The Difference Between On-Campus and Off-Campus Living

College is often the first time students live independently from their parents. While on-campus living is the go-to choice for most, some students may find themselves craving more independence as they move through school. There are multiple factors, from costs to convenience, to consider when thinking about staying on-campus or moving off-campus.


A common reason why students move off-campus during school is to save money. While living off-campus may still seem like a huge chunk of change (try $800 a month on Long Island), it can potentially save thousands of dollars compared to on-campus housing. “When you do the math, it’s about half the price to live off-campus than on-campus,” said Jenn Weltner, a senior at Hofstra University.


Living on-campus often offers students a better sense of safety. Universities and colleges usually have their own patrolling force or team up with local law enforcement to get the job done. Campuses will have alarms throughout in case of emergencies and security at the entrances to residential buildings who check identification before allowing people in. “I like the phones that are placed around campus that call security or police if you feel unsafe at night or really any time while walking around,” said Montclair State University junior Kim Salisbury. The only obvious sense of security living off-campus is having the key to your house and possibly your room, but there are no safety officers closely monitoring your street.

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On top of saving money, living off-campus usually allots you more space for the money you’re paying. While living on-campus may get you a communal bathroom cleaned by staff and a shared common space, living off-campus often allows you a private room with more than one bathroom to share, plus a private kitchen, living room, and outdoor space. “You have so much more space. Instead of just a room, you have a whole house,” said Sarah Lippman, a Hofstra University graduate student, “And you can sit outside your room in your house, and it’s still all your space.”

On your own

While there are options to cook on campus and you have to do your own laundry, living off-campus provides extra opportunities to “be an adult.” People who live off-campus are more inclined to grocery shop and cook their own meals. They are also responsible for household chores like taking out the trash and keeping up with cable and Wi-Fi bills. Meanwhile, campus has food ready to be eaten, medical facilities only a walk away, and Wi-Fi and cable are usually already included.

Travel time

Dorm life provides an easy commute to class, whether it is a quick walk or a short bus ride depending on the campus size. When you live away from campus, you will be taking public transportation to get to class, or driving, which often results in circling campus to find a parking spot.



Technically, your school is your landlord when you live on-campus. Living off-campus comes with lease agreements which may or may not include water and utility bills, Wi-Fi, and other household necessities. Instead of calling the school when a toilet, for example, is broken, off-campus dwellers call the landlord, or have to fix it themselves. A large risk of living off-campus is having a landlord that is not attentive, so it is beneficial to get an idea of what your landlord is about, before agreeing to live in their house.

No rules

Another aspect of off-campus living that people enjoy is that there are virtually no rules. You can hang anything you please on the walls, burn candles, there are no mandated quiet hours, and more. “Even though I live in an [on-campus] apartment, I still have to go by Penn State’s rules,” said Kathryn Jordan, senior at Penn State University. “That's the one thing I miss— the freedom to have candles.”

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Students find that living on-campus makes getting involved easier, as they are already where the events, people, and overall sociability are. Living off campus can serve as a hurdle to get to on-campus events, between time and money spent traveling to school.

Length of stay

Universities often allow dormers to stay in the same room from year to year. However, they still need to move out of the room when the school year ends, and back in when it begins. Living in an off-campus house or apartment usually comes with a year-long lease, which means you can leave your stuff there over the summer or even live there over the summer.

Living on-campus may be required by some universities for first-year students, while other universities encourage off-campus living due to capacity constraints. Regardless, there are different options with different potential outcomes for either choice.