Residence Hall vs. Apartment: What’s the Difference?
One of the biggest housing-related questions you may have after your first year at UIUC is where to live next—an apartment or a residence hall? As someone who lived in a residence hall freshman year and now is living in an apartment, I believe I’m pretty qualified to speak on this topic and will be unbiased in my review. Here are some of the biggest differences I’ve noticed based on my experiences:
The convenience of the dining halls can’t be ignored; you never have to cook, wash dishes or even think about what you want to eat because the dining halls are buffet-style. You do have a limited amount of swipes and dining dollars, however, but I found that even the 12 meals/$15 dining dollars (the cheapest dining option) was enough for me freshman year.
While dining in an apartment is more of a hassle, the biggest pro is that you get more choice in what you want to eat. Want to eat out? Green Street is the place for you. Want to have a say in the ingredients you want in your dish? You do! The biggest downside is just cooking and cleaning in general, but once you get the hang of it (meal prep!) it’s not too bad.
Residence halls win this hands down. It’s very easy to meet people because you’re constantly surrounded by them, and residence halls also have different events (holiday events, dining events, floor meetings, etc.) that are great to meet people.
In my experience, it’s not as easy to meet people in an apartment just because by the time people start moving to apartments, they already have found their friend groups. Most apartments also don’t really have any kinds of social events, so it definitely isn’t as social.
Probably one of the biggest factors to consider. Most people I talked to mentioned that the reason they left the residence halls was because it was so expensive, especially the meals. However, what some people may not realize is that meal plans become much more flexible in undergraduate residence halls, where you can get 6-meal + dining dollars meal plans or even no meal plan! You also don’t have to pay for summer, which is a big plus.
Apartments seem cheaper at face value, but there are some costs associated with apartments that aren’t with residence halls:
- Transportation (to get the groceries)
- Utility fees (this is BIG. Make sure to know your apartment’s utility fees; they add up)
- Eating-out costs
- Extra furniture (my apartment didn’t come with a TV or trash cans)
- Hidden fees (many apartments have this so make sure to be aware of them)
Another reason people want to leave the residence halls is due to privacy. I completely get this—it can be weird to share a bedroom with a random person and communal bathrooms aren’t always … nice. However, many upper class residence halls have more privacy in which you can have your own bedroom and bathroom! Check the room plans to see what works for you, but there are definitely options.
I’m not gonna lie, I love having my own bedroom and bathroom in my apartment. It’s my sanctuary to destress and relax after a busy day, and it makes me more productive as well. That’s why apartments win this category for me, but it’s really up to your personal preference to see which option works best for you!
My experience with management at University Housing has been pretty positive. Maintenance fixes were very fast—I just submitted a request and it would be solved in a matter of days. All the people I met (dining hall workers, BSWs, front desk clerks, RAs) have also been good. If you do ever have a complaint, you can always turn to your RA/RD.
The management at my apartment has been so-so. One big thing is that we submitted a request to be placed at one side of the apartment due to health concerns, but they completely ignored that. It also took them 3 months to fix the front door so you actually have to swipe to enter (in the past, anybody would have gotten in). Their mail service is nice though and I’ve never had to worry about a package being stolen!
That being said, MAKE SURE to do research on your apartment company because some companies are NOTORIOUS for their awful management!
Room selection at University Housing is actually so convenient because you can pick exactly which room you want (as long as it’s not already taken). This means that you can pick a room near the elevator if you know you’ll be in and out a lot, or perhaps you want to be closer to the trash room just so you don’t have to carry your garbage down an entire hallway. You can also select which floor you want to be on (don’t want upstairs neighbors?)! Lots of value here, just make sure to look at the floor plan!
I’m not 100% sure how other apartment companies work, but I had no say in which room I got. My room is tragically very close to an on-campus bar, unfortunately, and the constant noise at night has definitely been the biggest, most-terrible downside of my apartment (and the reason why I’m not continuing with this apartment company next year). I also have very loud upstairs neighbors, so to be honest my room selection in the apartment hasn’t been that positive.