During my four years of college and university, I have lived in both the dorm and apartment settings.
For my freshman year, I lived at my house since the college was only 20 minutes away.
For my sophomore year, the campus was farther and I chose to live in a dorm.
In my junior year, I transferred to university and I lived in an apartment for one quarter than moved to two other dorms.
Presently, in my senior year, I still live in a dorm.
The following is a personal reflection and an explanation of why I chose to live in a dorm rather than an apartment. Maybe this different perspective will help prospective students decide where they want to live.
(It is important to note that my opinion stems from the fact that I don't like wasting time and I try to spend as little money as possible. I'm an Electrical Engineering major and I like to discipline myself when it comes to spending time and money.)
Why do I choose the dorm life over the apartment? The main reason is convenience. While apartments can generally be cheaper, if you are under financial aid (or if you win enough scholarships), your dorm is pretty much paid for.
Also, dorms are often closer to campus then apartments. I personally don't like wasting precious study time so with dorms, I can get to and from class quickly. You save on gas and you get exercise from all the walking! Obviously there are apartments within walking distance as was the case with the apartment I lived in.
I compared the cost of when I lived in an apartment and my present dorm setting. Taking into account the food and rent of an apartment compared to the dining plan (I signed up for the lowest), snack food, and cost of a dorm, I actually saved a couple hundred dollars living in a dorm despite the fact that I lived in a singles room in both scenarios. Maybe I was just lucky. I know this isn't the case everywhere. I also know it's definitely cheaper if you can get an apartment with a roommate.
Perhaps the best reason why I prefer a dorm over an apartment is because you can be more "lazy." With an apartment, you have to pay your monthly/quarterly bills. While this is good practice, it's not hard to learn and there is plenty of time as an adult to pay your bills. I'm trying to put that off as long as possible.
Additionally, when you live in an apartment, you have to buy and cook your own food. Buying your own food can generally be cheaper than a dorm's dining plan but it all depends on how much you eat and if you can go shopping and find some good deals. For me, the shopping and cooking takes up precious time. The downside to this is that you can't really eat whenever and whatever you want because you have to budget yourself (this is good practice though). My solution: I get snacks/extra meals for a fridge I have in my dorm.
Doing the laundry is the same with both the dorm and apartment. However, you do save a lot if your parents do the laundry! ;)
All in all, whether you choose a dorm or an apartment all comes down to personal preference, what you can afford, and the location of the dorm/apartment. Maybe students wanting a different perspective on housing preference will find this entry useful. If not, then at least now you know the general reason why I moved out of an apartment and into a dorm.