Admit-A-Bull // Official Admissions Blog

Housing Options for College


When it comes to college housing, you’ve got a lot of decisions to make. Do you want to live on campus or in an off-campus apartment? If you’re attending a local school, how do you feel about living with your family and commuting? Have you considered moving into a senior living community? (Yes, that is an option through some universities!) It’s totally normal for your brain to be swirling with questions, but rest assured you’ll find yourself exactly where you need to be. We’re here to help you navigate the world of college housing options.

Living on Campus

Many schools encourage students to live on campus, at least for freshman year. “There is study after study after study that shows that living on campus leads to higher grade point averages, stronger retention rates, and faster graduation rates,” says Andy Johnson, USF’s Director of Operations & Outreach for Housing & Residential education. USF offers on-campus housing for all three campuses: Tampa, St. Petersburg, and (as of 2024!) Sarasota Manatee.

Let’s take a closer look at the benefits of on-campus living.

What Are the Perks of On-Campus Living?

Living on campus has big benefits that go beyond academic success. From making friends to getting involved, residence halls keep you in the heart of college life.

A Smoother Transition to Adulting


Besides keeping your residence hall room tidy and doing your laundry, you won’t have too many responsibilities as an on-campus student. Drop into the dining hall when you’re hungry. Walk over to the campus health center if you feel ill. Jog to classes that are just minutes from your residence hall. Benefit from common areas kept clean for you. Sure, you’re still entering your adult life … but it’s a baby step, not a giant leap.

Built-in support is another major plus. Transitioning to independent life can feel overwhelming, so residential staff are available 24 hours a day at schools like USF. Whether you lock yourself out of your room or just feel homesick, you’ll always have someone to reach out to for help.

Built-in Community.


If you’re hoping college helps you expand your social circle, you’re in good company. “I think the time that people spent apart in the pandemic has made a lot of people value community more and value connections more,” says Janice McCabe. She’s the author of Connecting in College: How Friendship Networks Matter for Academic and Social Success and is currently working on her next book: Making, Keeping, and Losing Friends: How Campuses Shape Students’ Networks.

Residence halls are designed to create the sense of community that so many first-year students crave. For one thing, you’re all sharing a major life transition. That first night in the residence hall can be a great bonding experience. “My first year moving in, it was pretty cool because I got to meet a lot of people,” says Jordan Olive, a USF sophomore who lives in a residence hall on the Tampa campus. On move-in day, incoming students on his hall met up in the lounge for a Stranger Things watch party to celebrate their new home.

A Bigger “Friendship Market”


“In general, students make a lot of their friends in residence halls,” says McCabe. There are two main ways you make friends: propinquity (regularly encountering someone), and homophily (similar interests and identities). Residence halls put you in regular contact with other people because you share so many common spaces. “I talked with a lot of students that made friends in the residence hall lounge,” McCabe adds. “They struck up a conversation as they were brushing their teeth in the bathroom …. It may not seem that exciting to share a hall bathroom with someone, but these are the opportunities that you have to meet people.”

If you have the option, choose to live in a first-year residence hall rather than a mixed year residence hall, McCabe advises. “There’s this crucial period at the beginning of college, which I’m calling … ‘the initial friendship market,’ where people are open to making friends. First-year students are in this market. If you’re living in a residence hall with upper year students, they likely already have friends, and so they’re not participating in this market.”

If you have the option to choose your roommate, try to room with someone who is also a freshman and who shares your interests (more on this soon!).

All-Inclusive Cost


Prices vary depending on your school and location, but keep in mind that on-campus housing is sometimes less expensive because the costs are inclusive. This means you’ll have less bills to worry about. “Within [USF’s] cost structure, we include everything,” says Johnson. “We want [students] to focus more on their academic and social successes rather than having to worry about routine financial matters.”

Most residential halls also follow the school’s academic calendar, which means you don’t have to pay (or stay) during breaks. On the other hand, you might need to figure out how to sublet your off-campus apartment during summer break, and get landlord approval.

An Immersive Experience 


“Living on campus, it’s just a way to be closer to everything going on,” says Johnson. With no commute, you’ll be able to dive into the dozens of activities that pop up on campus every day. Depending on your school, world-class amenities may be right outside your residence hall. “At some schools, the list of campus amenities sounds more like a resort than a center for higher education,” Joe Emerson explains in this USF blog on the Difference in On-Campus and Off-Campus Housing.

What Are Your Residential Housing Options?

