August 9, 2023
Undergraduate Housing Options
Evaluating different types of undergraduate/freshman housing options.


Undergraduate housing options are diverse, catering to different student needs and preferences. My high school friend attended George Washington University in Washington, DC. He opted to live in the freshman dorms and was randomly assigned roommates. I would have dreaded living with complete strangers at the time. He lived with two in a triple dorm. As you can imagine, the room had barely enough space for the three tenants and all the dorm room furniture. I remember seeing a picture and thinking, "This room looks like a large closet." All jokes aside, he ultimately built really strong friendships with his roommates freshman year. He said it helped him find a fit in his first year of college, which is super tricky. With that said, freshman housing can make or break your first year of college, so let's dive into your options and how that changes in your sophomore, junior, and senior years.

As we'll discuss later in this blog post, there are many options for college housing beyond dorms, with advantages and disadvantages for each. Living off-campus removes you from the college campus community, but off-campus housing also helps you grow a sense of independence. Living in an apartment complex or dorm after freshman year can give you more space and lavish living quarters, but the price might not be reasonable. Below are some short summaries of college housing you should consider as you plan a college lifestyle that suits you.

University of San Francisco - Triple Dorm Room

Dorms and on-campus housing

Dorms are often the most popular option for first-year college students. Single rooms offer the most privacy as they do not require a roommate, but this option is usually only available for students with particular circumstances. On the other hand, double rooms house two students, providing an opportunity for meeting and living with others and sharing responsibilities. Triple rooms accommodate three students, offering a more communal living experience. Large dorms often follow a suite-style layout that blends the privacy of an enclosed bedroom with shared living quarters. Often single or double rooms share amenities like a bathroom and shower with other rooms.

The advantages of living on-campus include:

  • Convenience. Close to classes, dining halls, and other freshman.
  • Proximity to campus resources like the health center, writing center, and gym.
  • The opportunity to develop a sense of community.

The disadvantages of living on-campus include:

  • Crowded and depreciating living space.
  • Shared or communal bathrooms and kitchens.

Many colleges like MIT require first-year students to live in one of the on-campus undergraduate residence halls for their first year. In rare cases, exceptions are granted. On-campus residence halls or dorms offer close proximity to classes, access to on-campus facilities and resources, and are arguably important for students transitioning to college life. Many campuses believe dorms are essential for building a community that fosters a supportive and engaging living environment for first-year students. ; MIT freshman dorms

Apartments and off-campus housing

Beyond traditional dormitories, universities offer apartments, suites, and row houses. These options often provide more independence and space compared to standard dorm rooms. They may have additional amenities such as a kitchen, living area, and private bathrooms. Before choosing alternatives to dorms, do your research on what kinds of amenities are personal and shared.

Special interest housing is another option for students with similar interests or academic pursuits to live together. This type of housing can foster a supportive and collaborative environment for students. Examples of special interest groups include varsity athletes, cultural immersion housing, gender-inclusive housing, graduate housing, and Greek organizations. ; Row Houses - Yale University

Off-campus housing is also a popular choice among returning college students. While this option requires more independence and responsibility, it offers greater freedom and flexibility regarding living arrangements. Often finding off-campus housing requires contacting landlords and applying for a lease. This process may not be worth the time and effort for first-year students. Off-campus houses are more removed from the rest of the college campus and may require a vehicle or transportation to get to campus.

The advantages of living off campus include:

  • Private bedrooms, bathrooms, and kitchen area.
  • Often more space and flexible living quarters or floor plan.
  • Build stronger relationships with close college friends.

The disadvantages of living off campus include:

  • Furniture often isn’t included.
  • Your required to do the legwork to find off-campus housing.
  • Further away from the central campus. Typically requires transportation. ; George Washington University Apartment Hunting Checklist


Most college websites will give you a detailed description of on-campus housing options for first-year students at different universities. They cover various topics, including housing application processes, room assignments, room configurations, amenities, community-building initiatives, and support services. The cost of living in a dorm typically includes furniture such as beds, desks, chairs, and wardrobes and may also cover utilities and meal plans. This makes on-campus housing typically more affordable.

To effectively navigate off-campus options, it’s essential to think through your budget, find suitable roommates, understand lease agreements, and ways to stay connected to campus resources. Some universities with campuses in big cities, like American University, offer websites with tools and resources to help students search for housing listings, understand lease agreements, connect with potential roommates, and navigate the off-campus housing process. When looking at off-campus housing, it is always important to consider other factors, such as safety, transportation, and community resources. Apartments and off-campus housing vary in price and can be less affordable than on-campus dorms, depending on the number of roommates dividing the lease.



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