College Housing Options – What’s best for you?

College housing optionsAnyone who has lived on a college campus has a good story, one they still enjoy telling to this day. With the help of some friends, I once lifted a sleeping roommate’s bed and moved it out to the balcony…with him still sleeping in it. This roommate continued to sleep peacefully in the refreshing evening air…until some pranksters decided to test the depths of his sleep by dropping empty beverage cans on him, one at a time, from an adjacent balcony several floors above. I swear, this time it wasn’t me.

I must admit, it was amusing though. It was also the first signal to me that, unless I wanted to be the next victim, I should probably be looking for other living arrangements.

According to experts from, dormitory living may be the norm for freshmen at most of America’s colleges and universities but it’s not right for everyone. My children, both college students and contemplating a change in their living arrangements, have become the impetus for today’s post. My students and I have been actively discussing the pros and cons of living off campus.

Since my students attend college out-of-state, commuting from home is not an option. That leaves us with three possible living arrangements; dormitory life, an off-campus apartment, or a fraternity/sorority house.

The Residence Hall

Easy to Socialize
Close to Classes

Lack of Privacy
“Surprise” Roommates

If you’re someone who always wants to be in on the action, then a Residence Hall is for you. Dorms tend to hold all kinds of social events meant to create a better living experience for all and, if you need help preparing for an exam or some assistance with writing a comparison essay, there is always someone close by to study with.

Many schools now require incoming Freshmen to fill out surveys in an effort to match them with compatible roommates. Some schools offer the student the opportunity to request a roommate in advance, assuming they know another incoming Freshman they’d like to live with. Both of my students were fortunate in that the surveys they completed in advance served their intended purpose, but we’ve all heard stories about “the roommate from Hell”. When the survey doesn’t work, it can be a very long Freshman year for someone.

The Off-Campus Apartment

More Privacy


Living off campus can be blissful if you’re a student who needs quiet in order to absorb the material from your college textbook. There is only a party when you want there to be one, and you can choose your own roommates without restriction. There is a down side though. If there is no campus bus route nearby, you’ll need a car. In some areas, parking fees can be prohibitive. You also may need to furnish the apartment you’ve leased.

Most colleges have a campus police force, providing security to students who may need to walk across campus late at night. Once you’re off campus, you’re subject to whatever security the town police can provide. A friend shared a story with me from a few years ago when she and several others rented an off-campus flat. She and her roommates were subjected to cat calls from local men who had nothing better to do then to watch women come in and out of the building. Local police were only marginally effective in combating the problem.

The Fraternity/Sorority House

Sense of Community

Financial Burden
Time Consuming

The people I know who chose “Greek Life” are overwhelming positive about the experiences. They talk about the life-long friendships they’ve made and the ability to network, something they still take advantage of to this day. Many fraternities and sororities are for students of a certain major or specialization of study, making networking very easy.

Not all who are interested are invited to pledge but for those who are, no one can argue that there are some perks. However, pledging a fraternity or sorority requires the investment of both time and money. My son was made aware of a fee to join the fraternity of his choosing. When compared to dorm fees, it can first appear to be a savings. When factoring in other “activity fees” and the like, sometimes the dorm may appear the better option.

We’ve all heard about the demand of pledging a fraternity or sorority and the negative effects it can have on one’s GPA. Let’s not forget that.

Some fraternities and sororities are very concerned about academics, some are not. I was not involved in “Greek Life” when I went to school but that doesn’t stop me from being a parent. Should either of my students choose to go that route, my advice to them is to choose a fraternity or sorority that requires a minimum GPA of it’s pledges. Not only does that say something about the importance a “house” places on academics, but it also provides a some incentive to keep that GPA up!