How to succeed in college: Part 9

With today’s post I finally reach the end of my discussion of Jeff Beals’ article about how to succeed in college. His last piece of advice is “Be on campus.” He says that he believes you will do your best if you live on campus and are fully immersed in campus life, but he also recognizes that it’s not always possible—because of financial considerations or family obligations or a myriad of other reasons. So what Beals says you should do, if you can’t live on campus, is spend as much time as possible there—studying in the library or a student center and eating meals there if you can.

I don’t disagree that living on campus gives you a special kind of experience—it allows you to participate more fully in campus activities and develop relationships with classmates and faculty that is much more difficult if you’re not there all the time. However, having spent many years in college myself (as an undergrad and as a graduate student), and having living on campus for only one of those years, I can see some benefits to living off campus as well. So what I’m going to try to do here is show the advantages of each. And, really, there are three possible scenarios: living on campus in campus housing, living off campus in nearby apartments or other housing, and living with family, but I will combine the first two since the advantages are very similar.

Advantages of living on campus or in nearby off-campus housing:

• As stated previously, you can more fully participate in the life of the campus, including extracurricular activities (and they have become so much more important in recent years).

• You’re likely to build stronger relationships with classmates, which can help you build your network during your college years and after graduation.

• You can more easily take advantage of professors’ office hours, public lectures, arts and entertainment or sporting events, and other activities sponsored by the school. (I did make it a point to take advantage of professors’ office hours—something I think is valuable, but which few students seem to recognize.)

• You have the opportunity to make more choices about how you spend your time and possibly more flexibility in creating your course schedule.

• You learn to be more independent.

• You save time (and money) by not having to commute to campus, and may be able to avoid the expense of owning, insuring, maintaining, and parking a car.

• If you have one or more roommates, you can learn a lot about getting along with others in close quarters.

Advantages of living off campus with family:

• The biggest advantage is financial—it’s unlikely that living at home will cost as much as room and board on or near campus. You’ll face the costs of commuting—both in time and money, but the bottom line is still likely to be a lower cost than living on campus.

• You may have fewer distractions. This really varies depending on your situation, but you will be less likely to be involved in extracurricular activities, sports, parties, and other events if you’re not living on campus. The flip side is that you may have more distractions at home in the form of family obligations or expectations.

• You may have more emotional support from family than you would get from classmates, so it may be less stressful to live and study at home.

• It may be quieter at home, so, if you need quiet for studying, the comfort of your old bedroom may be a better place to work than a dorm room or even a library.

• If you have dietary restrictions, or if you’re just plain fussy about what, when, and where you eat, you may find that eating at home is more comfortable than finding something you like at a cafeteria. (Although I must say that the food in colleges these days is way better than it was when I was a freshman!)