Should I live on Residence during University?

Dear Surviving Studenthood,

I am entering my second year of university and am thinking about living on campus. I was wondering if you can give me the pros and cons? I live about 1.5 hours (one way) from campus but I find that living downtown (near/on the campus) is very expensive. I’m not sure what to do – and I don’t know enough about the experience to know that it is worth it. Can you give me the inside scoop?

Any thoughts?



Hey Anna,

Great question – it is a question a lot of students have, and I am delighted you submitted your question to us. To give you a fair answer, representative of a lot of perspectives, we sat around and discussed your question. Most of us live on campus because we go to a university out of town, but a few of us are in the same position as you – a choice between a crazy commute and a crazy residence expense.

Lets go through the pros and cons. We’re also simultaneously creating a different post about alternate options – and then you can go through the alternative ideas we generated for you – options you may not have yet considered.

The Pros of Residence

  • No commuting: As someone who suffered through hours of commuting a day, at odd hours hours, on the terrible TTC, I personally found residence was a safe haven. Three hours a day of traveling is 15 hours a week! You could get a part-time job with that kind of time! You could take a whole extra course! You could study more! All that travel time could be put to something so much more productive! And if you take more than one type of transit, the commuting equation doesn’t include the waiting times.
    • The other problem with commuting, is it is more than the time lost travelling. Personally, when I get home, I feel bus-sick from commuting for so many hours: I have to reconcile the horrible feeling of an upset stomach with the amount of time I lost to work on my assignments. You would be surprised how long it takes me to get back in the working groove – a problem I didn’t have on residence!
  • Independence: For many students, the possibility of independence in a residence life is appealing and exciting – the chance to spread your wings, be your own person, and experience life as you want to. To live away from home is a unique experience, and it is hard to explain to someone who has never tried it.
  • Saving Time: This is a different pro from commuting – which is just plain terrible on its own. Besides the three hours you save on commuting, you will be surprised how much more time you save in between classes.
    • One of the co-contributors who goes to U of T St.George provided an example: Lets say your class ends at 5pm. When you don’t have a place to live, you spend time looking for somewhere to work after class. The time it takes after a class to pack up your stuff, find somewhere else to sit (maybe you need a laptop plug!), unpack your bag again, open and turn on your laptop, and actually start working is a surprisingly long time.  And its only worse when you have another class at 6pm. If you to be there 10 min early, and your campus is huge (like U of T downtown), you have to leave at 5:30 to get to class by 5:50. In essence, the hour from 5-6 is lost in packing and unpacking your bag, walking in between classes, and looking for a place to study. You waste that hour – and that can increase with the number of classes you have a day!
    • Having a place to stay saves you a lot of time in between classes!

The Pros of Commuting/Living at Home

  • Saving Money: I hate to say it, but residence can be incredibly expensive, particularly in a large metropolitan area where many universities are located. For example, in downtown Toronto, residences can range anywhere from $9,000+ to $12,000+ a year! With the added cost of tuition (about $6000 a year, plus books), the total cost even with the cheapest residence can be over $15,000 a year, over four years! Many students (or their parents) cannot incur that sort of cost.
  • Independence: I know – it is pro, right?! Actually, independence can a big con – living on campus, whether in a house with friends, or a university residence means taking responsibility. The university does not stand for uncleanliness, inappropriate behaviour or irresponsibility. You need to clean up after yourself, and make your own food etc. Many times students think they can relax on the chores, but the left-over food wrappers lead to bugs. You room can get dusty and dirty and insect-infested before you know it! If you can’t handle the responsibility – then the independence is a con.
  • Homesickness/Loneliness: Once in a while, living alone on residence, in the wee hours of the morning while studying, homesickness can hit you hard. Living alone can make you – well, lonely – and it is an experience a lot of university students find unnerving, especially in your first year.
  • The things out of your control: crazy roommates, loud music, bad food – these are all the things can be associated with residence. You can eliminate some of these problems – getting a single room, living in a residence which is known to be quieter, getting a flexible meal plans which allows you to eat healthy options.

Choosing to live on residence is a personal choice – sometimes independent factors may affect your decision. For example, wanting to live in a dorm that is not co-ed, or being uncomfortable with a residence  that has a religious affiliation that is different from your own. Every person should weigh their own pros and cons – maybe a con for me may not be as big as a problem for you. The important thing is to make a decision that will enhance your education. In the end, you are going to university to learn – if a problem, even a small one, will regress the progress of your education, its not worth it. But if a con (such as travelling) is so big of a problem that you studies will be okay, it may be worth saving the money.

Good luck on your decision – feel free to comment and give Anna some other pros and cons, or follow up with any questions you may have.


Surviving Studenthood

p.s. Do you have a question for us? Send us an email and we will write a specialized post answering your question – just for you!


6 responses

  1. Hi, just wondering if you’re still planning on writing that alternatives to res and commuting post. I have to make the same decision and if there was an alternative it would really help.

    1. Hi The Apprentice

      So sorry we never commented earlier – there is a post up answering your question!

      Should I live in Residence? Part II –

  2. I have a question, my step mother is stressing me out about the constant costs of residence and would prefer me to stay home to save money. like i hear what she is saying but like i really want that first time experience and to say “hey i lived on campus before”. And she is also stressing me out that i need a job, if i am going to live on campus….

    I don’t know what to do!


    1. Hi Whitney,

      Please check out our post “Cost of Res v. Campus Experience” – we wrote it just for you!

  3. […] got a great question on our previous post “Should I Live on Residence During University” and we decided it was worthy of a blog response! The question […]

  4. hey, I have a question…. I am a very shy person and have trouble making new friends, but in September I going to start attending college and I can’t decide if I should live in residence. It might not be such a good idea for someone like me. I’m also very close to my family, moving away would be such a hard thing, but I guess in a way it would teach me to have some independence. living in residence is even very expensive, so my parents would only let me do it, if I was really serious and into the idea of it, but I’m afraid to end up not liking it, and wasting money. It such a big risk moving into residence!

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