College Compass: Perks of living on-campus


By Ana Altchek, Staff Writer

I will never forget when Pittsburgh hit negative-degree temperatures last winter. As the blistering winds beat against my face on the walk up Thackeray Avenue to my 8 a.m. astronomy class, I decided that I would not move off campus the following year. Luckily, my painful journey only lasted about five minutes, but if I lived off campus, I would not have even attempted to go to class that day. In fact, I probably would have missed a decent portion of class that semester.

While I admit I have a particularly low tolerance for the cold, I’m sure I’m not the only one that struggles to walk long distances in freezing temperatures. And even though that served as the ultimate factor in my decision to stay on campus, a long list of reasons made me hesitant to move off campus prior to the excruciating temperatures of last winter. Students who are currently experiencing this struggle should consider these reasons too.

As a third-year student, I’ve lived in three different buildings on campus and I’ve loved my experiences in all of them. Tower B dorm rooms definitely weren’t spatially ideal, but the painted walls and lounge rooms in Amos and the individual rooms in Bouquet Gardens, where I currently reside, have made up for it. I’m one of the few upperclassmen I know that staunchly advocates for on-campus living, but as someone with a variety of experience in different on-campus locations, I can defend my stance that the pros overwhelmingly outweigh the cons.

Since the majority of my friends live off campus, I am well aware of the argument of the other side — security guards and the entire sign-in process is a hassle, RAs cause students to feel on edge and students want their own space and the freedom that comes with it. Even if these complaints are reasonable, they still don’t compare to the perks of living on campus. Many students feel turned off by their first-year experience in Litchfield Towers or Bruce Hall, but most upperclassmen halls are significantly more comfortable, spacious and better conditioned. It wasn’t until I started seeing my friends live off campus that I realized how grateful I was to still be part of the University’s housing.

Surprisingly, it saves money

For me, one of the major factors in my decision to stay on campus was the cost. Some off-campus apartments certainly have monthly rates that no University buildings offer. Yet these numbers can be misleading — the monthly rent may appear low, but it’s the only fixed price in the agreement. Apartments and houses rarely come furnished and the cost of furniture combined with electricity, sewage bills and safety deposits can add up to be fairly onerous expenses.

During the extremities of the seasons, I personally like to use the heat and air conditioning at my discretion. I also like to take long showers, keep the television on and do my laundry at least once a week. These are all luxuries that I certainly would not be able to have if it was adding to my monthly bill. I enjoy living in a place where I don’t have to worry about every little scratch or stain I make. If I had the risk of losing hundreds of dollars from a safety deposit, I would constantly be on edge.

No leases, no problems

Another benefit of living on campus is the ability to back out of leases. Most leases last 12 months and as a student who prefers to take the summer off, this kind of agreement would feel like a major burden for me. While some students can find people to take over their lease for at least a couple months, the full expense of rent is rarely covered by subletters. I know from my friends’ experiences that finding a subletter can take months and the process is particularly stressful — in many instances it has discouraged people I know from opportunities to graduate early or study abroad. In fact, since I planned to graduate a semester early to save money, choosing an off-campus apartment for my senior year has already caused stress for me.

Campus proximity = campus involvement

Living on campus has also allowed me to remain involved with all aspects of my experience at Pitt. In addition to the short five-minute walk to all my classes, my adviser and professors’ offices are the same distance away, along with Hillman and the WPU. I have no excuse to skip classes — and I have no desire to because it requires minimal effort to get there. Not only has the proximity helped me maintain my class attendance for the last three years, but it has also helped me stay involved with campus activities. While I would like to think I would have the same involvement with activities if I lived off campus, I know that I would be quick to miss meetings and avoid appointments if I had to walk 20 minutes to get there.

10/10 security and staff

Another perk of living on campus is the safety measures that University housing guarantees. Not only do I always feel relatively safe if I have to walk home from Hillman after midnight, but the security system in the buildings — even without security guards — reassures me every time I enter. Many people find the security process extraneous, but I think a card swipe is a small sacrifice that goes a long way to protect me from breaks-ins, which are fairly frequent in South Oakland. Plus, as a pretty forgetful person, I’m glad I can have access to lockout codes when I lose my ID — I know carrying a key would present problems for me. 

Not only are the buildings safe from a security standpoint, but if anything breaks or isn’t working properly, I know that someone will come within the next few days to fix it. From what I’ve heard, people who live off campus can have very different experiences — landlords are rarely as reliable and thorough as Panther Central’s 24-hour helpline.

On-campus living also has smaller, but convenient perks — like mail services and vending machines as well as free amenities like dust pans and vacuums. University housing may not compare to a five-star hotel, but from what I’ve seen, neither do most off-campus arrangements. Before moving off campus, I highly suggest considering all the pros and cons of each arrangement — because the benefits are too numerous to ignore.