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Student Potential

Pros and Cons of Living On and Off Campus

February 15, 2024Back to Learning Centre

There are many decisions you have to make when you head off to post secondary school. One of the most important, deciding which post secondary path to consider (university vs college or trade school) is followed by deciding if you’d like to live on or off campus.

The decision of whether to live on campus or commute to campus is a significant one, and there are many factors to consider. To help you make this important decision, we have put together a list of pros and cons for each.

Living on campus for post secondary school

Living on campus can be a fun and exciting. In most cases, university students choose to live on campus in the first year of school. However, some may also be able to live on campus in subsequent years or even as a postgraduate student. A few of the perks and cons of living on campus during school include:

Pro: Minimal commute time

When you live on campus, you will enjoy zero to no commute time, which is a major benefit to many students. Since you will be steps from your lecture halls, professor’s offices, and more, you won’t have to worry about rush hour traffic, finding a parking spot, or taking public transportation to school. This not only makes living on campus convenient but it also gives you more time in your day to catch up on sleep, studying, or social activities. Just think: you could set your alarm and roll out of bed less than 15 minutes before your class starts and still make it on time. (While not recommended – it is possible!)

Pro: More access to resources

Another perk to living on campus is having better access to resources. The reality is that all post secondary students have access to the resources offered by their university, college or trade school. However, those who live on campus may be more likely to take advantage of them due to their close proximity. For example, if you live on campus, you may be more likely to have a face-to-face meeting with a professor or schedule a meeting with an academic advisor or guidance counsellor. Conversely, if you have to commute to campus, you might simply send an email to your professor if you need to speak with them about something.

Pro: Easier to socialize

If part of the reason you’re looking forward to post-secondary school is the social aspect, then on campus life may be for you. When you live on campus, it will be that much easier to connect with other students, whether in the dorms, at social events, or even at restaurants or bars in the vicinity. When you commute, you might miss out on some of these social opportunities. You will also be worrying about beating traffic, catching the last bus or train back home at night or if you’re already at home, you might not think it’s worth it to make the trek all the way to campus for an event.

Con: You could get homesick

One major drawback of living on campus, especially during your first year of school, is that you could start to feel homesick. If you are an undergraduate student, then chances are, this is your first time living away from home. Even if you applied to university, college or trade school with the intention of living on campus, when it comes down to it, you might decide that the culture shock is too much. Thus, you might find it more comforting to settle into your new post secondary routine while still living at home.

Con: Living on campus can be expensive

Another con of living on campus is that it can be expensive, especially when compared to living at home. Not only are housing prices on the rise across the country, but there are many other factors, like student meal plans and finances, to account for when living on campus. If you are interested in living on campus, be sure to do your research to determine how much money this will cost you and whether it’s within your budget.

To ensure that attending post secondary school isn’t too much of a financial strain, start saving early by opening an RESP with Embark.

Living at home and commuting for post secondary school

Living at home and commuting to post secondary school is another option that you have as a student. Many students whose parents are located near the school choose to do this for a number of reasons. We outline the pros and cons of living off campus and commuting below.

Pro: You can grow your savings

As a student, there is nothing more important than growing your savings, which is what makes creating an RESP so important. Choosing to live at home instead of on campus is one way that you can ensure your savings continue to grow even as you attend school. The reality is that living at home will cost you far less than living on campus. Chances are, by living at home, you won’t have to pay rent and the general cost of living, including food, is likely to be less as well. You are also likely to save more money since you may not be spending as much on eating out, partying, shopping, and other social activities.

Pro: You have your support circle around you

Another important advantage to living at home during post secondary school is that you will have your support circle around you. Many students find it a lot more comforting to live at home, at least during part of their post secondary schooling, due to the fact that they can remain close to their friends and family. Oppositely, if you choose to live on campus, you may have to make brand-new friends or be far away from your parents, which can be lonely. If physical distance from your loved ones is a stressor, then living off campus might be the best choice.

Pro: There are fewer distractions

One last benefit of living at home is that you will have fewer distractions to contend with. The reality is that campus life can be chaotic at times. With a constant stream of parties, sports games, and other events, it is easy for your social life to take over at the expense of your education. Even finding a quiet place to study may be more difficult when living on campus. In contrast, when you live at home, you can easily find space to put your head down and get your work done, allowing you to focus on what’s important.

Con: The commute

Perhaps the most significant disadvantage of living on campus during university or college is the commute. Even if you live relatively close to campus, if there is a lot of traffic in your city, it could still take you a considerable amount of time just to get to your classes. If you have a car, you may also need to worry about parking and factor in the cost of parking in addition to gas. If you don’t have a car, then you will be reliant on public transportation, such as trains and buses, which can be unreliable and add even more time to your commute.

All in all, commuting can be exhausting, so you will need to consider how long your commute is. If you have a car, your home is close to campus, or your class schedule doesn’t require you to travel during rush hour, then it might not be an issue. However, if traffic is bad where you live or the public transportation network is not very extensive, then commuting may not work for you.

Con: Limited access to campus resources

A second con of living off campus during post secondary school is the limited access to campus resources. When you don’t live on campus, it may be more difficult or inconvenient to access important resources, such as academic advisors, libraries, or professors. Although most of these people and resources can be accessed online nowadays, it is generally easier and may result in a more enriching experience when you live on campus and can access them in person.

Con: Fewer opportunities for socializing

If you choose to live off campus during university or college, you will likely need to put in more effort if you want to socialize. While you can still find opportunities for socializing, they may not be as readily available as if you lived on campus. Living on campus can be a bonding experience for many students. Without this, you may need to join clubs, sports teams, or get involved in some other way if you want to improve your social life. Plus, depending on the commute time and the public transportation schedule in your city, you may find it difficult to stay late for events.

Written by Embark

Embark is Canada’s education savings and planning company. The organization aims to help families and students along their post-secondary journeys, giving them innovative tools and advice to take hold of their bright futures and succeed.