Your on-campus housing options will vary depending on your school, but here’s a look at what USF has to offer:

  • Traditional: Opt for a single or shared bedroom and use community bathrooms.
  • Suite: Again, you can pick a single or shared bedroom, but this time, you’ll only share your bathroom with your suitemates, rather than hall residents.
  • Apartment style: Choose from single- or double-occupancy bedrooms and share your kitchen, living room and bathroom with your apartment-mates.

Just a heads up: You might not get first dibs as a freshman. Some schools give higher priority to upper-class students. Make sure to submit your housing agreement as soon as your school allows to give yourself the most options.A group of friends playing foosball in their dorm hall.

What About Alternative Campus Housing?

If you’re looking for an even more close-knit experience, consider alternative housing options. For example, Greek Life at USF offers options like “a two- or three-story house with double-occupancy bedrooms, community bathrooms, a living room, and a kitchen for the residents as well as a community pool and volleyball court.”

Many schools also have living-learning communities (LLCs), where you can apply to live with peers who share your academic/career goals, interests, or identity. (At USF St. Petersburg, there’s even one for raising guide dog puppies in your residence hall!) “Being able to connect directly with people that are studying the same field that you are … or have [the same] interests, is very, very powerful,” says Johnson. This goes back to McCabe’s point: we make friends more easily when we have frequent interactions and share similar interests or identities.

What About Roommates?

We’ve all heard the horror stories: Roommates who refuse to shower all semester. Who steal your favorite sweater. Who insist on making 1 a.m. smoothies. It’s enough to make you shudder — but don’t scramble for a single room just yet! Your roommate may actually turn out to be “a really good friend or maybe your best friend,” as Olive says. Plus, having a roommate can be invaluable to your college experience. Here’s why:

You'll Have a Built-In Buddy System


“If you’re trying to find friends, your roommate is a great place to start,” says Olive. “Y’all are going to be living together — it’s fun, go hang out with each other.” Olive and his current roommate like to play FIFA, join pickup soccer games, and hit the gym together.

“Will you become friends with your roommate? You’re more likely to if you share things in common,” says McCabe. Sharing things in common doesn’t just mean that you both like Marvel movies. In fact, there are two questions that can be even more crucial than common interests:

  1. Are you an early bird or a night owl?
  2. What’s your standard of cleanliness?

These factors can make or break a roommate relationship. That’s why most schools who match you with a roommate will ask you to fill out a questionnaire that includes these topics. At USF, you’ll choose your own room and roommate in most cases, so be honest with potential matches about your lifestyle (night owl vs. early bird, messy vs. tidy). “Knowing yourself is really important,” McCabe says.

You Can Master Communication Skills


Living with someone else gives you a chance to practice communication skills that will set you up for success post-graduation. For example, if you have a conversation with a potential roommate about what’s important to you, it’ll help you have a good relationship while you’re living together, even if you don’t become pals for life, says McCabe.

Olive credits good communication for his successful roommate experience. “In the beginning of the semester, you’re required to fill out a roommate agreement form, so off the bat you know what people are cool with,” he says. But the conversation shouldn’t stop there. “I think throughout the year, you should always have some form of communication about what the other person is okay with … We’re both pretty upfront about what we need like, ‘Hey, bro, you good with this?’”

Living Off Campus

Not sure if on-campus life is right for you? There are plenty of valid reasons to choose a nearby apartment instead. Let’s look at some of the perks.

Perks of Off-Campus Housing

With more space and independence, off-campus apartments can be an enticing alternative to traditional residence hall life.

You'll Enjoy Greater Privacy


This is a big one. If you relish your alone time and can swing the rent, you might opt for a studio or one-bedroom apartment close to campus. Even if you end up sharing a multi-bedroom apartment with a roommate, the configuration might give you more space and privacy than what the residence hall offers.

Here’s a tip: Before you move in with friends, make sure you’ll be compatible as roommates, too. “Living with friends can allow you to spend a lot more time with your friends, and it can also really strain friendships,” McCabe points out. Ask each other important questions about your life habits (smoking, drinking, wake-up times, cleanliness, tidiness, extroversion/introversion, feelings on parties, feelings on pet spiders, etc.)

You'll (Possibly) Be Able to Bring Your Pet


If you have a beloved cat or dog, this is probably the biggest perk of all — it will be a lot easier to find pet-friendly off-campus apartments than pet-friendly residence halls. (Fish can probably come with you to campus residence halls, although you should always double check the housing policy before you set up Nemo’s aquarium.) A pet can be the very best kind of roommate, but please make sure you have the time to take care of them during your busy school year.

