Food and sleep. Sleep and food. More sleep. More food. Somewhere in there are classes and a social life, too, but when it comes to the basics (sleep and food!), your living arrangements in college will have the most influence on the quality of both. They'll play a significant role in other aspects of college life too, such as your access to activities and classrooms.
Dorms are common option for campus housing
Let's start with the most obvious choice for first-timers. On-campus living is a great starting point for making new friends, getting to know your surroundings, and experiencing student life. Dorms provide easier access to campus and places like the library and the student center — and you can quickly connect with a large number of people through structured social activities.
Consider the convenience of other amenities normally available in a dorm, such as study rooms, computer labs, Internet access, and large yards with recreational facilities. Some dorms even have small weight rooms and saunas. With a dorm room as home-base, you can easily get everywhere you need to go.
On the other hand, before you put in your application for college housing, you should consider if you can deal with the lack of privacy and constant togetherness. Dorms offer communal bathrooms, study areas, lounges — everything is for everyone. Even your room can be a hard place to find peace and quiet sometimes, depending on your roommate and the dorm itself. However, taking a crack at dorm life is something you may not want to miss, even if it's just for a little while.
Campus housing options may include college apartments
Apart from dorms, other on-campus options may be available, such as student apartments, although they are often offered only to upper-classmen. If you're interested, be sure to look in to it.
While not as posh as something you'd see on MTV Cribs, campus apartments are a definite step up from the dorms — and you won't lose the conveniences of being on campus. They're still likely to provide an active student life (since all of your neighbors are fellow students), and you can cook in your own kitchen, lounge in your own living room, and best of all, shower in your private bathroom.
With a campus apartment, you're likely to spend more, but you can test-drive living on your own (or with one or two roommates), and see how well you fare without having to stray too far.
Participation in Greek life may include housing
Another on-campus option, at least if you're part of a sorority or fraternity, is living in a house or complex with fellow sisters or brothers. Many Greek life organizations have specific housing near campus that is available to their members.
While this housing option will provide access to friends, peers, and an active social life, it may not be the best fit for you if you want privacy and quiet sometimes. Greek housing can often be a focal point for social activities and gatherings.
Off-campus housing options
In any college town, it's generally easy to find off-campus living alternatives, such as renting an apartment or sharing a house with several students. You may also consider living at home if school is nearby.
If you choose to live off-campus and out of your parents' house, you should think about where you'll live in terms of the neighborhood, safety, transportation, and costs for food and rent — they may or may not be less costly than living in the dorms. Social activities and a bustling college life may not be readily available, but if you prefer a quieter living arrangement, a house or apartment may be a better option for you. However, be sure to check out the general vibe of the area before assuming it's quieter; some college neighborhoods are known for non-stop parties.
At some schools, apartment complexes near campus are rented out almost exclusively by college students and there may be student-oriented activities planned periodically for residents who wish to attend, such as pool parties and barbeques. If you're interested, see if you can talk to some students that live in the area to get the deal on what life's like in the neighborhood.
Transportation and off-campus housing
One of the benefits of campus housing is its proximity to all the other places you need to be. A big consideration for living off-campus is figuring out how you're going to get to school. If you're lucky, your place will be within walking distance of campus. If not, you may be fortunate enough to have a roommate who is willing to share their car, but you shouldn't count on it.
Many campuses, large or small, are on the local bus routes and it's entirely possible that the public transportation in town may take care of your needs for getting to school and around town. A bike is a great resource, as well. With a little planning, you may not need to have a vehicle at all and can save your gas money for those weekends out!
College housing choice will bring new experiences
Whatever you decide, college offers you a variety of places to lay your head and call home. If you're off-campus, head down to the student center for a meal or a get-together with friends. If you're feeling a little cramped at the dorm, the local town is bound to offer up a variety of activities and restaurants to change your pace for the day. Whatever you decide, there's a world of new experiences waiting for you!