It’s OK to Live on Campus After Your First Year

When I was younger, like many, I used to conjure dreamy reels of what college would be like. I’ll be honest, those daydreams may have been taken straight from movies and television shows. I envisioned myself roomed in a historic hall with grand arches and charming windows –– something straight out of a postcard. In reality, I live in a modern dorm. And no, it doesn’t hold that historic charm I was looking for, but it really has become the place I can call my home away from home.

Dorms aren’t only for first-year students

Depending on the school you attend, you’ve probably felt this unspoken pressure to move off campus after your first year. At a school like the University of Florida, this pressure is definitely present. During my first semester, my fellow first-year peers were bombarding Facebook groups with questions about off-campus living and if anyone wanted to be roommates. The sheer quantity of notifications overwhelmed me enough, let alone actually combing through posts to find a place to live for the following year. I just felt like things were moving too quickly. I was barely adjusted to college, and then I had to go through the stress of apartment hunting – no, thank you.

For me, living in the dorm for another year was what I had in mind. My mom also wanted the same, so it was an easy decision, although I did toy with the idea of finding an apartment (that quickly fizzled out though). I wasn’t eager to move off campus because I had always envisioned attending college and living on campus all four years like in the movies, but it was also because I was comfortable. I had another two years to decide if I wanted to live elsewhere.

Why I continue to live on campus

So, I am not the type of person that can live too far from campus. It’s not that I would miss the bus often and not make it to class –– rather the stress of having to rely on something else to get to where I need to be. I just don’t do well with that specific type of stress. This is a major reason why I prefer to live on campus. I enjoy the ease of being able to leave my building and head to any class or meeting without needing to check the bus schedule every second. (I’ve had my fair share of issues with the bus system.)

Cost is also always an important factor. I live in a dorm that carries a higher ticket price than most on campus because it is newer and offers suite-style bathrooms. Because of this, I considered living off campus beginning my second year. That obviously didn’t pan out because here I am typing away on my dorm desk as a second-year student. If I were to live off campus, then I would be picking from the options that are within walking distance (think Social28, The Courtyards, etc.) because location is a primary factor for me. When comparing costs, the margin is not too different. Yes, I get my own room at an apartment, but when thinking about parking and other factors, I am perfectly content to live in my dorm. Living farther away would definitely lower the cost of living, and that is always something to think about. In the end, you have to make a list of what works best for you and go from there.

Shake off the shame of being the older one in a dorm

OK, I am still a bit guilty here. Being a second-year student in my dorm is no big deal –– my dorm is actually made up of a lot of second-year students, especially on my floor. However, next year I will continue to live in this dorm. I don’t know some students believe it’s weird to be anything other than a first year in a dorm, but I think it largely has to do with the pressure to move off campus. Sometimes I catch myself thinking, “yeah, I’m going to live in the dorm again next year, but I’ll be in an apartment my fourth year,” as if this will justify my actions. Shaking off this awkward shame can prove to be difficult,but it’s important to keep in mind that it really doesn’t matter where you choose to live. If you’re happy, then that’s all that matters.

Focus on you and what you want

Instead of allowing this silent pressure to dictate how you feel about where you live, I recommend focusing on what you want out of your living situation. Many people have negative experiences living in a dorm and find themselves much happier somewhere off campus –– I think that’s great. The amazing part about focusing on your needs and wishes is that you find yourself in a win-win situation. Pay attention to what you can and can’t live without and decide the best living situation for your lifestyle.

So, if you’re struggling to decide where you want to live next and feel pressured to do something, then take a step back and evaluate the situation. Create a list of factors such as cost, distance and amenities. Maybe you have a group of friends you can’t wait to live with, so you decided to lease an apartment together –– I think that’s an amazing thing. Just be sure to listen to your needs and wishes before falling into a pressured trap. And no, you’re not weird to stay in a dorm past your first year. You’re just doing you.