University vs. on-campus housing

Many students tend to struggle with whether they should live in university housing or on-campus apartments. Now, I would like to provide some pros and cons of living in these two types of housing, based on my experience living at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

First, let’s talk about university housing. Many students have to live in university housing during their first year as a college student. The advantage of living in university housing in the second year is that you could have a lower fee as a returning student. You also can apply to become a resident advisor, which not only waives the rent but also contributes to your resume in a leadership role. Another advantage is the University housing dining hall provides meals for students, helping students avoid waiting for the time of delivery for food, going out to eat, or cooking for themselves. The 24-hour front desk can help you receive packages and ensure security. Normally, the university housing will hold some special events every month so students can participate in these events to meet new friends.

Every option has its pros and cons. One of the disadvantages of living in university housing is that you have to pay for the meal plan. Also, most university housing requires students to live in a double or triple room. You have the option to live in a single room with a higher price, but remember that you need to book a single room as soon as possible because the number of single rooms is limited. Students living in university housing also need to share the restroom on the same floor. Sometimes, other students may play the music loud, and you can easily hear it because the buildings are old, and the soundproofing is not great. Also, you need to leave university housing during the breaks and vacations. If you think the cons outweigh the pros, you can choose an on-campus apartment.

On-campus apartments are great for cooking lovers! You can make juices, milkshakes, or bake cupcakes by yourself. Meanwhile, it is amazing to invite friends to come to your home and to taste your signature dishes. You can have a private bedroom and restroom. Some apartments are pet-friendly, so you could adopt or buy a lovely pet, which is a good way to help you release tension. Also, during spring or fall break, you can stay at your home if you do not choose to go back to your hometown or travel with your friends.

The drawback is that most apartments require students to sign at least a one-year contract. It is hard to find a half-year contract. Indeed, there are limited apartments that give options for students to live only half a year but with a higher price per month. If you do not live on campus and do not lease the apartment to other people, the rent during the winter or summer vacation is kind of a waste of money. Some students also report that some electrical equipment is very old and the time waiting for the maintenance is long.

In short, I hope that understanding the pros and cons is useful for you to better evaluate and choose your living option on campus. Keep in mind that housing options may vary at different college campuses. I wish you a great experience at the university!

Written by Vivian Zhang, Financial Wellness for College Students Peer Educator, University of Illinois Extension, Fall 2019. Reviewed by Kathy Sweedler, University of Illinois Extension.

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