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Can You Live Off-Campus Freshman Year? Pros and Cons

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What’s Covered:


For many students, college means newfound freedom — living away from home for the first time and exploring young adulthood. This usually takes place in a college dorm. But others may not want to live on campus. Perhaps they’re planning to stay with their parents or want to experience life on their own in an off-campus residence.


Can you live off-campus as a freshman and beyond? The short answer is — it depends.


Do Most Schools Require You to Live On-Campus?


Most smaller research universities and liberal arts colleges require students, at least freshmen, to live on campus. The logic behind this, according to many colleges, is that it helps students become fully enmeshed in the campus culture and community. 


Historically, colleges were meant to supervise students to an extent. While at many schools, there is less oversight from “authority” figures in dorms, this idea persists to an extent. For many students, this is the first time living away from their parents, and dorm life serves as an intermediary step between home and the real world. Although the idea of in loco parentis — literally, in place of the parent — had subsided, according to The Chronicle of Higher Education, it has been making somewhat of a comeback.


There are other reasons why many colleges require freshmen, and sometimes older students, to live on campus. For example, students have an easier time accessing classes and other on-campus resources.


That said, there are some colleges where students tend not to live on campus. At commuter schools, often public universities and community colleges, no students live on campus. There are others where some (but not all students) commute.


There are also some instances where schools that normally require students to live on campus will make an exception, such as if the student is married, planning to live with their parents who are nearby, or above a certain age.


Pros of Living Off-Campus


1. It’s usually cheaper.


Dorms are usually expensive, often considerably more than an off-campus apartment, depending on the area (apartments in major cities like New York and San Francisco can be costly). Plus, you’ll usually have to sign up for a meal plan if you live on campus, and costs can really add up. When you live off campus, you’ll have more control over how you spend your money.


2. You’ll have more independence.


Getting your own apartment means less oversight — and more independence. No RA or other adult is watching over you. Of course, you’ll need to have a high level of maturity in order to do this successfully. It will require you to, for example, keep track of bills, clean your space regularly, while staying on top of your schoolwork.


3. There are fewer distractions.


Dorm life can be great for socializing but tough for staying focused. Students are often loud, and there’s always something going on to distract you. But when you live in an apartment, there will be far fewer of these distractions. It will be quieter, and there will be fewer students around.


4. It will probably be easier to get an apartment after college.


If you start building your rental history early, you’ll probably have an easier time renting an apartment after college. That’s because landlords typically want tenants who have a proven history of making payments on time and proving that they’re responsible tenants. 


5. You can stay year-round.


When you live in a dorm, you’ll have to move out at the end of each academic year, before moving into a new residence the following year. Plus, you may be required to vacate the residence during breaks. This is not an issue for apartments, where you can stay during the year and keep renewing your lease if you want to stay year after year.


Cons of Living Off-Campus


1. You may feel isolated.


One of the main advantages of living on campus is that there is a built-in community of fellow students. You’ll be able to see and socialize with your peers without having to travel at all. When you live off-campus, it could be more isolating, without that readily accessible community.


2. You could miss out on events and opportunities.


Similarly, when there are many events that take place on campus, living off campus may cause you to miss some of these opportunities. You simply won’t be around as much.


3. You’ll have a longer commute.


Unless you live very close to campus — which may or may not be possible — you’ll have a longer commute to your classes. This time can really add up, and you might even have to spend time finding a parking spot if you are driving to campus. 


4. You’ll have more responsibilities.


Living off campus means more independence, but it also means more responsibilities. You need to cook and clean, go grocery shopping, pay for your rent and utilities (and keep track of when your bills are due), and so on. Some students simply may not be ready for this level of responsibility. 

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Schools That Let You Live Off-Campus Freshman Year


Below are some examples of schools that allow you to live off campus freshman year. There are also many public colleges and universities that allow you to commute, so be sure to check with individual schools.


School Name


Acceptance Rate


Auburn University

Auburn, AL


Freshmen are not required to live on campus. Housing is limited.

College of Charleston

Charleston, SC


Housing is guaranteed to students who submit their enrollment and housing security deposits by May 1. After that, they are granted housing on a first come, first served basis.

Florida State University

Tallahassee, FL


Students are not required to live on campus but are encouraged to do so.

Fordham University

Bronx, NY


Housing is guaranteed all four years but not required.

New York University

New York, NY


Housing is guaranteed but not required.

Purdue University

West Lafayette, IN


Freshmen are not required to live on campus, but most do.

Texas A&M University

College Station, TX


With the exception of the Corps of Cadets, students are not required to live on campus.

University of California, Davis

Davis, CA


All incoming freshmen who choose to live on campus are guaranteed housing for the fall quarter, but they are not required to do so.

University of Florida

Gainesville, FL


Freshmen are encouraged to live on campus but not required to do so.

University of Wisconsin—Madison

Madison, WI


Over 90% of freshmen choose to live on campus, but it is not a requirement.


How to Find Schools that Let You Live Off-Campus


Are you interested in these schools or want to check out others? Using CollegeVine’s free chancing engine, you’ll be able to estimate your real chances of admission, plus get personalized tips to improve your odds.


You can also filter for commuter schools using our free school search tool, along with other preferences like size, location, majors, and more.



If you’re looking for commuter schools specifically, check out our school search tool, where you can filter by preferences. Bear in mind, however, that commuter schools are different from schools that don’t require you to live on campus — the former don’t have much of a campus community or any students living on campus, while the latter do have residences and campus communities. You can also filter by different factors, like location, size, major, and more.

Short Bio
Laura Berlinsky-Schine is a freelance writer and editor based in Brooklyn with her demigod/lab mix Hercules. She specializes in education, technology and career development. She also writes satire and humor, which has appeared in Slackjaw, Points in Case, Little Old Lady Comedy, Jane Austen’s Wastebasket, and Funny-ish. View her work and get in touch at: www.lauraberlinskyschine.com.