Spring Quarter has sprung, and life is worth living again. For the first time in months, it doesn't hurt to walk outdoors. The concept of midterms, papers and finals are far enough on the horizon to not induce cold sweats. Everything is in perfect balance.
That is, until you realize you have no clue where you're living next year.
While apartment hunting by spring quarter is decidedly more challenging than apartment hunting earlier in the year, it's not impossible. Given the option, those in housing purgatory should carefully consider whether or not it’s finally time to head off-campus. Here are some reasons why staying in the dorms another year is or is not the wise decision, and why it may be time to move into the wilderness that is the apartments of Evanston.
While apartment prices vacillate wildly, particularly depending on the apartment's distance from campus, they’re almost guaranteed to be lower than dorm housing. Given that those living in dorms are required to sign up for meal plans, which can cost as much as $199 per week, there are potentially thousands of dollars of savings in finding a low-rent apartment and eating inexpensively. If nothing else, this added flexibility (and closer proximity to Evanston) gives one more opportunity to explore some of E-Town’s finer dining establishments.
Remember that 9:30 a.m. class you always woke up for at 9:27 a.m. and yet never found yourself late to? That’s never going to happen again if you live off-campus. While some lucky souls may be able to keep it to a ten-minute commute, those farther afield may need to factor in upwards of 30 minutes into their trek. That, combined with the hell that is waiting for a nonexistent Northwestern shuttle in the middle of February, makes your perfectly-located freshman dorm look like a dream.
Apartments: More freedom
You didn’t just come to Northwestern to learn and to bask in the warm weather, did you? Of course not. While your wild days might be behind you (looking at you, freshman year Welcome Week), there’s a definite pleasure in being able to rage without the supervision of that always-present CA. Having your own apartment grants you total power over your weekend decision making, whether that means raging until you pass out on your own floor or Netflixing without judgment from anyone else.
Dorms: Distance from friends
When you live in a dorm, it’s easy to take for granted how effortless it is to see people. Especially in suite-style dorms, it takes about five seconds to assemble a group of your closest friends in one space, without really having to make plans beforehand. Unfortunately, when everyone finally decides to live off-campus, that easygoing access vanishes. You’ll have your roommates, which are very likely some of your best friends, but you’ll never return to the days of being able to stumble a few seconds in any direction and finding someone to chill with.
Apartments: No more dining hall food
Even though Northwestern somehow tricked Buzzfeed into thinking we have half-decent dining hall food, those who have lived with it for two (or more) quarters realize a meal at a dining hall leaves much to be desired. Sure, it’s quick and convenient, particularly for those lucky souls who live in dorms with dining halls, but there’s a price to be paid. No amount of Hot Cookie Bar can make up for the fact that the food you’re eating is a small step above fast-food quality. While there’s no way you’ll eat well at every meal while living off-campus, the ability to make one’s own decisions about what to eat is immensely liberating.
Dorms: Becoming an adult
Sure, part of college means accepting more and more responsibilities, until (hopefully) you’re able to make it on your own once you graduate. But there’s something painful about having to clean your own bathroom the morning after throwing a party. If taking care of your own life is challenging enough without the prospect of paying rent or regularly feeding yourself, the notion of taking care of your own apartment might be beyond comprehension.
Ultimately, the decision to return to the dorm life is an entirely personal one. The delicate balance of disparate forces that is involved in making such a weighty decision requires plenty of foresight and careful consideration. It's never a simple process, but making the right decision is one of the most important decisions you'll make all year – more important than deciding which frat you'll get drunk at this weekend.