So your living situation for next year is up in the air and you’re not sure where to go next. That’s fine! Whether you’re fresh out of high school or just looking to make a housing change, there are several options available. You just need to consider what works best for your personality, life circumstances, and wallet. I will go into each of these housing options in more detail over this series on housing, but here is some basic information on some common college housing options.

Living at Home

Living at home (or moving back home) can be a great option for a college student on a budget. If you are recently out of high school, you likely won’t have to worry about moving or rearranging any of your stuff. However, it is sometimes difficult to balance your parents’ rules and expectations with college life.

Choose this option if:

  • Your family has a home that you could reasonably continue to live in (or move back to)
  • Your family is fine with you living at home (and you’re okay with it too!)
  • Your college will let you live at home (some colleges make you live on campus as a freshman and some majors/learning communities require you to use specific housing)
  • Your family lives within a reasonable distance of campus
  • You want to save money
  • You have life circumstances (culture, personal or family illness/disability, etc) that require you to stay close to home.

Traditional Dorm Room

A traditional dorm room is often the cheapest option for on-campus housing, and it is usually the go-to/required housing for underclassmen. You will likely share one (very small) room with a roommate, and it’s very likely that you will have a communal bathroom. Depending on the size of your school’s dorms, you may have anywhere from 20-60 other students living on your floor.

Choose this option if:

  • You want some of the ‘traditional college’ experience
  • You want to meet a lot of new people
  • You are willing/able to forego some of your privacy and home comforts
  • You want a full meal plan (most traditional dorms require a meal plan and lump it in with housing costs)
  • You want to save money

Suite Style or Apartment Style Dorm

Suite style and apartment style dorms are becoming more common on college campuses. Suite styles are generally smaller than apartment style. In a suite style, you may have your own room and share the living space. It is likely that you’ll have a small living room area, bathroom for your suite and maybe a kitchenette. An apartment style dorm usually has bigger shared spaces (living room, etc) and sometimes allow for you to live with more roommates. Many colleges provide floor plans of their housing options if you want to see what your layout would be. The downside is that a meal plan is often greatly reduced (only allowed a couple dining hall meals a week) or nixed altogether. Suite and apartment style housing is also considerably more expensive and often harder to reserve than a traditional dorm room.

Choose this option if:

  • You are an upperclassman who wants to continue living on campus
  • You want more privacy and more space
  • You have 1-3 roommates committed to this housing option with you (seriously, these dorms are always in high demand and it’s best to have all your roommates lined up for application purposes)
  • You have a backup plan if you aren’t selected to live in an apartment or suite style
  • You have enough funding to cover the extra cost
  • You are willing/able to feed yourself without a meal plan

Off Campus

Living off campus if often a desirable option for college students. The overall cost can be cheaper than living on campus (depending on where you live and how thrifty you are) and you have more personal freedom than you would in a dorm. However, this option comes with the highest level of personal responsibility. You will be responsible for feeding yourself, paying all your bills on time, and cleaning. Additionally, you will have to speak with your landlord instead of an RA if something goes wrong at your home (and some landlords just aren’t that great), and you will have to resolve all interpersonal conflicts with your roommates on your own. Off campus housing may also require you to sign a lease that doesn’t match up well with your school year (a typical school year is nine months, whereas a lease often comes in year increments).

Choose this option if:

  • You can afford to cover rent, utilities, food, etc
  • You can make a budget (and stick to it)
  • You are able to handle conflict in a mature fashion (assuming you have roommates)
  • You have a high level of personal responsibility
  • You want more freedom and privacy
  • Your school allows you to live off campus without a family member (some schools don’t)


Hopefully this will give you a small taste of what to expect when choosing housing. Stay tuned for the next installment in the College Housing 101 Series, where I’ll go into more detail on the pros and cons of living at home.