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Apartments and Houses VS. Dorm Life in College

Going to college is certainly a new and interesting experience, offering countless possibilities. College represents the first taste of independence because most students would be living on their own for the first time in their lives. Itís also the first time that they would have to make important decisions. First of all, they would have to choose a college to attend. Then, they would have to choose their field of study, friends, and living arrangements. In terms of living arrangements, they would have to decide if they want to live in dorms or apartments and houses. Letís look at the advantages and disadvantages of these two types of accommodations.


Dorms
Dorms are accommodations that are provided by the college. Otherwise known as residence halls, dorms are quite expensive because they usually include many amenities like electricity, water, meal plans, security, and more. In some colleges, itís compulsory for freshmen and sophomores to stay in the dorms so itís not like they actually have any other choice.
    Stanford Dorms: Comprehensive list of residence houses in Stanford University.
    University of Virginia: Take a virtual tour of the dorms in Brown College, Lambeth Commons, Hereford College, and more.
    Carnegie Mellon: A look at dorm and dining options in CMU.

Here are some other aspects of dorm life.

No Bills To Pay

This is one of the great reasons to stay in dorms. You can watch as much cable TV as you want, you can use the Internet 24 hours a day, you can switch on the air conditioner or heater all day long, and you donít have to worry about paying any bills. All these expenses are already included in your dorm rent.

    The College Dorm Survival Guide: Excerpts from the book written Julia DeVillers on dorm life.
    Dorm Internet Access: Some details about Internet access in the dorms of Maritime College, State University of New York.
    Cable TV: Provides information on cable TV for residents of University of California, Santa Barbara.

Meal Plans
Meal plans mean that you donít have to do your own cooking and dish washing but you may not like whatís being served. Nowadays, college students may opt to cook their own meals in the kitchenettes so it may not be compulsory to purchase meal plans. Thereís also some flexibility so that students can buy ďweekday onlyĒ meal plans, giving them some freedom in their choice of meals during the weekends. In some colleges, meal plans are mandatory so you have no choice but to spend somewhere around one thousand dollars on meal plans per semester. For the meals that you missed, itís unlikely that you will get a refund but there are exceptions.


RAs and Hall Directors
The standard dorm staff is composed of trained professionals and students. They can be useful for new residents who may find their knowledge and assistance to be somewhat assuring. RAs and hall directors are there all the time so residents always have somebody to answer their queries or help them along.

    Survival Tips: Offers advice for dorm residents and resident assistants.
    RAs: Provides information on resident assistants at Swarthmore Student Housing.
    Hall Director: A hall director at the University of New Hampshire.

Peer Counselors
Peer counselors are trained to help residents. Since they are fellow students, residents will feel more comfortable with them. Peer counselors try to foster some sort of residence hall spirit by organizing group studies, group activities, or they may even teach a class or two on study skills or college survival. If you have a problem and you need somebody to talk to, you can be sure your peer counselor will be happy to lend an ear or a shoulder.

    Peer Counselor: Profile of a peer counselor at Washington and Lee University.
    Proctors: They perform both the functions of RAs and peer counselors.

Dorm Activities
Residents would be thrilled with the many activities organized in and around the dorms. Some of these activities include floor or wing competitions, intramural sports, door decorating competitions, fundraising events, and movie nights. This is good way to help residents bond.

    Theme Dorms: Some interesting dorm activities at Reed College.
    RA Activities: An article about how RA activities can help to make residents feel more at home.

Access to Equipment and More
Being a dorm resident, you will be able to use the sports facilities like basketball courts, gyms, tennis courts, and billiards tables. Some dorms also provide BBQ equipment, movie library, and various types of games. Most dorms have laundry rooms so you can do your laundry at any time, conveniently.

    Home Away from Home: Discusses the perks of a typical dorm.
    Facilities: Provides information on the facilities of the dorm at International University of Japan.
    Free Laundry: Wildcat residents are getting to do their laundry for free!

Roommates
In dorms, you can choose to stay in single rooms or share a room with another resident. Some roommates grow to become lifelong friends though some cannot stand the sight, smell or antics of their roommates. Sharing a room with a stranger teaches tolerance and patience but it depends on your preference.

    5 Tips: Some advice on getting along with your dorm roommate.
    Roommates: An overview of the problems and rewards of having a roommate.


    After you have decided to stay in a dorm, there are other considerations as well. If you are concerned about overall costs, you will do well to select a dorm which is a few years old as opposed to brand new ones. On this point, itís important that you try to avoid those rundown dorms which have been built for more than 50 years. In case your heater breaks down, it may take a few days before the college sends in a maintenance man so it may bring some inconvenience. Another thing to consider is the distance of your dorm to your classes. When itís raining or snowing, going to a faraway class may appear to be a great challenge. Then, you have to decide if you want to share a room with a roommate. Is privacy very important to you? Itís also important to check out the facilities and sporting equipment. If you enjoy a game of tennis, you should choose a dorm which is near a tennis court.

    APARTMENTS and HOUSES
    Typically, apartments and houses are cheaper than dorms. For students who are financially challenged, staying in an apartment or house may be a better solution than staying in a dorm. Students who choose off-campus housing will also have to learn the art of balancing finances so they have a lot of opportunities to practice their independence.


