deal, so your meal plan will be included alongside the cost of your dorm fees. And since freshman dorms rarely have kitchen areas, a helpful meal plan will give you access to both fresh and pre-packaged meals.

The campus dining hall is a huge time-saver, while cooking three square meals a day while juggling homework and all the new experiences that college brings is a big ask. It may seem like the upfront cost is a bit too much to handle, but it is an incredible resource to help you manage your time and keep you healthy.

5. The Cost

As with a meal plan, the cost of housing can seem like an intimidating obstacle as you make your decision about whether to live on campus. It is an undeniable fact that college is expensive, but the sticker price of room & board might be something to reconsider after you weigh the long-term pros and cons. 

Check into the tuition and fees at your prospective college or university, and divide up the overall price of on-campus housing by the number of months you’ll be living there. You may find that the cost is comparable to the monthly rent at any standard apartment nearby. Especially considering that real-estate developers often open up posh student housing with overblown amenities outside of college campuses, you might even find that living in a dorm is significantly cheaper. Think through the price of on-campus housing and how it compares to the overall value of the experience you’ll have while you’re there.

In most cases, students will find that living on campus their freshman year is a powerful way to be in touch with their college community. That’s why so many Colleges of Distinction make residence life a dynamic and desired highlight of their first-year experience. Take a peek at the schools we trust to find that number-one institution for you, both in the classroom and within the residence halls.