On campus vs. Off campus living


Flying the nest and leaving for university isn’t easy. When leaving home, traveling to a new country, or acclimating to a new environment, you must consider many things. One of the crucial elements you will need to consider is where you intend to live at the university. Perhaps you want the security of on-campus living, or you are looking to live independently off-campus. We at Cybernews Academy wish to explore why certain students decide to live on or off campus during their time in university. We spoke to five students about their experiences and discussed why they chose to live on or off campus.

Let’s meet our panel:

  • Taylah McCullough, BI Computer Science and Finance, The University Of Queensland, Australia
  • Yiji Suk, BS Data Science and Artificial Intelligence, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore
  • Bharat Naganath, MS Information Technology, University of Technology Sydney, Australia
  • Harshith Senthilkumaran, BS Computer Science and Engineering, UCLA, U.S
  • Quang Nguyen, MS Software Engineering, University of Melbourne, Australia

On campus

So, what does it mean to live on campus? On-campus living is usually characterized by a secure and safe environment close to university that is shared with other university members. You may live in dormitories or apartments with separate rooms and communal areas.

If you decide to pursue this path and live on campus, there is much to offer. Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of living on campus:

Pros

There are many positive aspects to living on campus in your first year of studies or throughout your entire degree.

Amenities

Depending on where you decide to attend university, many different amenities are offered on campus. BS Computer Science and Engineering student Harshith Senthilkumaran lived on campus during part of his time at UCLA. He mentioned that dining and other services were included, making living on campus easy. “At UCLA, the food was handled when I lived on campus. We had fantastic dining halls where you could walk in, eat as much as you want, then leave.” This means minimal maintenance is needed when preparing and consuming food, as all the guesswork is handled. There are often easily accessible laundry rooms and other facilities available on campus, which will help you navigate your new life away from home. This means that you don’t have to worry about where to do your laundry, where to access student services, and where to get all your necessities.

Socialization

When you live on campus, it’s much easier to socialize with other students as you live together, study together, and attend classes together. Harshith was never alone while living on campus, as there was always someone to socialize with. “Everyone is living together in the same place, so you end up going to lounges, studying, and you often will find someone watching the same lecture as you, so you start a conversation and make friends.” Quang Nguyen, an MS Software Engineering student at the University of Melbourne, mentioned that various events occur at his university, and living close to campus allowed him to experience these events and meet new people. “My university would host these events every week, and when I lived far away from campus, I couldn’t bring myself to go.” Living close to campus means you’re always close to the action, and you won’t miss university activities or miss out on socializing with other students.

Proximity

If you live on campus, it will usually take you less time to get to university. Residing on or near campus motivates you to get up and attend university. “You’re more inclined to go to school. When I lived 30 to 40 minutes away from university by public transport, attending university was a struggle,” Quang said. With the proximity, Quang mentioned that this allows you to make more friends and get into the university experience. “When I lived on campus, I had the opportunity to explore my university to the fullest and get to know people in and around the area.”

Security

Moving away from the comforts of home can be daunting, especially if you are unaware of your new surroundings. Quang mentioned that one of the positive aspects of on-campus living is that student accommodation is that it’s often very safe. “Safety was my number one priority when I moved to Melbourne,” so living on-site in an exclusive student community with campus security ensures a fun and safe university experience.

Cons

Despite the positives of campus living, there are some downsides that you will need to consider when deciding whether or not you want to live on campus.

Sharing spaces

“Living with other students can get pretty hectic,” Quang mentioned. “I remember living on campus and sharing a kitchen and bathroom with other students, which wasn’t very clean.” Living with roommates or students in a shared apartment or dorm can be a downside. Often, you will have to share the facilities with others, which may sometimes spark conflicts. Sharing spaces may also be disheartening as other household members often have separate schedules, meaning that some people will come and go at different times. This may lead to busier and noisier mornings and evenings. Quang explained, "usually in the morning, it is busy near the accommodations; you can hear people outside in the halls, and it’s often very noisy.” So, living off-campus may be a better fit for you if you enjoy peaceful mornings and relaxed evenings.

Expensive

Many of the students we spoke to discussed that living on campus was quite costly compared to their experience living on campus. Quang mentioned that the facilities on campus weren’t always that great, and living there was often quite expensive. “The price of living in shared accommodation with other people was the same as if you lived on your own.” Although this might be true for Quang, it might not be the same in your area. However, prices will vary depending on what part of the world you live in.

No spaces or no option to live on campus

Some universities don’t have the option to live on campus during your studies, or the waiting list for campus accommodation is too long. Taylah McCullough, a BI Computer Science and Finance at Queensland University of Technology, explained that she didn’t have the option to live on campus during her studies. “At my university, we couldn’t live on campus as our campus is a city campus. However, there are connected student accommodations that our university would point us towards.” Depending on what kind of campus your university has, the student accommodation may vary. Bharat Naganath, an MS in Information Technology at the University of Technology Sydney, said, “We can live on campus. However, it’s always on the waitlist.” This is one of the downsides to campus life, as there might not be an opportunity for you to live on campus.

