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The idea of attending college often coincides with the allure of freedom:
- freedom from living at home
- freedom from curfews
- freedom from a strict 8-3 high school schedule
But, just how many colleges allow incoming students the freedom to live off-campus? Do most colleges require students to be in the dorms freshman year?
Surprisingly, less than 50% of residential campuses require freshmen to live on campus. Of course, there are some tangible benefits of living on campus, but this figure demonstrates that you may have more flexibility than you would think in choosing which arrangement works best for your student.
Here, I’ll review certain situations where living on campus would not be required and possibly not recommended. I’ll also provide tips for college students living off-campus to help make their experience the best it can be.
Do You Have To Live On Campus Freshman Year? It Depends On Where You Go
According to the American Association of Community Colleges, about 28% of community colleges have dorms and only 1% of community college students live on campus. That leaves over 70% of community college campuses where your student will either need to live at home, in an apartment, or in a different living arrangement of their choosing.
Some exceptions where students live at the community college campus include the following:
- Junior college athletes who are often intensely involved in their college campus and need quick access to services
- Students who choose an out-of-state community college that is lacking in off-campus housing access
If your family chooses a community college, you can check on the college website or with admissions to see if the college has any affiliated off-campus housing that is catered to college students.
Commuter campuses are defined as campuses where most students leave after class or for the weekends to head home. They may have a small smattering of on-campus housing but the campus may have a diminished residential life as only a small percentage of students stick around in non-class hours.
Some colleges may not advertise themselves as commuter campuses, so if your student is looking for a lively on-campus experience then you should have them attend a prospective student overnight or weekend trip to get a real feel as to the weekend vibe of the campus. If your student chooses a commuter campus, they will most likely have access to a smaller amount of clubs, activities, and events to choose from.
A commuter campus, however, can be a great fit for nontraditional students and students who work. It’s also great for those who want to live at home or off-campus and those who strictly want to focus on completing their education with limited distractions.
Some examples of commuter campuses include the University of Illinois at Chicago, Adelphi University in New York, and Rutgers University in New Jersey.
Tips For College Students Living Off-Campus
There are also many campuses that do not require freshmen to live on campus. Some surprising colleges that nix the requirement include the University of Wisconsin Madison (although over 90% of freshmen live on campus), Purdue University, Auburn University, and New York University, to name a few.
If your family does choose the apartment life for your student, here are a few tips to navigate the process.
- Roommates make everything more affordable. Choosing someone who your student is compatible with is paramount. However, there usually won’t be any central organization available to mediate any issues.
- If possible, have your student sign a separate lease to offer them some protection against financial woes like late rent payments caused by their roommates.
- Choose housing close to campus, ideally housing associated with the university. The closer they are, the more likely they will engage in the campus community before and after class. Being connected to the college community has shown to be a protective factor in college persistence and graduation.
- Choose housing with amenities! How about a pool, fitness center, or an in-unit washer and dryer? These sorts of perks can make the arrangement feel more “collegey” and fun. Also, this could cut down the need for your student to shell out more money to access entertainment or a gym membership.
- Assess the environment with your student. Is the apartment building quiet enough for studying? Is there space to do homework without feeling cramped? Your student’s living environment should be conducive to getting the grades they want.
Ultimately, every student has diverse wants and needs so no one housing situation will fit everyone. If your student doesn’t want to live on campus or can’t afford it their freshmen year, know that you do have options for them to find their best fit with off-campus living.