Can a college legally make you live on campus?

For your first year or two of college, many colleges and universities require you to live in residence halls. A few colleges compel students to live on campus for the entire four years. Can a college legally make you live on campus?

Can a college legally make you live on campus?

 Even if your institution enables students to live off campus, weigh the benefits and drawbacks of doing so before committing. 

Most US colleges require all freshmen to reside in college approved/sponsored (but not necessarily owned) housing if they are not married or living with their parents or legal guardians.

 Similarly, most institutions will allow you to live off-campus if you are a “older” freshman (22 or older).


Universities are free to establish their own policies. If you don’t agree with the policy, inquire as to why. If it is stated that attendance is required, you have the option to decline.

Non-students have easier access to off-campus housing than students do, both in terms of availability and community. Private flats are far more accessible than dormitories, which have become increasingly secure over time. 

Unless you live within a small radius of the school, many colleges require on-campus residency for the first year (about 30 miles or so). They feel that your time on campus is an important component of your education. 

However, some institutions have a student population that does not live on campus. No students reside on campus in commuter schools, which are mostly public universities and community colleges. Others require some (but not all) students to commute.

  • History as to why on campus living started

Colleges were once intended to supervise students to some level. While there is less control from “authority” persons in dorms at many colleges, this perception endures to some level. Dorm life serves as a bridge between comfort and the real world for many students who are living away from their families for the first time.

 You agree to follow the policies of the college when you enter. If you don’t, they may refuse to let you stay on as a student. If it is their policy for all freshmen to reside on campus, they may charge you for the dorm room, and if you do not pay, they may notify you that you are no longer enrolled and unable to attend classes.

  • Reasons behind making it compulsory 

They want you to learn how to live with roommates, become more self-reliant, stretch and grow, and have new/different experiences. 

Others may do so since there aren’t enough apartments available and they wish to be good neighbours in their communities.

 The problem of young students (especially freshmen and sophomores, if they’re traditional age students) having to rent apartments and causing problems for landlords and the city (police, fire, hospitals, etc.) is solved if the college requires all freshmen and sophomores (and possibly even juniors) to live on campus and ensures that they have adequate college housing (dorms).

Advantages of Staying on Campus 

  • When students feel like they belong at a college, they are more likely to stay. The retention and graduation rates of a college are directly influenced by this sense of belonging. New students who reside not on campus are less likely to participate in clubs and hobbies, and they have a harder time making friends among their classmates.
  • Why College is best when a student lives on campus because then it is able to assist them if they are having academic or social difficulties. When students are having difficulties, Resident Advisors (RAs) and Resident Directors (RDs) are trained to intervene and assist them, and they can refer them to the proper persons and services on campus.
  • Living on campus has several advantages, one of which is the built-in community of class mates. Without having to travel, you’ll be able to view and socialise with your classmates. Without that immediately accessible community, living off-campus might be more isolated.
  • Similarly, if there are several events on campus, living off campus may cause you to lose out on some of these possibilities. You’ll simply be less visible.
  •  Unless you live very close to school, which may or may not be possible, you’ll have a longer commute to your lectures.
  • This time can quickly build up, and if you’re driving to school, you may even have to spend time looking for a spot to park your vehicle. 
  • Living away from campus gives you more freedom, but it also comes with additional obligations. Cook and clean, go grocery shopping, payment of rent and stuff, and so on. Some children may be unable to handle this level of responsibility.

Disadvantages of living on campus 

  • Dorms are typically more expensive than off-campus residences, depending on the location (flats in major cities like New York and San Francisco can be even costlier). Plus, if you live on campus, you’ll almost always have to sign up for a meal plan, which may quickly add up. If you live off campus, you’ll have greater discretion over how you spend your money.
  • Dorm living is fantastic for socialising, but it can be difficult to stay focused. There’s always something to keep you occupied, and students are notoriously boisterous. However, there will be significantly fewer distractions if you live in a flat. It will be quieter, and lesser students will be there.
  • Having your own place means less supervision and more autonomy. You are not being watched over by a RA or another adult. To achieve this successfully, you will, of course, need a high level of maturity. It will need you to maintain track of expenses, tidy your place on a regular basis, and remain on top of your education, for example.


Dorm life provides the “typical” college experience while also assisting incoming students in making friends rapidly. As a commuter, you can still establish acquaintances, but it will require more effort. Late-night pizza runs also led to some amazing friendships. So basically my point being it’s a new experience living in hostels which despite having its drawbacks shouldn’t be missed.