    Privacy
    If the private dorm rooms are still not private enough for you, you can get all the privacy you desire in a one-bedroom or studio apartment. If you wish to share an apartment or house with some of your friends, itís not a problem too.

      Off-Campus Housing: Highlights the benefits of off-campus housing, including privacy.
      Tips: Shows how to select an off-campus apartment or house, including the selection criteria for true privacy.

    More Space
    Instead of being cooped up in a small dorm room, students who reside in apartments or houses will find the additional space a great welcome. As students progress in college, itís inevitable that they will have more belongings. Having more space is always a good thing.

      NMU Listing: A list of off-campus housing at the Northern Michigan University with details such as size, rent, utilities, and more.
      NYU: Search engine to help students find off-campus housing by size of apartment, type, rates, and so on.

    Some Bills to Pay
    There are some off-campus apartments or houses that charge a monthly rate that includes Internet access and basic telephones. Usually, you will have to pay for electricity and water. Check properly before you sign any tenancy agreement to avoid future disputes.

      Estimated Costs: A guide to rent and additional fees for housing at Caltech.
      Average Costs: Provides information on average rental rates and average utility costs for students at BYU.

    Own Kitchen
    Now, you donítí have to run out to the nearest 24 hour store to grab something to eat when you are hungry in the middle of the night. With you own kitchen, refrigerator, and oven it will be easy for you to cook up something to eat.

      Listing: Some off-campus apartments with kitchen facilities.
      Information: A listing of apartments with kitchen for Penn State Beaver students.

    No Meal Plan
    Now, you donít have to eat at the dorms anymore. Many students find great pleasure in living in apartments or houses because they have complete freedom in this area. Another benefit is that you can actually save some money.


    Fewer Social Activities and Rules
    For people who donít like RA activities and rules, choosing to stay in apartments and houses is an excellent choice. Generally, you are closer to being an adult if you live off-campus. There are some apartments with on-site managers who can help with anything, round the clock. It means that there are no more RAs or Hall Directors.

      Off-campus Living: Resource center for University of Pittsburg students who are looking for apartments or houses.

    Activities and Additions
    Some apartments may have swimming pools, BBQ areas, gyms, and vending machines. All apartments should have laundry facilities so you can wash your clothes any time. There are also some apartments or houses with distinct architecture or style so they may appeal to some students who need something extra.

      Off Campus Life: Provides information for JMU students who stay off-campus.

    Furniture
    Furnished apartments cost more than unfurnished apartments but they are still cheaper than the dorms. If you wish to use your own furniture, then itís a good idea to select an unfurnished apartment house. Some students prefer to stay off-campus so that they can finally sleep in their own bed.


    Fewer Inspections
    When you stay in an apartment or house, you will not be subjected to RA inspections, which can happen anytime. While inspections are necessary to keep some students in check, they are certainly intrusive. If you stay in an apartment or house, you may get a visit from Campus Police or apartment managers but itís not as frequent as dorm inspections.

      Off-campus Life: Offers information for Colorado State University students who live off-campus.

    WHICH TO CHOOSE?
    For students who have stayed in dorms, college life is quite stable. You may have a new roommate now and then, meet a few new friends, and go through different RAs, but nothing else is so different.
    For students who stay in apartments or houses, college life is closer to real world. Instead of going to work, they go to classes. Of course, they will love the extra freedom and privacy.
    Everybody is different so itís hard to say if staying in dorms is better than staying in apartments or houses. Some students move out of their dorms, only to return as soon as possible. Some students hate the dorms with all their heart and soul. The following comparison may help you to decide.
    Dorms are more suitable for students who are below 21 years old because they may not even be able to rent an apartment on their own. If you have never been away from home previously, you should consider the dorms because the adjustments will not be so diverse. In a sense, the rules, the RAs, and the activities will provide a sort of ďfamilyĒ atmosphere for younger students. You will also be able to make a friend or two. For students who donít like to cook and wash dishes, itís great to take the meal plans.
    Apartments are more suitable for students who need their privacy. Usually, students who stay in apartments and houses are more matured in the sense that they can easily make new friends, and they already have their own social activities. If you want a more independent college experience, you should stay in an apartment or house.


    OTHER CONSIDERATIONS
    Whether you choose a dorm or apartment, itís always best to ask to see the unit before you sign the contract. Sometimes, pictures and videos can be deceiving. Get your parents and friends to give some advice or suggestions. Itís also a good idea to get information from students who are already living on campus because you will get some valuable ideas or insights from them. Find out about short-term and long-term leases. As a tenant, you have the best chance to renew your contract before anyone else so you donít have to be worried about losing your place. Itís better to choose a shorter term contract because you will be able to move elsewhere if you find that you hate that place without having to pay the fees for breaking the contract or risk losing your deposit.

    Miscellaneous
    Dorms vs. Apartments: A summary of the advantages and disadvantages of staying in dorms and apartments.
    Dorms vs. Apartments vs. Houses: Some pointers for students who are considering these housing options.

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