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Dorm life is fun, but it can get a little... cluttered sometimes.

I remember worrying about so many stupid things the summer before my freshman year of college. Most of the “important” stuff like classes, majors, and actually paying for the whole experience wasn’t even a concern to me until a few months in.

But I obsessed over my housing situation every single day, without fail. Would my room be bigger or smaller than the norm? Would my dorm be social? Would my roommate and I get along with each other? How awkward would it be to shower with flip-flops on every night?


Thankfully, everything turned out more than OK for me on that front. My roommate became one of my best friends, and we ended up being repeat roommates for sophomore year. On-campus housing was an adjustment, but it was fun. I’m almost sad that after doing my time for 2 years, I’ll never get to live in a dorm again.


In last week’s Daily Interest, we mentioned an article from Cheap Scholar that lists 5 things that every college student should know about leases. Depending on where you go to school, this may or may not have been relevant for you.

A lot of schools provide mandatory on-campus housing for all 4 years of college. From my experience, they tend to be more rural schools that have the space to build lots of dorms (or just the need to build more since there are few apartments within their host cities).

But if you’re like me and you go to a suburban or urban school, chances are you’re probably getting booted off-campus for at least one of your upperclassmen years. For us at Tufts, junior year is the only year that we’re not guaranteed on-campus housing.

Although seniors have the option of living in a beautiful dorm, only the select few students with good housing lottery numbers can hope to get into it. This actually works out fine, though, since leasing tends to be the more money savvy way to handle housing.



The cost of living in a dorm at Tufts is currently $6,450 for the entire year, and the cost of an unlimited meal plan is $5,430. Prices vary for monthly rent, but I found a house that’s $595 a month with water included. We’ll throw in an extra $30 for heat (remember, you’re splitting this bill with multiple other people) and bring it up to $625 a month, which is $7,500 for an entire year.

Initially, it looks cheaper to live in the dorms. But that’s excluding the other major cost of living: eating!

One of the great things about living in a house is the easy access to a kitchen. If you’re buying groceries and cooking, that $5,430 unlimited meal plan is suddenly unnecessary. Most people tend to go with the minimum plan that costs only $978. It’s rare for any senior to go unlimited, but the ones in dorms typically have less kitchen access—which means they tend to get the plan that costs $3,616 a year.

When you add up both costs, $8,478 ($7,500 + $978) is cheaper than $10,066 ($6,450 + $3,616).


Now this is not by any means an exact science because there are a lot of variables involved. You may spend a ton on furniture for off-campus housing, or get a more expensive meal plan than the one I picked if you’re in a dorm. You could very well end up paying more expensive rent for a different house, or using your dorm kitchen more often than usual.

The point here is that off-campus housing gives you more freedom to save or spend. Living in a dorm, your costs are a bit more fixed. In a house or apartment, a lot of what you spend will be determined by your lifestyle (sounds a lot like adulthood, huh?). If you’re money savvy and keep track of your expenses, you could definitely end up saving a ton in the end.

(Photo: Feffef/Flickr)

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