Dorm vs. Apartment

By Rachael Smith, Student at Radford University

It’s one of the biggest decisions you will have to make in your collegiate experience: apartment or dorm?

On some campuses, students are expected to live in dorms every year until graduation. Others have so many freshmen that sophomores are given the boot and are forced to move off campus.

A lot of campuses (including mine) required freshmen to live on campus for one year and when our second year rolled around, about 50 percent of students stayed in the dorm while the other half moved out into an apartment.

If you are stuck on this middle ground and are trying to weigh some cons and pros, here's some advice:

Dorm Pros:

  • Responsibilities: For most incoming students, this will be their first year out in the semi “real world” and it is important for students to live at least one year on campus. Besides the resident mentors, no one is looking out for you, but they will be there for you if you need them. No one is telling you when to wake up and when to go to bed or when, where or even what to eat. It is completely up to you.
  • Community: Look no further than down the hall to find a friend to go to the gym with, eat with or just hang out with. There are always activities happening within the dorms and usually some of your first friends come from your hall.
  • Money: Living in the dorms means no monthly payment and if something is broken or needs fixing, the school pays for a handyman to come set things straight. You clean your room and bathroom but nothing else. Most freshmen will have a meal plan so there is no need to go to the grocery store or spend hours in the kitchen fixing a meal.

Dorm Cons:

  • Noise Control: Even though I mentioned dorms are a very sociable atmosphere, it also means it's inescapable. The dorms can get seriously loud and you might feel like you are living in a zoo from time to time. You are lucky if you get through an entire year without someone pulling the fire alarm at 2 a.m.
  • Privacy: It's hard to come by! You are going to have to start feeling comfortable with your new roommate because they will be seeing a lot of you. Some dorms are linked to a suite, in which you and your roommate will be sharing a bathroom with two other residents. Key word: sharing. And it takes patience.
  • Space: Truth be told, there is none. Do not expect to bring your entire closet because you will be sharing half of the room with a complete stranger. Sometimes the dorm might feel like a cell block, but fortunately, you can come and go as you please.

Apartment Pros:

  • Peace and Quiet: In an apartment, you have the luxury of enjoying much more space and your own bedroom – and sometimes, your own bathroom. There is nothing like coming home from a long day of classes to your own space. If no one else is home, you have the chance to take a nap with no noise or dance around the entire apartment with no one watching.
  • Freedom From Supervision: There aren’t any hall advisers to make sure you have checked out of your room before break or doing hall sweeps. There is also a feeling of separation from the craziness on campus. If you are an upperclassman, then you'll probably want some time away from the underclassmen.

Apartment Cons:

  • Holes in Your Pocket: Living in an apartment takes a lot of attention and responsibility. Renters have to pay for groceries, rent, utilities, etc. You and your roommates also have to provide furniture and kitchen appliances. There is more upkeep when living in a bigger space.
  • Loneliness: Social life is harder to come by. You may meet your neighbors, but unlike in dorms, people usually don't keep their front door open for other people to just stop by and say “hello.” Unless you are studying or going to class, there are fewer reasons to stay on campus and sometimes apartment renters feel less connected to college.
  • Distance: Depending on the layout of your school, you may have to find new plans for transportation getting around town. While the dorms are on campus territory, most students can walk, bike or skate to class but apartments are built up all over the city, so you might have to buy a commuter parking pass or learn the bus schedule and route.

If you are a freshman and have to live on campus, embrace the memories! This will probably be the last time you ever get to experience anything like living in a dorm.

If you are still deciding which path best suits your living style, think less about where your peers will all be but where you think you are ready to be. Every student moves at his or her own pace.


Head on over to 1,000 Dreams Fund to learn how to get funding for your dreams!