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Why Off-Campus Apartments in Boston May Be the Smart Choice Over Dorms

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Off campus apartments Boston

Preparing to start a new semester means making tough decisions about what classes to take, whether to get a job, and what activities you want to make time for. One of the toughest decisions is deciding where to live. If you are trying to figure out whether to live in the dorm or in an off campus apartment in Boston, there are many things you need to consider before you make that decision.

Sure, dorms are great for some people. The university may even require you to live in the dorm your freshman year. So why do so many sophomores and upperclassmen choose to live in apartments near campus?

Boston university students moving

1. Privacy

Off-campus apartments let you choose the people you share your living space with. In large dorms, you could be sharing a bathroom or even a bedroom with multiple people. Even in larger dorms, you may be forced to share living space with strangers. In an off-campus apartment, you generally get to choose the people you live with, and the only ones who have a key are the people you allow.

Many Resident Assistants (RA’s) are given access to dorm rooms to enforce many on-campus regulations. In an off-campus apartment, you don’t have to worry about a surprise spot-check to ensure your fire extinguisher is unobstructed under the sink. If you live in an off-campus apartment, you’re protected by Massachusetts tenant laws and a landlord must give you reasonable notice before entering the premises.

Pet friendly apartment

2. Amenities & Policies

In most cases, apartments offer more amenities than dorm rooms, like full kitchens, dedicated living rooms, and your own bathroom. The inclusion of features like full kitchens within apartments allows students to have greater control over their dietary choices, fostering independence and a healthier lifestyle. Some apartments also offer bike storage, fitness facilities, and gaming rooms.

Importantly, some off-campus apartments go a step further by accommodating pet owners. The opportunity to find pet-friendly apartments can be a significant factor for students who wish to keep their furry companions close. This option not only enhances the overall living experience for pet owners but also mitigates the emotional challenges of leaving pets behind, which is often a concern when staying in on-campus dorms.

Boston apartment guests

3. Visitors

Dormitories typically impose restrictions on overnight guests, often requiring explicit permission from the resident advisor (RA). This bureaucratic process can be cumbersome and intrusive, discouraging students from having guests over regularly. On the contrary, off-campus apartments afford a greater degree of autonomy, allowing residents to dictate their guest policies. In this setting, you have the freedom to decide who stays overnight and when, without the need for constant permissions. This flexibility not only promotes a more relaxed and inviting atmosphere but also grants students a sense of control over their living space, fostering a more adult and independent living experience.

Boston Apartments Grocery store nearby

4. Location

On-campus dorms are just that: on campus. But what if your job or family is in another neighborhood? An off-campus apartment may bring you closer to the people you care about and may reduce your commute to work leaving you more time to study. Another reason that staying off-campus may be more convenient is that restaurants and stores are usually found near apartments and not dorm rooms. Grocery stores, especially those with more and diverse options, are hard to come by on some campuses.

Writing check

5. Cost

Depending on the University you attend, living in an off-campus apartment in Boston is usually cheaper than in a dorm. With access to a full-sized refrigerator and oven, you can cook for yourself and save money on meal plans and take-out. Dorms generally charge a higher price to share a room than you would pay to rent an off campus apartment with your own, private room.  Many people find they can study better when they can have their own room and go to bed at their own time without disturbing others.

Let's Discuss a Concrete Example

This year the price for a single room in a traditional style hall at Northeastern University costs $6,075 a semester. This consists of bedrooms with "shared floor bathrooms" and requires a meal plan. Being 15 week terms, the price per week would be $405, and if we consider a month to have 4.35 weeks then the price per month comes out $1,761.75 + meal plan costs (which can range from $754- $1,277.45 per month following the same formula). This is the equivalent of $2,515.75+ per month in rent and basic food.

You could find one or two roommates and rent a larger space for $1,500-1,700 a person very close to campus, or look a bit further out to save even more money. You will each have your own bedroom, shared living spaces, a kitchen, and you won't need to share your bathroom with strangers. You might even get lucky and score an apartment in Boston with an outdoor deck! In Massachusetts, the average cost of groceries per month is $300 for college students- while leaving room for a separate "eating out" budget. Students spend on average $410 a month eating out, but this depends entirely on the student's habits. Plenty of college students opt to cook more meals in order to save more money. In any case, you can have more options regarding your food, as well as establish healthier habits, for less than the cheapest meal plan option typically available.

Boston Apartment

6. Convenience

The price per month is not the only thing to consider when comparing the cost of on-campus versus off-campus living. Dorms are generally open only during the school year, and you may have to move in and out each semester. If you stay in the dorm, you have to figure out where you are going to live during the summer and winter breaks. Short-term rentals can be expensive, and so can flights back home if you're originally from out of state and need to move back in between Semesters. If you get an off-campus apartment, you don’t have to move every semester or pay the inflated rates to find a space a few months at a time.

The decision to live in an off campus apartment vs. on-campus dorm living is never an easy one, and it’s largely dependent on your University’s housing policies and your lifestyle preferences. That being said, you can make a pretty good case for the advantages of renting off campus compared to living in the dorms. For a huge database of off campus living options, check out!

Paul Chang

Paul Chang

Published January 18, 2024

Paul is the leasing manager for Boardwalk Properties- Mission Hill, with a passion for making agents reach their full potential. Prior to becoming a leasing manager, he was a top closer for the Boardwalk properties team. He loves helping clients with all their real estate needs, from leasing to investment sales.