You’re getting ready to embark on an exciting new journey: moving away for college. This often comes with a big decision, and you should keep the financial pieces in mind – how do the expenses of living on campus compare to off-campus living? There’s no easy, straightforward answer to this until you explore and compare all of the available options in the town you’re moving to.
Here are some things to keep in mind as you make your decision:
1. Renting an apartment vs. staying in a dorm.
It can be difficult to determine immediately whether dorm room costs or apartment rent would be higher because this really varies from one city to the next. In some cases, it can be difficult to find a nearby apartment that comes close to the prices that are offered at on-campus dorm rooms. On the other hand, many college students find that dorm rooms cost about the same as, or even more than, nearby private apartments. You’ll need to compare these costs in the town you’ll be moving to but also take other things in consideration, too. For example, if a dorm room costs the same or more, but saves you a long daily commute to class, the convenience could be worth it. A potential compromise: some schools offer off-campus housing in traditional apartment buildings that are just minutes away and with special student pricing.
2. Roommates and housing options.
If you’re living off campus and looking to save money, you’ll likely want a roommate. Depending on your budget and how many roommates you’re willing to have, you can potentially explore different housing options. For example, you could rent a house and split the cost with a few different people, and you get to pick who those people are. With a dorm room, you will likely have no choice but to have a roommate, and it may be someone you don’t get along with. It also means sharing very tight quarters and limited options; the average dorm room size is just 228 square feet.
A dorm room might be a lot smaller than a traditional apartment, but that also comes with some advantages. For instance, furnishing a dorm room is usually pretty simple (and the basics are supplied for you), but furnishing an entire apartment can take a lot more work and money.
An off-campus apartment could be cheaper than living on campus, but you have to factor in transportation costs. Unless your apartment is within walking distance of campus, you may need to buy a car. Aside from the initial expense of purchasing a car, you have to consider upkeep, gas costs, car insurance premiums, and so on. If public transportation is an option, that could save you some money, but it is still a cost to factor in. You’ll also have to consider the time it could take to get to school via public transportation and consider any level of inconvenience that might come along with your commute.
Those who live on campus often take advantage of meal plans, which can provide set daily meals for a flat fee. This not only helps you to budget better because of the fixed price but also saves a lot of money as well. However, the value of a meal plan often depends on your eating habits. You’ll want to explore the meal plans that your school offers to see if they make sense for you and if they would help you to save money. For instance, if you planned on cooking all or most of your meals in your own apartment, opting for a meal plan and living on campus might cost you a lot more money rather than help you save.
6. Other bills.
If it seems as though a dorm room will cost more than nearby apartments, it’s also important to remember that dorm room pricing is often all-inclusive. This means you usually won’t have to worry about other living expenses, such as Wi-Fi, cable, and utilities. If you live off campus, you’ll also have to consider these additional expenses, which could stretch your budget.
Financial aid and federal student loans often provide enough money for students to cover their living expenses, whether on or off campus. While the amount is sufficient for some students, it doesn’t always cover all expenses for others. If you find yourself in a similar predicament, know that you do have other student loan options to help you bridge the gap. At College Ave, we offer different student loans to help make your college experience a comfortable one.