High School Seniors Week 3: First Year Housing Hunt

20 Apr

Raysha Duncan, Financial Aid Administrator & Purdue Alumna

wood floor; text overlay: First Year Housing Hunt

Not all housing options are Elle Woods-style sorority houses or the run-down apartments in which Rory Gilmore finished her years at Yale. And not all dorms are co-ed; you can find one where you won’t be confronted by the opposite sex in the shower room every day. There’s also the option of living off-campus in a house or apartment with 3 of your closest friends, but only if you start your hunt soon because they can fill up fast. Living at home with mom and dad (and siblings and high school drama and Fido) is always an option if you’re near your campus as well.

Residence Halls

Residence halls are like the rooms you see the kids at Hogwarts living in: a common room flanked by bedroom spaces. Except, usually, instead of sharing a room with your entire class year (or Neville Longbottom) you get to share a room with 0-3 people, and you may or may not have your own private bathroom. There’s not a one-size-fits-all motto with college dorms either. There’s a variety of sizes and amenities to choose from: single, double, triple, suite, air-conditioned, non-air-conditioned, private bathroom, shared bathroom, co-ed res hall, same-sex res hall…the list can go on and on. If you decide to live on-campus in a residence hall, then you have to choose which style of room is right for you (and your wallet). Singles tend to run more price-wise than doubles or triples. Some residence halls are nicer than others and have more amenities, so they typically cost more, even if it’s for the same size room.

Residence halls also tend to have the built-in meal plan options, a nice bonus because you can just walk to your meals at the dining court and not have to make them or clean up after them.


Off-campus housing can consist of apartments, rental houses, sororities, fraternities, and any cooperative housing your university may have. Freshmen typically don’t live in fraternities and sororities their first semester, so we’ll focus on apartments and rental houses here. The nice thing about an apartment or rental house is that you can have more space than in a residence hall (maybe even a pet?) and you don’t have as many restrictions; Purdue freshmen who live on campus, for example, are not allowed to have a car on campus (unless they win a parking pass lotto), but you could have one at your apartment if you went that route. Apartment and house rental prices can vary greatly depending on the location to campus, the amenities offered, and the number of people in the apartment/house.  Since your rent and food costs aren’t billed through the school, so you would have to practice your budgeting skills: paying rent every month, paying bills, and buying your own groceries.

If you plan on living in an apartment your first year, you may miss out on some of the dorm bonding your peers have, but part of that bonding comes from close quarters which you may be able to live without.

Home with Mom and Dad

Living at home can save you money, and loan debt, in the long run if you’re able to do it… BUT some would view it as a restriction on their personal freedoms in college because they’re still in their childhood bedroom under their parents roof, sometimes with younger siblings (or three, in my case), and still subject to work around their family’s schedule. You’ll also be subject to parking restrictions and/or the bus system at your university, but you’ll be able to save up for a new car now instead of scrimping for more Cup-O-Noodles. It can be tough, it has been sometimes in my experience, but if you don’t mind and you want to save yourself from getting into unnecessary debt, then I’d say give it a shot.

And if the option you choose doesn’t work out, you can always try something different next year. You’ve got four years ahead of you, plenty of time to test the different housing options.

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