Lack of concentration

Due to the wild nights, parties, and events that students may participate in at their residence halls, concentration can take its toll, as conflicting schedules may make dorm life difficult. As Quang said before, living on campus can be pretty hectic, and having roommates isn’t always a walk in the park. However, there are always facilities like student lounges, libraries, and study spots that make living on campus more accessible.

Off-campus

Off-campus accommodation can be houses or apartments that are privately owned and rented out to students. These residences often have the necessary amenities, as this option will lead to a more independent lifestyle.

Pros

There are many positives to living off campus if you find suitable accommodation that suits your needs.

Exposure to different environments

During our discussion, Yiji Suk, a BS in Data Science and Artificial Intelligence at Nanyang Technological University, explained that one of the perks of living off campus is having access to “excel environments, and you also have an increased amount of time spent outside campus.” Similarly, Bharat mentioned that you could explore your surrounding environments as you aren’t fenced in. “There’s a certain flexibility when living in a different area, which means there is more in the way of exploration than just being in one spot.” Bharat said you’re “not just internally walking around the interconnected campus buildings, going to class, and then coming back again.” With an independent approach to university life, living off campus can open doors for exploration and help you gauge a new understanding of the environment around you.

More flexibility and independence

Living off campus gives you more flexibility to do what you want with your time. Bharat explained that when you live off campus, you can call your friends over whenever you want. “With off-campus living, you can host parties and invite friends over. My classmates and I often complete projects, and living in off-campus accommodation means we can work together more frequently.” Living off campus gives you more flexibility to come and go as you please, allowing you to live without boundaries. Some students may feel that having students around them who are in a similar position will act as a sound support system. Other students crave independence and are perfectly comfortable living independently. Either option is viable. However, living off-campus may be the right fit if you want to gain more independence.

Privacy

Harshith explained that living off campus and out of dorms leads to a more settled lifestyle. “You don’t have to leave the house every time you want to take a phone call as your roommate might be sleeping, and you don’t want to wake them up. There’s more privacy when you live in rented accommodation. Often, you will share an apartment with the people you choose instead of being assigned roommates. Quang supports this point of view by saying that in off-campus accommodation, “you can choose who you want to live with. It’s pretty nice.” by choosing your roommates, you will often have more privacy as you can agree on the living arrangements. Usually, in off-campus housing, you will have more space to spread out, and you can find some time away from your housemates.

Leave school at school

Taylah mentioned that one of the pros of living off campus is that you can compartmentalize your daily routine and leave work at work. “You can sometimes separate yourself from university life as it can get very intense.” When you live on campus, your life can sometimes feel like a revolving door, as you are often in and out of the same environment. Having some time away from university and feeling that sense of independence can do wonders for your work effort as you have more space to concentrate on your work while having time to unwind away from university.

Cons

Despite the pros of living off campus, some disadvantages arise when looking into different types of student housing.

Expensive

Yiji found that one of the limitations in Singapore is the high cost of living. “We have a high cost of living in Singapore, leading to high rent prices. It is costly for international students to pay rent, around $3000 to $4000 per month.” Similarly, Harshith told Cybernews Academy that rent prices in Los Angeles are extremely expensive. “There are two bedrooms for four people; that’s LA rent prices.” Depending on what area of the world you are in, some off-campus housing can be expensive depending on the location, the amenities, and the type of accommodation you are looking for. Some of the students we spoke to mentioned that on-campus housing was more expensive, which was one of the reasons why on-campus living wasn’t a viable option for them. However, it all depends on your location, so take note of this discrepancy.

Travel

One of the downsides to off-campus housing is traveling to university and working from home. Yiji mentioned this during our discussion: “When students have internships, it may take more than 45 minutes for their daily routines from their home to the office.” Therefore, staying off campus causes you to travel more for university, work, or internships. Taylah corroborated this point of view by mentioning that travel time is one of the pitfalls of off-campus living. “A con is that I must travel a fair way to get into campus. However, my university offers online lectures, which is helpful as I don’t live on campus.” Harshith also discussed how living on campus made it better for students in terms of traveling. “Where I live, you have to go up and down hills to get to campus constantly, so it’s a much farther walk now from when I was living on campus.”

Responsibilities

Living off campus is a lot of responsibility. When living off campus, you need to remember to pay your bills on time, care for your needs, and support yourself while studying. It’s important to consider whether you are ready to take on this responsibility and whether you can juggle your studies, potential internships, or work while tackling adult life. Maybe having your food prepared in a dining hall and having someone help you manage your finances could be the best option if you are fresh out of high school.

There are many positive and negative aspects to consider when considering whether to live on or off campus. Our speakers have provided us with some keen insight into what both off-campus and on-campus living can offer. Which is the best option? That question is for you to answer. Consider living off-campus if you want more privacy, flexibility, and freedom. Alternatively, if you need a little help navigating adult life and want to live in a close-knit community of peers, on-campus housing may be the best fit for you. Both options are viable; it all depends on you.