Your Guide to Deciding Where to Live

By University of Waterloo Modified on March 10, 2020

Should you live on or off campus? We weigh the pros, cons, and costs.

University of Waterloo students share a laugh in residence.

Deciding where you want to live is one of many choices you'll make in university. To help you make your decision, here are some factors to consider when comparing on-campus and off-campus living.

Living on campus

Living on campus has many perks! These are some of what we think to be the best reasons to live on campus.

  • Classes and the gym are nearby. This means you can sleep in longer in the morning or hit the gym in between classes if you really want to.
  • Easy access to one-on-one support. If you live in residence you'll have a don or residence assistant to speak to if you have questions or need support. These supports often exist for off-campus students too, but being on campus makes them that much easier to access.
  • Meal plans. Don't like to cook? Don't want to cook? No problem! Not only do you save time by having your meals prepared, you also don't have to do dishes or shop for groceries.
  • Increased sense of belonging. In residence, you can walk out of your room and see your friends within minutes. If there's an event on campus, it's easy for you to get there.
  • A guaranteed place to live. Some schools, like Waterloo, guarantee a place in residence for first-year students.
  • There are more benefits. Research shows that graduation rates and student grades are higher when living in residence.

Before making up your mind to live on campus, consider the following.

  • Check to see what the policies are about being in residence over the winter break that occurs after exams in December and before classes begin again in January. If you don't have a place to stay during this time this could make things difficult for you.
  • Shared spaces. Things like lounge areas, washrooms, and laundry rooms will likely be shared with other students. If you're looking for some privacy, this may be harder to find while living on campus.

Living off-campus

Living off-campus has many benefits.

  • Increased independence. For most students, university is the first chance to truly experience what it means to live on your own.
  • In residence there are rules for quiet hours and how long your guests can stay over. When you live off campus, these are completely up to you and your roommates.
  • Cook whatever and whenever you want. Want tacos at 2 a.m.? No one's holding you back.

There are also some downsides associated with living off-campus.

  • You may feel isolated from your peers. The further away from campus you live, the harder and less likely it becomes to attend events and study groups.
  • Surprise! If you're living further away from campus, it will take longer to get to campus.
  • Furnishing your place. You can usually find places that come furnished, but there's no guarantee the furniture will be nice. You also may end up having to completely furnish a place depending on your options.

Comparing costs

The costs of living on-campus and off-campus vary depending on where you're living and your preferred lifestyle.

When it comes to comparing the price differences, you should note some main expenses associated with each living situation. When you live on-campus your main expenses are residence and meal plan fees. Off-campus living expenses include monthly rent, utilities, transportation, groceries, and internet.

We hope this guide helps make your decision easier! In the end, no matter where you decide to live, remember it's only temporary. If you don't like your choice the first time around, there are still many chances to try something different.

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