You'll Get a Taste of Real Adulting


To keep residence halls safe for everyone, residence halls have a lot of rules. You may not be able to throw a party, light a candle, or even use a toaster oven. If you’re a rebel who just feels pulled to eat toasted bagels while hosting a candlelit séance with a DJ, you might find more freedom in an off-campus rental.

Living off campus also gives you a more realistic taste of adult life. You’ll have to keep all your living spaces clean, grocery shop and cook your own meals, keep track of utility and Wi-Fi bills, pay rental insurance along with rent, and negotiate with your landlord. All of this can be stressful, but some students relish the opportunity to gain important life skills and truly step out on their own.


Off-Campus Options Might Fit Your Needs Best


You might have a special health need that makes living off campus the safer option. For example, students with serious food allergies might feel more comfortable living off campus. And in the age of COVID-19, students might prefer to live in a space that’s less densely populated than a residence hall environment.

Of course, if you want to live on campus but have a special need, your school should be willing to work with you. Johnson says USF has been “very successful” in meeting student accommodations, whether that means providing a space for a live-in, full-time aid or making sure the housing is accessible for students with physical or mental health concerns. Just make sure that if you’re applying to USF housing, you fill out the accommodation form before the priority deadline of June 1.Two girls sitting on a bed in their dorm room.

Options for Off-Campus Housing

Ready to set up your own apartment? Awesome! But before you sign on the dotted line, explore all your options for off-campus housing.

Affiliated Off-Campus Housing


Sure, you can hop on Zillow and browse apartments near your school, but it might be even better to ask your school if they have certain off-campus properties they recommend (also called affiliated housing). How “affiliated housing” works depends on your school — some properties might be managed by your university, and others might have to meet certain safety requirements to qualify or allow the university to inspect the housing.

Once you’ve narrowed down your apartment options, test out possible commutes. Be realistic with yourself about your time management skills and life habits — if you’re a night owl with early morning classes, you’ll want your commute to be as short as possible.



Some students choose to commute from their family home rather than live on campus or in a nearby apartment. It’s definitely the cheaper option — but before you make this choice, ask yourself:

  • Will you have good Wi-Fi access at home to do your homework?
  • Will you have a private study space?
  • Will family members respect your boundaries when you need to work?
  • How long is your commute to campus?
  • How can you transition into a more “adult” phase of living, even though you’re still with your parents? Are there responsibilities you can take on?

Intergenerational Housing


Renting from an older adult has become an increasingly popular choice for college students. Young adults need affordable housing, and older adults want to “age in place,” explains this article in the Washington Post. These two groups can match with each other on home-sharing sites like Nesterly.

At some universities, students can also live rent-free at senior facilities in exchange for enriching residents’ lives (for example, through musical performances). If you’re interested in a program like this, reach out to the university’s housing department.

Can You Still Make Friends If You Don’t Live on Campus?

Absolutely! “I think residence halls are an important place where students make friends, but they’re not the only place,” says McCabe. She suggests you make a point to attend orientation programming (which is required at schools like USF) and get involved with clubs and organizations that you enjoy. That way, you’ll be meeting people who share your interests. “Doing something that meets regularly is better than a one-off activity because of the propinquity that I mentioned before,” McCabe says. “You’ll see that person again if it’s a weekly club or if it meets at a certain interval rather than just a one-time activity.”

Here's another simple way to make friends: Rather than looking at your phone during downtime, try to make a connection with the people around you, McCabe urges. “One of the students in my study that I’m writing about in this new book said that she met her best friend after telling this girl that she really liked her shorts.”

Can You Still Take Advantage of College Resources If You Don’t Live on Campus?

Not only can you still use campus resources, but as an off-campus student, you should. You’ll feel more integrated into campus life if you visit the learning resource centers, study in the libraries, have a pool day with your friends, and talk to counselors at health centers.

“Campus resources, whether you live on campus or commute from home, are the same,” says Johnson. “They are all here to ensure that every student succeeds, and so [off-campus] students should be well aware that those resources don’t end because you live off campus.”

How Can You Choose What Kind of Housing You Want?

Even after reading this post, you still might not be sure what housing is right for you. Hey, we’ve all been there. For some extra help, feel free to contact USF’s Housing & Residential Education online or call 813-974-0001. You can also watch “USF Housing LIVE!,” an online series that gives you a sneak peek at life on USF’s campuses.