I have been told countless times that spending freshman year on campus is the best decision for a college student. In theory, this advice makes sense: dorm life helps students deal with living independently while keeping them close to class. But with these advantages comes a price — paid for both in literal dollars and in quality of life.
When choosing where to live next year, UT students should consider living off campus, where they are outside the campus bubble and enjoy more freedom to make choices regarding their daily lives.
The main argument for living on campus is the close proximity dorms have to student facilities such as Gregory Gym, the Williams C. Powers Jr. Student Activity Center and various academic buildings. While this is a major convenience, it also disconnects students from the greater Austin area. This is especially true for students who lack vehicles or cannot afford to park in UT’s pricey parking garages.
Geophysics junior Mercedes Jordan has experienced similar difficulties. Last year, Jordan dormed at Jester and felt discouraged to explore Austin because of the lengthy walk to her parked car in East Campus Garage.
“(The garage) was super far, a ridiculous walk up that hill, (but) it was the cheapest garage to park my car … it (was difficult) to make that walk if I wanted to use my car,” Jordan said. “Now I park my car outside of my apartment … So I do go out more (which) is really nice.”
We are young adults living in the bustling and vibrant city of Austin, a fact easily forgotten if we become isolated on UT’s campus.
Furthermore, most of UT’s dorm spaces are shared occupancy, and community bathrooms are a common feature. This offers little privacy for those who cannot afford more expensive single options.
Helen Zhang, management information systems and mathematics sophomore, is in her second year at Jester, but has signed to live off campus next year. Zhang explained how shared spaces can cause issues regardless of strong roommate relationships.
“I love my roommate, and we have had zero problems, but I just need my own space for the next two years of college,” Zhang said. “Having my personal space trumps distance (to campus).”
Jordan now lives in North Campus and shares a similar view to Zhang on the importance her new space has in her life.
“I really enjoy having a lot more space, a kitchen, a full room to myself … it is just more comfortable,” Jordan said.
Transitioning from high school to college can be jarring. For many students, this is the first time in their lives when they are living without a guardian who provides them with daily assistance with cooking meals, cleaning and paying rent. Consequently, it is important for students to assess how equipped they are to provide for themselves when deciding living arrangements.
With this in mind, it could be smart for students to spend one year in the dorms before moving elsewhere. They should treat dorm life as an intermediary between home life and life alone.
Although there are benefits to living on campus, dorm life can cause students to become disengaged from Austin culture. Off-campus living facilitates individuality and connection to a city larger than UT and should be considered equally when choosing where to live next year.
Originally published March 23, 2023, in The Daily Texan
By Dustyn Ransom
Graphic by Elizabeth Banda