Should You Live Off-Campus Your First Year?

So you just got accepted to the University of Florida and don’t know if you want to live on campus or not. Or maybe you can’t live on campus because you got accepted into the PaCE Program. Maybe the idea of shower shoes gives you nightmares. Perhaps you just have no idea what you want to do when it comes time for move-in. When I got accepted to UF in February of 2018, I thought I wanted to live in a dorm. I searched for days about the best dorm to live in on-campus. I thought that the “college experience” and living in a dorm went hand in hand. I thought about it for a long time and ended up opting for an apartment. I did a lot of things that might not be considered “traditional” for a first-year student. For example, I didn’t get a meal plan. Never will I ever get to experience Gator Dining. For the short time that I’ve been at UF, I don’t regret my decision in choosing to live off-campus. With a semester under my belt, here are some pros and cons of living in an apartment your first year.

Pros

1. More space

I’ll be honest - when I stayed in the dorms for a single night at Preview, I felt like I was living in a 5x5 box. No matter which apartment complex you choose around Gainesville, you will have more room and space than you would if you lived in a dorm/dorm-style room. For me, space was something I valued more than anything. I brought a lot of stuff to college, and I can’t even imagine how I would have fit it all in just half of a dorm room.

2. Private bathrooms

Shower shoes? Thank u, next. Maybe using communal bathrooms is a rite of passage, but the idea of using them just wasn’t something that appealed to me. Again, my privacy is just something I needed for myself.

3. Kitchen

Moving out for the first time meant that I had a lot of freedom. That newfound freedom meant I also had to cook for myself. Personally, I’ve learned to love to take the time to cook for myself. Once I got to Gainesville and had to buy my own groceries, I soon developed an appreciation for Publix BOGOs.

Cons

1. The social experience

As an introvert, I actually prefer having my space and my peace and quiet living in an apartment. Even though I live with three other roommates, I’m able to go into my own room and unwind when I need to. However, I will admit that you will not meet as many people if you choose to live off-campus your first year. Many freshmen make friends through their living area in those first 

couple of weeks. That’s not to say that you’ll never make friends if you choose to live off-campus, though. There’s plenty of opportunities to develop friendships through classes and extracurriculars.

2. Parking

This is dependent on the apartment complex you choose, but parking can be very expensive at some apartment complexes. Right now, I pay $50 a month on top of my rent to park my car. That does mean, however, that I have a guaranteed parking spot at my complex, which is nice because parking around Gainesville can be a pain. That extra cost can prove to be a burden, though. Of course, this won’t be a problem if you don’t bring a car to UF.

3. Twelve-month leases

Most apartment complexes in Gainesville will require you to sign a 12-month lease, meaning that it will run into the summer months. Most leases will run from August to the following July/early August. If you don’t plan on staying during the summer, the extra months of paying rent may be inopportune; however, there’s always the option to sublease your apartment during the time you won’t be there. I plan on staying in Gainesville this year and completing my summer term, so it won’t be too big of an issue for me.

If you choose to live in an apartment instead of a dorm during your first semester at UF, the apartment complex you choose will slightly alter your experience. Choosing to live on- or off-campus your first year is a personal decision—don’t feel like you have to live in a dorm just because that’s what freshmen do. For better or for worse, UF doesn’t require all freshmen to live on-campus their first year. Take advantage of that choice, do your research and make the decision that’s best for you.

At the end of the day, the Gator Nation will always welcome you to The Swamp.