College—whether you’re getting your bachelor’s or master’s—is an exciting but complicated time for most people. Finding the right place to live to help you focus on studies while balancing the college experience can be a tough assignment on its own, mainly because the answers can change person to person. 

For some people, it means experiencing college culture by living on campus. For others, it means finding the perfect place to live off-campus. Here’s what to consider when choosing between on-campus vs. off-campus housing

On-Campus Housing

Many colleges and universities offer a variety of on-campus housing options. These can include traditional dorm rooms as well as apartments and houses. 


  • Close to class: If you like to get a bit of extra shut-eye in the morning, living on campus can help. Most on-campus housing options are so close to class that you’ll be able to walk. Some larger colleges also offer campus shuttles, which make it even easier to get around. 
  • Social atmosphere: Living on campus can be a very effective way to make friends. Many dorms host fun social events to help you get to know your neighbors. Because everyone in the building is also attending school, it’s easy to find others who have common interests. 
  • Amenities included: Many on-campus housing options come with amenities that you wouldn’t find off-campus. These include dining halls, gyms, game rooms, and more.
  • Can be included in scholarships: If you’re attending college on a scholarship, you may be able to live on campus for free or at a significant discount. The cost of living on-campus vs. off-campus is generally higher, but a scholarship can cut down on those extra expenses.


  • May require a dining plan: Some schools may require you to purchase a dining plan if you are living on campus. Additionally, many on-campus housing options don’t have their own kitchens. This can be inconvenient if you are on a specific diet or just like to cook your own food. 
  • Less control over living situation: While living on a college campus, there are certain aspects of your living situation that you just won’t have much control over. For example, you may be required to have a roommate, and you may not get to choose your roommate either. On top of that, you may have restrictions on how you can decorate your room, how much noise you can make, and many other factors. If you’re very particular about your living space, being on campus might be difficult. 

Off-Campus Housing

Living off-campus can be the right choice if living on campus seems a bit too restrictive for you. At most schools, you can rent an apartment or house near your school and simply commute each day to class. There are many different types of off-campus housing to choose from, depending on what you’re looking for and what your priorities are.  


  • More independence: Off-campus housing is often someone’s first apartment, which in and of itself comes with inherent independence. You’ll have to learn how to manage your household on your own, but you’ll also have more freedom to shape your life the way you want it. 
  • No rules to follow: Many college dorms have specific rules you have to follow, such as curfews or noise limitations. Rules and restrictions for off-campus properties are far less strict, so you’ll have more freedom to live life the way you want to. You can even have a pet in many off-campus properties!
  • Can be cheaper than on-campus housing: While living in the dorms can be convenient, it can also come with a lot of extra expenses. Rent for off-campus apartments is usually cheaper, making it a better option if you’re feeling budget-conscious


  • Not covered by scholarships: If you have a scholarship that includes money for room and board, you may be required to live on campus. 
  • Hidden costs: When comparing a dorm vs. off-campus housing, note that there are extra costs you’ll have to pay when living on your own. For example, you will likely have to pay for your own utility costs and WiFi, and you’ll have to purchase your own furniture. 
  • Can feel lonely: It can be harder to socialize with other college students when you’re living off-campus. Going to campus events is less convenient, and your neighbors won’t necessarily be other college students. If making friends at college is a big priority for you, you might feel more comfortable living on campus. 

All Together: Living On-Campus vs. Off-Campus

Both living situations have their advantages and disadvantages—ultimately, the decision depends on what’s more comfortable for you. Here are the key factors to consider when choosing to live on-campus vs off-campus

On-campus Off-campus
Cost Can be expensive, but is sometimes covered by scholarships Cheaper, but comes with some hidden expenses and isn’t always covered by scholarships
Social Life Plenty of social events to attend, roommates and neighbors are other college students Quieter environment, less social interaction
Amenities May include on-site dining hall, free laundry, on-site gym, lounge areas, and more Vary by property. More likely to have own kitchen space
Convenience Walking distance to classes May have to drive, bike, or take transit to classes
Rules and Restrictions May have rules about curfew, noise, decorating, and more Will have to follow a lease, but generally fewer restrictions

Study in an Environment that Works for You

If you are attending college in the Washington, D.C. or Baltimore metropolitan areas, Southern Management can help you find the perfect off-campus apartment. We have a great selection of properties within commuting distance to area colleges and universities. Contact us to learn more about our available rentals – we can’t wait to welcome you home!