To Dorm or Not to Dorm

That's just one of many important decisions facing incoming freshmen

[Check out the full 2009 Focus on Education section here.]

College is a time of decisions: Where are you going to go to school? What are you going to major in? What organizations are you going to join?

While considering these long-term scenarios, another eminent decision to make is whether or not to live on or off campus.

The experiences can be entirely different, and while there isn’t necessarily a right or wrong answer there is much to consider when an individual is deciding which living scenario would best suit him or her.

The first component to consider when choosing whether or not to live in a dorm is the cost. At most colleges and universities, living in a dorm costs nearly the same amount as the tuition itself. Often, this includes some type of meal plan, which in many ways helps the cost seem more reasonable, though the overall price is still a bit steep to most.

Danny Rinck, a junior baseball player for Xavier University, says of Xavier’s policy that requires freshman to live on campus their freshman year: “I think it’s a good idea to have students live on campus their first year. Although living off campus is less expensive, making students live on campus ensures that the university will have a steady income via housing. Not only is it a positive for the school, but Xavier’s Reslife provides entertainment and activities for students, not to mention the fact that dorms are much safer than off-campus housing.”

If money is not an issue, there is still a great deal to consider. Not only does the average dorm room contain only a pair of beds and two desks, but more often than not you are randomly assigned a roommate. This is a big part of the college experience; it may be when you meet a new best friend, but again it could also be the moment you realize the next nine months of your life are going to be miserable.

“One of the biggest differences for me is having the privacy of my own room,” says Courtney Poulelis, a junior at Northern Kentucky University who chooses to live off-campus. “You just don’t have that when you live in the dorms.”

Courtney also stresses the convenience that comes with having a kitchen. “Off-campus residencies have stoves and ovens which allow for much less expensive, easy meals and adds lot more variety to what you are able to eat.”

Another element to consider when deciding where to live is whether or not community bathrooms are acceptable to you. A majority of student housing at local Universities such as the University of Cincinnati, Xavier University and Northern Kentucky University, have community bathrooms. Select rooms and suites may allow students to share a bathroom with as few as three other students, but this type of housing is less common.

Josh Kramer — a junior at the University of Cincinnati, president of the university’s College of Business Tribunal and Chairman of Pi Kappa Alpha’s Campus Involvement program — highly recommends living on campus freshman year at UC.

“It’s the best way to meet people and have the richest possible freshman experience,” he says.

Kramer does say, however, that he doesn’t suggest staying in the dorms past freshman year.

“It’s a transitional process," he says. "Living in the dorms is a great deal more responsibility than you had at home with your parents, but you still feel safe and you don’t have to worry about things like bills. Once you ease into that and grow a little bit you’re ready to handle those things and live on your own as an upperclassman.”

Ultimately, each school is just as unique as the students that attend, and the fact of the matter is that each student needs to find the right fit for him or her. Choosing where to live shouldn’t be an intimidating decision, as long as you are ready to make the best of your college experience one way or the other.

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