Where you’ll live depends on what type of institution you attend and the housing options offered by your institution. Students who choose to attend a two-year or a less-than-two-year institution may find that living at home or living with roommates in a rental apartment or house is their best option. Four-year institutions, however, often give students the chance to live on campus, and in fact, may require that freshmen live in dorms. Where you live also determines whether you need to have roommates, buy a campus meal plan, or plan to bring a car.
After you’ve determined what institution you will be attending, you will know more about your housing situation. You may be informed that you have to live on campus for at least a year or two, but you may be given free reign. Living at home will save you money, but your social life may suffer. Living off campus means that you may have to deal with a commute. Different options have different benefits and drawbacks.
On-campus housing is provided by the majority of four-year colleges, so living on campus may be mandatory for freshmen and even sophomores. You are unlikely to get too much say in what dorm you live in or who you live with during your freshman year, but you may be able to fill out a housing request if you require accessible housing, substance-free housing, or single-sex housing. Once on campus, you’ll likely have communal living areas, kitchens, and bathrooms.
Off-campus living provides the most options, but you’ll have to find them yourself. Organizing your own housing, though, can save you money and give you control over who you live with, if you choose to live with anyone at all. When searching for an apartment or house, always see the place in person and meet the landlord. You’ll have plenty of questions, and seeing your prospective home for yourself ensures that what you see in the ad really is what’s for rent.
Living at home provides its own challenges: dealing with your family, finding a productive study area, and making friends on campus despite not spending all of your time there. Consider joining clubs and sports teams or creating a study group to foster friendships with other students. Respect your family and be grateful that you’re given a place to live. Mutual respect and understanding will ensure that all your relationships stay healthy.
For those who are living on campus, freshman roommate assignments are typically random; you fill out a roommate preference form detailing your habits (when you sleep, how you feel about music, if you smoke) and then colleges pair you up with someone similar. Some colleges will allow you to request a particular roommate; if you request each other, you’ll become roommates. Off campus, you get to pick whom you live with. Roommate decisions are hard to undo if you end up unhappy, though, so give it your best effort before calling it quits.
If you live on campus, you will generally be required to purchase a meal plan except in special circumstances. If you live off campus, you may still be able to purchase a meal plan. When deciding on a meal plan, consider your college’s offerings. Is it all fast food, or are they stations where you can get something healthy on occasion? How many meals do you eat each week, or how much do you foresee spending? Choose your meal plan based on your eating (and cooking) habits.
Freshmen get to move into their dorms before upperclassmen so they can get the lay of the land before classes start. Often, schools have orientation in the week leading up to the beginning of school, and freshmen move in at the start of orientation. Larger schools, however, may have orientation throughout the summer and a designated move-in day. Plan ahead, pack or mail your things to campus, and pack up the car (or your suitcase). Once you get to campus, housing representatives will be able to send you in the right direction.
Whether you’re allowed to bring your car to campus depends entirely on your institution. Large universities are more likely to allow students to bring their cars, though a parking permit is going to cost you. At a smaller, liberal arts college, you may not be allowed to have a car except under special circumstances. If you need to have a car on campus for medical reasons, for example, talk to your school’s disability office. Once you have it, be sure to store it properly to avoid tickets and fines.