How to Choose Between On or Off-Campus Living

Choosing where to live during your college years can be tough, especially when it comes to being on or off campus. Rest assured there’s no wrong answer—it all depends on your lifestyle and preferences. But with all the different options and factors to consider, where do you begin?

It’s a big decision, but never fear. We’re here to help you weigh the pros and cons of on-campus vs. off-campus living to figure out what’s best for you.


First and foremost, what’s your budget? Dorms and off-campus housing each have their own unique expenses to consider. For starters, dorm prices already include many housing expenses and essential features like internet access, whereas you may have to arrange for your own utilities and pay them month-to-month in an off-campus apartment. However, some off-campus student living communities offer money-saving amenities, like included utilities, internet, cable, and fully furnished apartments, so keep an eye out for those during your search.

Both typically require upfront costs like deposits, so be prepared to pay at least a few hundred dollars right off the bat. Dorms, however, often require the full years’ rent upfront as well. Keep in mind, too, that some scholarships are dependent upon you living on campus.

It depends on the off-campus apartment you select whether or not your living expenses add up to be more or less than a dorm. Investigate factors like average utility cost, age of the building and appliances, what amenities are offered—and don’t forget to factor in the cost of gas if you drive to campus. To save money, look for off-campus housing with transportation, like a free shuttle!

And of course, think about the length of your lease. Many standard apartments only allow 12-month leases, while on-campus housing fits their leases into the school year—meaning an extra few months of rent for those living in off-campus housing. If you want to stay in town and in your own space during breaks, like winter and summer break, an off-campus apartment might be right for you.


Location is especially important to consider if you don’t own a car or other means of transportation—you’ll have to make sure you have a way to get to and from campus each day. Look for off-campus communities that offer a private shuttle and/or on-site parking. If you do have to drive, is the commute reasonable? Will you be hitting traffic on the way to class? What will gas cost each month? These are all important questions to ask.

Your class schedule may help you determine the importance of your location, too. Are there large gaps of time between your classes, and if so, would you prefer to hang out on campus, in the area, or go home in between classes? If it’s the latter, it may be helpful to select a location either on campus or an off-campus apartment nearby so you can quickly return home for a nap between classes.

If being close to campus isn’t your primary concern, off-campus apartments can offer great location perks in exciting areas of the city. Live near popular parts of town for quick and easy access to entertainment after class, or enjoy the nightlife without having to venture too far from home.


Do you love the company of your pup or snuggle sessions with your cat? If pet-friendly living ranks among your top priorities, you may be better off selecting an off-campus apartment. While school policies do vary, most campuses are not pet-friendly with the exception of service animals. Apartments make a great place to relax with your pet and sometimes offer pet-friendly extras, like a fenced dog park. Don’t forget to ask about pet fees and consider those when calculating your monthly expenses.


Will having a roommate in a dorm cramp your style, or are you comfortable with compact living? Living in a dorm almost always means having at least one roommate, so you’ll be sharing most of your living space with another person. This can limit the amount of people you’re able to have over, the furniture you’re able to bring, and the availability of storage space in common areas, such as bathrooms and kitchens.

Speaking of bathroom space—some dorms feature a private bathroom, some share bathrooms with another unit, and some have a community bathroom. So, if you’re worried about waiting on your roommate to get out of the shower in the morning, you may want to consider off-campus apartments with private bathrooms.

Social Atmosphere

Last but not least, think about what you want to get out of your lifestyle during your college years. Do you want the highly social atmosphere of a dorm, or do you prefer going home to your own privacy and space? On-campus living can be great for meeting new people because it’s often centered around socialization and shared spaces. It can put you closer to perks like on-campus assistance, on-campus events, campus meal plans, and campus security. But, depending on which community you choose, off-campus living can provide a unique balance between privacy, independence, and socialization.

If this balance is something you’re interested in, look for off-campus student apartments that offer the excellent perks many dorms can’t offer, like their own swimming pool, fitness center, clubhouse, and dog park. You can get all this alongside a space of your own—with your own kitchen, private suite, and modern design features. When you choose an apartment complex built for student living, you may also get other unique services, like roommate matching, on-site resident events, and individual leasing to mimic many perks of on-campus housing.

The Bottom Line

On and off-campus housing both have their pros and cons, and it’s ultimately up to you to decide which form of housing is best for you. Our student apartments at Quarry Trail offer top options for any lifestyle—with individual leases to improve your peace of mind.

Our variety of awesome perks and conveniences are perfect for you if you’re seeking a new level of pet-friendly, off-campus housing in Knoxville with many utilities already included (hello cable TV and high-speed internet!).

Choose from our one-, two-, three-, and four-bedroom student apartments to truly customize your college living experience, and enjoy a home with a fitness center, study areas, and three different resort-style pools to unwind after class. Take our private shuttle to campus and, at the end of the day, come home to playtime in our dog park and relaxation in your private suite. Check us out on Facebook or Instagram to learn more of the Quarry Trail lifestyle.

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