Living on campus has been a part of mainstream American culture for years. You’ve seen it happen in countless movies: the child moves off to college and, as a freshman, finds a place on campus, usually in the dorms. It’s become such a steady part of who we are as Americans that it is essentially expected of us: we graduate high school and then move away to college.

But is this really what the human experience is meant to be? After all, who really decided that college – and therefore dorm life – was how things are meant to be? Shouldn’t we question what’s expected of us and ask ourselves if there are really better things we could do with our time? And speaking of “our time,” why do we have to invest years of it living on campus if all we’re going to do is drink too much and study too little?

There are both sides of the argument to tackle here, so let’s try to see the perspective from both sides. That’s right: it’s time for a good, old-fashioned list of pros and cons.

Pros of Living on Campus

Access. Where you live has a ton to do with the quality of your everyday life. When you live on a college campus, you’re going to live next to a lot of great things. Need food? Go to the cafeteria. Need to study? Walk over to the library. Need to work out? There’s probably a fitness center you can use. The list of things you’ll have access to when you live on a major campus goes on and on – and, in fact, it’s part of how colleges recruit their students and student-athletes.

Access is indeed a sweet thing, and let’s not forget that at college, you’ll have access to a readily-available social life in the form of other kids your age also having the same experience as you. If that doesn’t sound kind of appealing, then you’re nuts.

Focus. This one is a little bit more questionable, but we can’t help but list it here nonetheless. That’s because at college, you’re allowed to focus on your studies in a way you never imagined. First, you’re living in a small dorm room, so going to the library is actually going to be a great way to escape the college pod for a few hours. But look at it from an eagle’s eye-view of your entire life: living at college means you can easily focus on college things. It’s just that simple.

Sure, there will be plenty of distractions in your dorm life. The opposite sex, for one, and so much readily-available food that you’re liable to gain the famous “freshman fifteen.” But if you can’t find the self-discipline to study at school when you live at school, then you should probably look into improving that area of your life.

Cost. Really, living at the dorms is a pretty good deal – room and board are your main expenses. Most of your life is taken care of. Meal plans are easy to acquire. Books are expensive, but they were going to be expensive whether or not you chose to live on campus. The simple fact is that dorm life is a very cost-effective way of living, and even though you’re a broke college student, it’s actually a pretty nice set-up.

Cons of Living on Campus

The “college experience” is overrated. You’ve heard it countless times – “it’s important to have the college experience.” “Part of the reason you go to college is for the experience.” But really what is the college experience? Socializing with other people the same age? That’s been going on since you entered kindergarten and, let’s face it, it’s only helped you learn how to socialize with people the same age. The “college experience” of partying in dorms or entering a fraternity might be valuable because you spend it with friends, but what experience that you spend with friends isn’t valuable?

Don’t think that you need to drink and party in college in order to sew your wild oats; instead, if you’re going to live in the college dorms, concentrate on what’s really valuable. Forming friends for life, focusing on your education – that’s what’s really important about living in the dorms.

Cost. Yeah, yeah, we know – we talked about cost as being a “pro,” a positive about the experience of college life. But if you’re not 18 and you already have an apartment…well, the cost of living in a dorm is going to seem unnecessary and just plain superfluous. That’s because it is. Why not instead opt for an online university where you don’t even have to deal with commuting, dorm life, or anything even resembling either of those options? After all, online universities can at a greatly reduced cost and, well, they’re just plain old convenient.

Distractions. This is the flip side to the section on “focus” we listed above. While it’s easy to focus on college while you live there, the simple fact is that it can be just as easy to get distracted. Maybe you’re flirting with members of the opposite sex. Maybe alcohol gets in the way of your education. Maybe goofing around with your readily-accessible friends (they do just live a few doors down, after all) will cut into your studies more than you ever imagined. In essence, if you’re not good at handling distractions, then you’re probably not really cut out for the college dorm life.

Of course, if you want to build up your skills in focusing on your work, then the challenge of dorm life might be a welcome one. But do expect that there will be a lot of ways you can easily lose your way if you don’t keep on the straight and narrow path.

Is living at college the right option for you? It all depends on your needs, your situation, and your goals. Everyone is different. The purpose of this article was not to reinforce any one particular way of viewing the problem, but to introduce you to the idea that living at college might not be for everyone. Sure, it’s part of mainstream society nowadays – but whoever said mainstream society gets to run your life?

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