When is it too early for students to live on their own terms?

By Olivia Montes

Elm Staff Writer

It is one of the most important questions that every college-bound student asks before the first day of a brand-new semester — right after which classes to take, which majors or minors to pursue, and which fraternity or sorority to pledge for by the end of the year: whether to live on-campus for their entire college experience.

It all depends on the student themselves whether to stay on-campus for roughly all four years of college, but living on campus for at least the extent of their first full year of classes is mandatory.

“Living on campus as a first-year student is beneficial,” Doug Williams of The San Diego-Union Tribune said in 2015. “Students are able to develop lifelong friendships, participate in activities that build community and support their learning and development,” he said.

On both sides of the argument, there are a lot of benefits to living on a college campus. According to a 2013 New York Times article, this on-campus experience can broaden one’s perspective and gain valuable life skills while learning how to be who you are.

Of course, there are downsides to living in on-campus housing, such as lack of disability access or funds, and often, living off-campus or even commuting back and forth between school and home becomes more appealing.

However, schools are taking the initiative to make sure all students are included in the college experience, regardless of ability or background. For Washington College, this means taking away the opportunity for students to live off-campus prior to senior year. Even then, the application process cannot guarantee that someone who qualifies will be accepted.

“Living on [the WC] campus means you are close to social events, academic support services and athletics,” said Amy Sine, Assistant Director of Residence Life at WC in a previous Sept. 2019 Elm article. “There is a certain amount of convenience in being so close to everyone and everything. We also have a phenomenal RA staff that is available to students to help connect them with any resources or support they may need,” she said.

Living on-campus is important for incoming freshman or transfers to help transition to this new life-style. In many ways, living on-campus saves students from thinking their next meal, or getting to class on-time with traffic or bad weather.

“Off-campus student housing allows for more freedom, [but] off-campus apartments are designed for upperclassmen who have matured and can handle the freedom of living off campus,” Ambling Management Company Regional Vice President Michael Williams said to The New York Times in 2013. “They accept that they will not be quite so close to classes, but they have vastly more amenities.”

But, in order to establish oneself completely into the life of a full-time college student, or even gain the courage and confidence to apply for off-campus housing, one should take the advantage of living on campus for their first year to learn key responsibilities they can carry along with them long after they have graduated, such as time management, integrity, and perseverance. There should not be such a rush junior, or even sophomore, year to get off campus.

Communal living is necessary for growth and the connection that lacks today from cellphone use that focuses on kept connections instead of gaining new ones. Especially for a campus like WC, these intimate surroundings grant students an opportunity to connect easily beyond their own cohort of peers. Beyond that, these adopted connections should be what prompt students to take the jump to live off-campus and experience adulthood with a strong support system and prior experience.

If students take the initiative to live on-campus during their first year of college, not only do they get a feel of what life-changing resources and opportunities are available at the campus, but they gain simulation of what the real world is like post-graduation, achieving the skills they need to approach and conquer the real world.

“Students learn communication skills, time management and independent living skills, all while having the support of the Residential Life staff,” Sine said.

However, WC Residential Life should not stop students from leaving the nest if they feel ready sooner than others.

Just like college itself, living beyond campus is something that someone should experience at least once in their lives.

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