Do You Have to Pay for Your College Dorm – Is Anything Free?

When I was planning for the expenses of colleges, the price of dorms was on my list of questions, and whether or not they were free. I’m here to tell you if college dorms are free, what’s included, and how to save money on them.

Are college dorms free? College dorms are typically not free, and are charged in addition to the price of college classes. Although not free, the price of a dorm may include utilities and shared amenities such as a game room. One can save on expenses by living in co-operative housing, or becoming an employee of the dorm.

If you’d like to learn more about how much dorms are, what’s included in the price and how to save them, check out the rest of the article below.

If College Dorms Aren’t Free, How Much Are They?

Unfortunately, college dorms are another cost to factor in to the price of going to college. Of course, this is assuming that you are planning on living on or near campus. You can generally expect to pay somewhere in the neighborhood of $8,000 to $13,000 per year, including meals. However, the price will heavily vary based upon how nice of a dorm room you want, the status of the school you’re attending, and how many roommates you want. As some general examples:

  • Living with one or more roommates will be cheaper than living in a room by yourself.
  • Private 4-year school dorms are almost 50% more expensive than public 2-year school dorms.
  • You can expect to pay more in an Ivy league dorm than you will in a state school dorm.

What’s Included In The Price of a College Dorm?

Although dorms are not free, there are a number of things that are typically included within the price of a college dorm:

  • Utilities: General utilities such as electricity, gas, water, trash, and internet are included within the dues of a college dorm. On occasion, you may need to pay an additional amount for internet, but it’s not that common.
  • Amenities: The majority of dorms will have common spaces that can be used for studying or socializing. On occasion, you may have dorms that offer a communal game room, TV area, kitchen or gym. If you’re really lucky, you may even end up finding a hot tub or swimming pool! You can usually assume that the more you spend on a dorm, the nicer the amenities will be.
  • Communal Cleaning: If you’re living in a dorm that has shared spaces such as bathrooms and showers, you can usually assume that these areas will be cleaned by a janitorial service. Also, they will usually take care of hallways and shared study areas.
  • Location: The best part about living in a college dorm is usually the location. Dorms are usually on-campus, or extremely close to campus, therefore the need for personal transportation (like driving a car) is not needed. Also, you’ll often find campus transportation, such as as busses, will run between your dorm and the popular campus buildings or spots.
  • Meals: On occasion, you may find a dorm that forces the price of meals into the annual dues. This is not common, as students can usually choose a meal plan that fits to their liking, whether it’s eating 3 times or 7 times a week in the local cafeteria.
  • Experiences: Although this is a little cheesy, the social experience is included within the price. Being around a large group of people going through the same things as you are something that’s hard to put a price on.

How to Save Money on The Price of a College Dorm

1. Grants & Scholarships

The most effective way for a freshman to save on the price of college dorms are through grants or scholarships. These are lump sums of money that are awarded to students based on academic, athletic, or other unique achievements. These amounts can then be applied towards expenses such as classes, books, room and board (dorm room), and meal plans. Some grants and scholarships have restrictions on what they can be used on, so be sure to do your homework on your specific situation.

2. Live with Roommates

Nearly all colleges will offer dorm rooms that house anywhere from one student to sometimes five students. You can generally expect that the more roommates you have, the less you will have to pay per month. Having a single room is considered a luxury in college, therefore you will definitely be paying for it.

3. Become An Employee of The College Dorm

If you’re a returning student who has already lived in a dorm for a year or longer, you are then eligible to apply for a job with a college dorm. The most common job is being an RA, which stands for Resident Assistant. When you move into your dorm, you will become very familiar with your RA. They will be a fellow student, nearly always an upperclassman, that is responsible for looking over their specific floor or wing of a dorm. Why would anyone do this? Because they usually live for free.

Although becoming an RA sounds like an awesome gig, it’s not always as glamorous as it sounds. There is a significant amount of responsibility put on an RA, and just to name a few:

  • You have to enforce rules, so residents will generally have a reason to dislike you.
  • If anything goes wrong on your floor, you’re forced to deal with it. This means that you need to be home as often as possible.

4. Live in a Co-Operative Housing Establishment

A co-operative dorm, also known by short as “co-op dorms”, are dorms where students are assigned responsibilities within their dorm, and in return, receive cheaper dues on room costs. The students are responsible for managing and running the entire dorm themselves, therefore they are usually smaller than traditional dorms. Students can generally expect to spend a couple hours a week doing a specific job, whether it’s cleaning, cooking, or landscaping.

Co-operative dorms are usually limited, therefore be sure to research the options available to your specific university. Because they’re cheaper, and offer greater life lessons such as keeping a household in order, you can expect that they fill up quicker and have more restrictions than a typical college dorm.

5. Live With Family or Friends

If you have the luxury of living near a parent, family member, or friend, check if you can live with them. If they will charge you less than the price of a dorm, you may want to take them up on their offer. However, don’t forget that living in a dorm is part of the college experience, and you may be missing out on some of the best parts of college if you choose to live off-campus and away from your peer group.

Planning to move to college soon? Be sure to check out our guide on how to prepare to move-in to a college dorm.

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