As the fall quarter or (semester) approaches, the million-dollar question many of you transfer students have involves where you're going to live: Should I dorm, or should I live in an off-campus apartment?
Here's how I decided where I should live my first year as a transfer student:
Visit the campus, and talk to other students
Last year, I was a transfer student entering UCLA, and I was torn between the two options. To figure out the best living situation for me, I did my research. I headed to campus during the school year with a friend to ask questions and receive advice from those who experienced both dorming and living off-campus.
I came across a junior transfer student who decided to dorm, and he highly suggested I do the same. He explained that living in the dorms provides you with a true college experience that will allow you to be more involved and connected. He was nice enough to give me a tour of his dorm, and boy did it remind me of a shoebox!
My main concerns were the limited amount of space and not having a kitchen to cook in. Space was very tight, and there was only one window, which was the size of my Jeep’s passenger window. Also, living in the dorms meant eating dining hall food every single day for all of my meals. Personally, being an individual that enjoys cooking fresh and healthy food, I knew dorming was probably not the right fit for my lifestyle.
However, what about having a social life? Living on campus in a dorm presents you with more opportunities to build friendships with your roommates and floor mates. Bonding is a little bit easier, because you can grab lunch with friends at the dining hall or study in a recreation room together. Also, you conveniently don’t have to worry about paying bills, which is a major bonus. Roommate drama might be a bare minimum, since there’s no reason to argue about washing dishes or taking out the trash. Honestly, living in a dorm seemed like a pretty sweet deal.
After experiencing a day in the life of a dorm student and having doubts about it, I began to visit off-campus apartments and was introduced to students who took this route. A couple of them advised me to choose an apartment as a transferring junior due to the various pros that come with it. Freedom, space, a kitchen and more college parties were all on the list. As I visited the apartments, I began to feel a better vibe, even though I was still worried.
Make a pros and cons list
If I chose not to live in a dorm, I thought I was going to experience a true case of FOMO: fear of missing out! Hearing stories all the time about how dorm mates become lifelong friends and students living in dorms are more involved with campus made the decision process all the more difficult.
So, I took all of the information from each student and my own observations into consideration and laid out a list of pros and cons...
Pros of Dorm Life: Easier social interaction, more campus involvement, easy food access, no paying bills.
Cons of Dorm Life: Not very spacious, can’t cook your own food, may have to share bathroom with entire floor, not very private.
Pros of Apartment Life: Spacious, kitchen with living room, more freedom, private, can throw parties, can have more guests.
Cons of Apartment Life: Paying bills and rent, more to clean, lacking campus involvement, harder to make friends, may be long walk to campus.
After months of deliberating, my choice was to pursue off-campus apartment living.
My experience living in off-campus housing
My apartment was located near the dorms, a fairly close walk to the center of campus. Rooming with five random girls was a risky choice, but in the end, it was an experience I would not alter one bit. My FOMO was gone within the first two weeks of school, and paying the bills became easier thanks to a website that split everything equally among all the roommates.
And as for the social life? It was awesome. Every week, my roommates and I coordinated a themed dinner that brought us all together. My favorite night was Taco Tuesdays, and although cooking meals together in the kitchen sometimes led to food fights, it made our bond even tighter.
The cherry on the top had to be our neighbors on the right, which consisted of two apartments filled with 17 fraternity guys who threw parties almost every weekend—yeah, lucky us! At this point, I truly knew I made the right decision.
Costs and expenses
Although off-campus apartment living was right for me, I know it may not be the right choice for many students because of one very important thing: the money. However, did you know that dorming is reportedly more expensive than living in off-campus apartments?
Typically, dorms run around from $13,000 to $14,000 for a whole school year, but since dorm living also comes with a meal plan, many think it's worth it. On the other hand, an off-campus apartment can range from $600 to $800 a month, which leads $6,000 to $9,000 for the school year. Keep in mind that this does not include groceries or utility bills.
My advice to all incoming transfer students is to figure out what your interests and preferences are, and make your decision after you have researched your campus dorms and off-campus apartments. Do the groundwork, get out there, and ask questions. Living away from home is a tough transition as is, so make sure you pick the place that’s right for you.