Nearly 7 billion students attended a four-year college in 2013, and even more students are enrolling in the 629 public and unnumbered private institutions next year. That makes it more important than ever for colleges to offer adequate student housing, whether that means on campus housing, college student apartments, or student rentals, and for students to know what to expect from it.

First Things First: What’s The Difference Between Dorms And College Student Apartments?
If you are very new to this sort of thing, you may not even know how dormitories and off campus apartments really differ — other than their locations. Hint: There are a ton of differences. Most notably, nearly all college student apartments have one, two, three, or five rooms. Kitchens and living areas may be shared but, unlike dorms, bedrooms are standalone affairs. Another big difference is cost. While the cost of a dorm may be factored into tuition or a single fee that students or their parents pay to the college, chances are that fee is a lot higher than the rent for comparable apartments nearby. It may be a bit of a walk, but there is a good chance it’s worth it in the end.

Why Would Anyone Live On Campus?
With these things in mind and some other less-than-pleasant details (just think about how many pairs of feet have been in those showers over the years!), you may wonder why anyone would live on campus willingly. First, many colleges either mandate on campus living for the first year, or highly recommend it. The reason being that college dorms encourage students to socialize and meet their fellow students. They encourage students to regularly attend class (they are, after all, right there), and they often provide structured, quiet study rooms to help students prepare for exams, complete homework and required reading, and more.

So you’re going to college. That’s great. Realistically know what to expect. You may have to tough it out in a dorm for a year. It’ll be more expensive and you’ll likely have a roommate, but at least you’ll make some friends!