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After about 18 years of hearing “not under my roof” from Mom and Dad, you’ve finally got a new address. Breaking free of their house rules is exciting, but your new options for digs come with rules of their own – as well as a list of pros and cons. Here’s what you should consider before you decide where to unpack.

DORMS
Dorms offer the classic college experience. Shared rooms packed to the brim with all of the necessities, rambunctious hallways and crowded bathrooms offer most college first-timers the opportunity of a lifetime.

Pros

  • Central Location: You’re only about a five-minute walk from class – great for those days you oversleep – and you’ll always know about events on campus. Plus, campus staffers are nearby, should you need help. You’ll appreciate your Resident Advisor when you have roommate trouble or general questions.
  • Housekeeping: If you’re living in a dorm with a communal bathroom, housekeeping is part of the deal – you won’t have to worry about cleaning the toothpaste off the sink since janitorial staff does it for you. For dorms with individual bathrooms or bathrooms shared with just a few people, you’re probably going to be on your own. 
  • Food: Most colleges require dorm residents to purchase a meal plan, which adds another $1,000 or more to the college price tag, but it’s worth it when your mom and dad aren’t around to whip up your favorite meal.

Cons

  • The Masses: Dorm life isn’t always for everyone; the communal bathrooms, the long lines to do laundry and the general cramped quarters of a dorm room can at times prove to be too much. 
  • Confinement: Most colleges require freshmen to live on campus. That can feel like a restriction, and so can the watchful eye of an RA who sets visiting hours. That said, you’ll value sleep in college, so it’s not really a huge limitation – it just feels like one.
  • Roommates: Roommate quarrels are a common occurrence in the close quarters of a dorm room, and the process of reconciliation or a roommate change can sometimes prove difficult and lengthy.

(For a dorm room checklist, click here to visit the digital edition of Arkansas NEXT.)

CAMPUS APARTMENTS
For nearly the same price as living in the dorm, you can enjoy more living space, freedom and privacy. Apartments are usually a natural progression from dorm life and offer you the chance to experience life outside the hectic halls of the dorm.

Pros

  • Central Location: Living in an on-campus apartment has many of the same benefits as living in the dorm – you’re still in the loop and only a short walk from class.
  • Comfort: You’ve got a living room – not just a dorm bed – to relax in. Plus, the full kitchen allows you to take your culinary skills beyond microwave macaroni and cheese to the more elegant and refined grilled cheese sandwich. 
  • Laundry Access: Most on-campus apartments have more washing machines and clothes dryers than dorms, limiting the number of times an inpatient someone will place your wet clothes on top of the dryer.

Cons

  • No Housekeeping: The university does not send someone over each day to wipe off your kitchen counters or scrub the nasty out of your bathroom – that’s your job. And at least one of your roommates is bound to be too messy for your taste.
  • Luck of the Draw: Because there are fewer on-campus apartment buildings than dorms, upperclassmen get first pick and younger students are placed wherever there are vacancies.
  • Rules: You still must adhere to university housing rules, and you’re still under the guidance of an RA.

LIVING OFF CAMPUS
The move off campus is one many students make after spending their first year or two on campus. Some view it as another step toward independence in their college career. This decision is usually met with exciting freedoms and nerve-wracking responsibilities.

Pros

  • Autonomy: You are not subject to room inspections by housing staff. In fact, the only time you’ll hear a knock at your door telling you to quiet down is if you have disturbed the neighbors and are receiving a friendly visit from the local police.
  • Options: You get to choose your own place based on price, location, number of bathrooms or even the sweet pool and hot tub that are available to residents. 
  • Peace: You’re away from the busy atmosphere of noisy hallways and crowded classrooms and can relax in a space that is all your own.

Cons

  • Stress: Get used to grocery shopping, utility payments, lease agreements, security deposits and general maintenance. Remember to take the trash out on trash day and pay bills on time so that your water isn’t shut off in the middle of your steamy shower one morning.
  • Grievances: There is no governing body to make decisions regarding household issues. Potential roommates can flake on their share of the rent at the last minute, leaving you with a major issue to resolve.
  • Commute: If you drive to campus, you must leave for class considerably earlier than those who live on campus and must also fight traffic, which is nothing compared to the problem that parking poses.

GREEK HOUSING
Planning to pledge? Members of a Greek organization may be required to live in the organization’s house for a specified amount of time.

Pros

  • Central Location: Greek housing is also often located on or near campus, and sometimes parking is provided for live-in members. 
  • Housekeeping: A weekday cleaning and meal service is provided in most Greek housing. This allows for you to kick back and focus on school and social events during the week and not worry with cooking or cleaning until the weekend rolls around.
  • Involvement: You’ll get to participate in numerous activities and charities. You’ll also get to know your fraternity brothers or sorority sisters in a way that would not be possible without sharing a living space.

Cons

  • Distractions: Some Greek houses have reputations as wild party places. If your grade point average drops too much, you could face being kicked out of the organization or even college.
  • Expenses: Be prepared to pay college tuition, membership fees and event costs in addition to housing costs.
  • Rules: Greek organizations are registered as student organizations with the college, and they’ve got to follow rules and guidelines set forth by the college. Additional house rules may also be set by the organization.