“To Dorm or Not to Dorm?” That is the question. Whether ‘tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of RA’s and ugly furniture; or to take arms against the sea of the real world and move into an apartment… The spring semester has started, and that means colleges will be writing to their students soon asking them to register for fall semester housing. As the deadline gets closer, students need to ask themselves, do I really want to stay in the dormitory system for another year?
I have wanted to live in my own apartment since I was a sophomore in college, so I’m probably not the most impartial judge of the dormitory versus apartment question. For me, the idea of living in my own apartment was such an exciting concept that it outweighed any other arguments. I relished the idea of being able to say, “Come over to my apartment.” It sounded so much cooler than “Let’s hang out in my dorm.” And being able to have my own space, decorate it my own way and with my own furniture! It was an exhilarating idea.
That’s the thing about apartments. They offer so much freedom. No more regulations on guests; getting them signed in, filling out paperwork a week in advance if someone was staying the night. No more rules on what you could bring in your room, or about no furniture besides small bookshelves and absolutely no candles! In my dorm we weren’t even allowed to put thumbtacks in the walls. And, hey, no more getting kicked out of your room during the longer breaks! Sometimes living in a dorm can just make you feel like such a kid. And once you get to college, don’t you want to finally be treated like an adult?
But just like any aspect of growing up, more freedom comes with more responsibilities. It was nice in the dorm when a toilet was clogged or a ceiling light went out and you just got maintenance to come and fix it. Now you have to fix those things on your own. And if something really big needs repairs, it’s time to call up the landlord, and it may take a lot longer to fix than it did with the university’s maintenance crew. You’re also going to be in charge of knowing when bills are due and when the rent is up, taking care of your trash, and respecting your neighbors without an RA around to mediate. And that can be difficult at times. Don’t forget that in an apartment, you’re also now responsible for meeting new people. There won’t be floor events to get to know your neighbors. And no one’s going to be following an open-door policy in an apartment building. If you’re in a new place, or you don’t already have a strong network of friends, you might want to consider picking the dorm. Otherwise, it could be rather overwhelming just trying to make a friend (especially in a place like New York).
Money-wise, I’ve found that apartments (especially at NYU) wind up being significantly cheaper than dormitories. I’m paying roughly the same amount as I would have in a dorm now, but I get to live there for the whole 12 months of the year, not just the 8-month school year. But don’t forget about all the other bills. There are lots of little things that you don’t realize you’re going to need to pay for in an apartment, and it can add up. For some reason, I completely spaced on the fact that I would need to pay for my own Internet and cable. I was just so used to being able to plug a cord into a wall and get what I needed. (I actually don’t even have cable anymore—my one regret about leaving the dorms.) And be sure to factor your electricity and other utilities expenses into your decision.
But at the end of the day, I get to go home to my own apartment. And as I put my keys in the door, check my mailbox and rifle through all the bills and junkmail, I feel very much like an adult. And I wouldn’t trade that feeling for anything.