Staying On Campus vs Off Campus for University Students

If you aren’t aware, most universities in Singapore offer on-campus accommodation for their students. This means that students can live near the university (for a fee, of course) and stay there for at least a year. Many freshmen who enter university might struggle between choosing to stay on-campus or not, and so I thought I could provide some insight into the various considerations one can have when deciding.

I will first go over the more basic, self-explanatory factors that help students decide on staying on or off campus, then talk about NUS-specific accommodations and the possibilities for future NUS students. So, without further ado, here are my considerations for university housing!

Individual Factors: Geography

I think for many university students, the initial consideration is where you stay. For example, NTU is notorious for being relatively difficult to travel to, and many students often choose to stay on-campus to reduce travel time. After all, no one enjoys waking up at 5am for an 8am lecture (which could genuinely happen)! And if you are an NUS student staying in Punggol or Jurong East, for example, you might want to look into on-campus accommodations just to save travel time. Additionally, the problem is not just limited to waking up early for classes, it is also about the amount of time you can save. Staying on-campus means that you take a short ten-minute bus ride back to your dorm, and you can immediately start working on that group project. This is in comparison to the hour-long travel time back home. And while you could technically study on the bus, it’s just not the same (for me, at least). Finally, having to take public transport after a nine-hour-long day is just tiring, as compared to taking a short bus ride and crashing on your college bed.

Individual Factors: Finances

Another relatively straightforward consideration is the finances. Yes, staying on-campus requires you to pay a fee. The NUS website gives an estimate for on-campus housing of roughly $4,600 to $5,500 for a year. You also need to take into account the cost for a meal plan or the cost of NUS food, as well as potential living expenses (e.g. toiletries etc.). All of these can add up to additional fees on top of your usual semester tuition fees, and if you are either unwilling or unable to pay, then perhaps you should consider remaining at home.

Individual Factors: Lifestyle

Another common factor that people use to decide whether or not they want to stay on-campus is their lifestyle. What exactly do I mean by this? Well, a very common thought process for on-campus housing revolves around having a social life. And quite frankly, that is a very valid point.

I personally chose to stay off-campus, but I do have a friend who had on-campus housing for two years. And honestly the differences are very noticeable. Whenever I visit her on-campus, the people in her resident college (RC; one form of NUS housing) often have a schedule where people in the RC go and buy dinner for everyone else on a rotational basis. Also, they can leave notes outside the door, and these kinds of seemingly small things can make a big difference in university. Additionally, living on-campus allows you to see a larger number of people and for a longer duration (you stay there 24/7), and it is easier to become naturally closer to people. This is in comparison to me, who stays off-campus, and only ever sees people in either lectures or tutorials, and who has a mainly working relationship with the people in my tutorial group. So if you prioritize a social life, I personally think that on-campus housing definitely helps.

In addition to the increased probability of meeting people, staying on-campus also helps you socialize through CCAs. Many CCAs are held on-campus, and are most likely run at night. It is just easier for you if you’re staying on campus, as you can just head down to UTown five minutes before it starts. But if you’re staying off-campus, you might have to plan your modules, and after CCA ends you have to be prepared to travel back and arrive home relatively late. This additional hassle can be a real barrier to joining CCAs, which is unfortunate because CCAs also allow you to bond over connected interests with other NUS students!

Finally, another lifestyle-related factor involves being more independent. If you stay off-campus, you are forced to do budgeting, you are forced to do laundry and clean up your room, you are in charge of your bed etc. For some people, this can be quite a change, and not everyone is fully comfortable with it. And that’s ok! If you would rather just relax at home, then that’s perfectly fine as well.

Overall, these are some of the factors that are considered when people decide whether they wish to stay on-campus.

NUS Housing: General Overview

Broadly speaking, NUS has four main residential options: halls, houses, residential colleges and student residences. One of the main factors to consider is the location — some are clustered around UTown (the main ‘hub’ area for NUS students), but some are not, and you do need to take a bus to arrive at the accommodation. You can see which ones are at UTown from the map on this website. You can also go find the locations of your faculty, and see which option is the closest for you — just download the NUS bus app, type in the accommodation name/address, and type in the faculty to see if it is convenient.

Aside from location, the main contention for NUS students is whether or not to stay in a hall or residential college (RC). Both of these are relatively different in terms of their approach. Broadly speaking, hall is considered more ‘sociable’ (arguably overly sociable at times). Why do I say this? Well, in hall, you are only guaranteed one year of stay. This means that you could be staying on-campus as a freshman and have no accommodation in year two. And the way you get to remain in hall is by racking up ‘hall points’, which are accumulated through social activities. CCAs and social gatherings all help increase your points, which increases the probability of you staying back another year.

Meanwhile, in an RC, you are guaranteed two years of stay from the start. There is no need for accumulation of any points, and in general it is considered by many to be more ‘chill’. So, if you’re less extroverted, you might want to consider this option. However, there are also possible cons of RC: firstly, you have to apply to get in (i.e. write essays and go through an interview), and the application can be relatively competitive which means you might not get a spot. Secondly, if you are staying in an RC, there is a general stereotype that the people there tend to be more ‘academic’, especially since you have to take specific modules to meet RC requirements. So, for CHS students, this means that instead of taking certain core modules, your RC modules will replace those and meet both RC and CHS requirements. Finally, it should be noted that most (if not all) students can only stay in RC for two years maximum, and that they often go back to off-campus housing after the time period is up. This is unlike hall where, technically, if you continue accumulating points and have a large social network, you can continue to stay on.

I have found two Reddit posts that give greater insight into both hall and RC, and have linked them here. I did not stay on-campus so I cannot share any experiences, and I think those Reddit posts did a good job of summarizing residential college life. I do not know anyone staying in houses, so I cannot share much about that. I can say, however, that one of my friends was staying at Tembusu for two years, and missed staying on-campus so much that she applied for housing in student residences and managed to get accepted. Although she said that it was ‘quieter’ and less overly sociable, overall, it was a nice peaceful living situation. So, make of that what you will. If you are still struggling to pick which residential option you would like to stay in, I fully recommend just using Reddit to see what other people are saying, as oftentimes the information shared is relatively accurate and representative of reality.

And that’s all from me! See you all next time!


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