I’ve always considered myself to be a private person. This meant that when it finally came time to move away from home after high school and be on my own, the idea of sharing a tiny dorm room with a total stranger was not very appealing. But even though I dreaded dorm life before I had even applied for college, most college-bound teens do not share this mentality.
At SF State, nearly 50 percent of freshmen live in dorms, and for most of them, it’s the ideal choice. Dorm life has a lot of potential benefits – the utilities and amenities are included, meals are often taken care of for you, and a community of like-minded students surrounds you. Living in a dorm all but ensures that your first year in college can be spent exploring your new environment, focusing on classes, and making new friends. When I look back I’m still glad I skipped the dorms altogether, but I wasn’t always sure I made the right choice.
My biggest fear when I decided to live off campus was not being able to meet new people and make friends, and in all honesty, it was tough at first. My first few weeks at school were filled with awkward attempts to make conversation with fellow classmates and hours scouring the campus for spots where interesting people congregated. To my dismay, most of these attempts to expand my social horizons were unsuccessful. At that time, all I could think about was how easy it would be to meet people if I lived in the dorms, and it was disheartening to say the least.
Thankfully, these feelings didn’t last long, and within a month, I realized something important: interesting people were all around me, and trying to synthesize relationships out of thin air was only making things more difficult. It was only after I stopped worrying so much and trying so hard that I began to form real connections with people. Sure, this could have happened sooner if I lived in the dorms, but in the end it still happened – and the results weren’t any less meaningful.
Another concern I had with living off campus had to do with cost. Rent prices in San Francisco seem to climb higher by the day, so I initially assumed a compact dorm room would be the cheaper option. However, this is not necessarily the case. SF State currently lists its approximate cost for on-campus room and board at $13,882, which breaks down to around $1,156 per month.
At first glance, this appears to be significantly cheaper than the cost of most apartments in San Francisco. A 2014 Priceonomics report found the average rent for a one-bedroom apartment in the cheapest neighborhood in the city is a whopping $1,725 each month. The only problem is these numbers are not an accurate reflection of what that money actually gets you. First of all, I can guarantee you there are cheaper apartments than $1,725 a month, and if you find a bigger house with more roommates, the saving potential increases significantly.
For instance, this same report listed the average cost for a one-bedroom apartment in my neighborhood at about $2,000 a month. However, the three-bedroom apartment I moved into only cost us $2,500 a month, with my personal rent totaling only $650 for a private room. So not only was I getting to live in my own private room without the constant watchful eye of a resident advisor enforcing the college’s set of rules, I was doing it for less.
Knowing I can look back and feel confident about my choice to live off campus is reassuring, but that doesn’t mean living in the dorms is necessarily the wrong decision. Everyone lives a bit differently from one another, and certain arrangements that work for some won’t for others. However, accepting the convention of dorm living your first year in college is not the only option– it’s merely a choice, and one that many freshmen forget to consider altogether.