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Guide to college housing options

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Selecting your best-fit housing option at college is a big decision. Explore the guide below with your College Possible coach to get a sense of the options available at most college campuses, and which is the best fit for your needs.

Where you will live during your time in college is one of the many exciting decisions you will have to make as you transition into the next phase of your life, but it can also be one of the most stressful. While movies about college tend to show long corridors of dorms as the norm, a 2016 survey of 89,000 college students found:

                 15% of students lived on campus

                  25% lived with their parents

                  52% lived off-campus

*The remaining 8% of students attended more than one institution, so they were left out of these statistics

Many factors should be considered when choosing where to live during college, and there’s no one-size-fits-all answer. We’ve outlined a few guiding questions here, as well as some tips for each housing option. 


 Which Housing Option Is Right For Me?

Here are a few questions to ask yourself when looking at housing options:

  • Does your college require students to live on campus freshman year?
      • These requirements can be detailed, so look into them! For example, the University of Houston requires first-year students to live on campus unless they are married or live with their parents. Texas State University requires first-year students to live on campus unless they meet certain age and credit requirements. 
  • Does it cost more to live on-campus or off-campus?
      • In most places, on-campus housing is more expensive. However, in some very popular or busy cities, you may need a long commute to find something cheaper. Shop around to look at the cost to rent near your campus
  • How will I get to class?
      • Check out transportation to class. Will you drive, bike, take public transportation? Some schools charge for parking, so check these rates out as well. 
  • Does my Financial Aid package include funds for housing?
  • Financial aid awards are distributed at the beginning of each semester, and these funds can be used towards your room and board costs. You may be able to use your financial aid award to pay for your housing deposit as well but check with your school first. 
  • What will I need to be happy, safe, and successful in my classes?
    • Life is about more than just money. Take some time to reflect on what you will need to excel and feel great in your college experience. For some students, being close to family and saving money by living at home is the best fit. For others, exploring their identity and independence in a new space is a priority.

On-campus housing

On-campus housing has both single-sex and co-ed dormitories (dorms). There are a variety of different layouts or floor plans, with most freshmen being placed in a double with a roommate. Space is usually limited to a sleeping area, a bit of storage, and a desk.


  • Short commute to class
  • Easy way to meet other students
  • All bills paid (utilities etc.)
  • Usually provides basic furniture
  • Usually, it comes with options for a meal plan


  • Sometimes requires purchasing a meal plan
  • Less likely to have a private room, private bathroom
  • Less likely to come with a kitchen area
  • It can be more expensive
  • Sometimes loud/distracting


Off-campus housing

This is housing that is outside the boundaries of the campus, such as apartments or other rental housing.


  • Generally cheaper than on-campus housing
  • More options for the type of housing
  • Live alone


  • Commute
  • Responsible for food/utilities/furniture, etc.
  • Large deposit (First and Last month’s rent), and you need to apply and be approved


Living at home


  • Generally, the most economical option
  • Can stay close to family
  • You may not need to move


  • Commute
  • It can be more difficult to form connections on campus
  • The desire to have more independence can be difficult


Stay safe

  • Make sure you always lock the door to your dorm or apartment, even if you’re just leaving for a few minutes
  • Don’t brag about expensive things you have in your room or leave them out in the open
  • Don’t let anybody you don’t know into your building
  • Check safety and security of apartments before renting to make sure you’ll be safe there.
  • Check that all windows have a secure way to lock from the inside.


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