The University Network

Is It Better To Live On Campus Or Off Campus? — Interview With Brian Tan, Student Ambassador At The University Of Houston

TUN sits down with Brian Tan, a computer science major and student ambassador at the University of Houston, to discuss the benefits and disadvantages of both on-campus and off-campus living.

TUN: Brian, thanks so much for joining us. 

TAN: Thank you for having me. 

TUN: At many institutions, incoming freshmen are required to live in the dorms. Starting there, can you walk me through some of the benefits of living on campus? What was convenient or rewarding about the experience for you?

TAN: I lived in a residence hall my freshman year, and the one thing that was super beneficial to me, especially here at the University of Houston,  is that dorms are located right on campus. You don’t have to go anywhere far. You don’t have to really drive anywhere to get to class. 

You just walk out of the front door of the residence hall and walk about 10 minutes to your building. Some classes are actually even held in the residence halls. I remember I had an English class that was on the first floor of my residence hall, so I just went downstairs, took the class and then came back up to take a nap. So, it’s really beneficial in that sense. 

Another convenient thing and rewarding experience is that you get to meet a lot of your friends while living on campus. You’re essentially planting yourself in a new community and, with that, you’ll learn new experiences, make new friends and definitely make new connections that will really help you in however long you’re at the university. 

TUN: Next, I have to ask you about the drawbacks. What did you not really like about on-campus living? 

TAN: The one thing I really didn’t like about living on campus was that, even though it is a convenience to be right on the university’s campus, it’s also sort of a drawback. If you’re looking for things to do, especially here at UH, there’s not much going on on campus after normal class hours. 

So, if you really wanted to go and hang out, you would have to go off campus. Some students might have cars and others might not. So, you would have to make connections to get off campus. 

There are also limitations on what you can do in the residence halls. If you like to cook at all, here at UH, kitchens are not located in the residence hall rooms. You would have to go and use the communal kitchen.

Some of our residence halls have communal bathrooms as well. If that’s something that you don’t really don’t like, then that’s something to keep in mind. 

But, again, there are a lot more benefits of on-campus living than drawbacks. I just want to bring attention to that. 

TUN: After freshman or sophomore year, many students opt to live off campus in houses or apartments. Before we get into the drawbacks or advantages of that, what are some questions that students should ask themselves before deciding to move out of the dorms? Are there financial questions they should consider? Should they be concerned about how off-campus living might impact their social lives?

TAN: Moving out of the residence halls is going to be a pretty big decision, especially if you’ve been there as a freshman. 

If you want to live off campus and have more independence when it comes to your living situation, of course, there are financial questions to ask. Do I want to pay it all upfront? Do I want to pay as part of my tuition? Or, do I want to set some money aside to pay monthly rent as well as utilities? There are a lot of financial questions to ask. 

As far as impacting their social lives, that’s up to them. If they know that they’re someone who’s super extroverted and wants to get out a lot, then off-campus living might be the best part. You have that freedom to invite people over, have dinner, watch tv, watch sports games and stuff like that. 

You can have meetings for different social clubs and you wouldn’t have to worry about, “Oh, if I do something like this or that, the university will get on me.” 

You don’t really have as many limitations when living off campus. If you’re more of an extroverted person, I would recommend living off campus. 

TUN: Can you go further into what you like about living off campus? What are some of the added benefits of that? 

TAN: What I like about it is that it’s actually an apartment (or house). You’ll have your own people who you will choose to live with. You’ll have your own kitchen and your own bathroom. Essentially, the whole space is yours. 

If you break something or mess something up, it’s not like you need to pay the university. 

I also like the fact that the off-campus living facilities have different amenities as well, especially the ones that are aimed towards student living. They’ll have amenities like full-on study rooms, free printing, free use of the internet downstairs, free PC towers, a gym and anything like that. 

You have the option to do whatever you please, instead of just living on campus and having to buy a meal plan or anything like that. You can cook your own meals.

TUN: What are some of the drawbacks of off-campus living? Since you have to pay for utilities and other expenses, do you find it more expensive than living in the dorms?

TAN: Specifically here at the University of Houston, if you live on campus, you’re going to be required to purchase a meal plan. That will, of course, add a little more money to your tuition. But, that gives you the assurance that you’ll have access to three meals a day whenever you want. 

Off-campus living, you have your own kitchen and you have a lot more freedom. But, one of the drawbacks that comes with living in an apartment is that you don’t really have access to all the convenience that you have on campus, like close proximity to classroom buildings, the student center, the gym or anything like that. 

Living off-campus will be sort of cheaper in that aspect. You don’t have to pay for a meal plan or anything like that. 

But, there’s also the chance that off-campus costs will add up. If you live far away from campus, you may have to pay for gas, repairs to your car and utilities. So, that could be an added factor. Those are just some things to watch out for when you decide to live off campus. 

TUN: Money aside, if you had to choose, what would you choose on-campus living or off-campus living? 

TAN: Personally, I would choose off-campus living. It’s just the fact that I get my own roof, my own bathroom, and everything like that. Having access to a lot of amenities that the apartment offers and just being able to make my home mine, decorate everything, set it up how I like it without having to fear of being hit by the university if I accidentally put a thumbtack in the wall. 

I would definitely choose off-campus living if money was no object. 

TUN: Thanks, Brian, for taking the time. 

TAN: No problem. Thank you guys so much for having me. This was fun.

This interview has been edited for clarity. Watch the full video here.