What’s better: living on or off campus during the pandemic?
To start, Boston University’s housing has always been and continues to be extremely expensive. Many living situations require you to invest in a dining plan as well — which some students may not want or use.
Is that money really well spent when the majority of classes are remote and you rarely leave your room? Probably not.
But Boston real estate is expensive in general. And although apartment rental prices are nothing to sneeze at, off-campus housing is definitely more attractive for its living quality. Unless you’re staying at 33 Harry Agganis Way or 10 Buick St., most apartments will be better quality than, say, a Warren Towers dorm with communal bathrooms. In other words, it could offer more bang for your buck.
If you receive financial aid from BU that covers your housing, however, it would be more practical to stay on campus rather than pay out of pocket for an alternative living arrangement. Especially if you have the Charles River Housing Grant, you don’t exactly have the luxury of deciding between housing options.
Plus, moving off campus means sacrificing the four-year housing guarantee, which comes in handy when trying to plan your living arrangements months in advance.
Price and quality aside, convenience is also important to consider.
Living on campus may be more convenient because of BU facilities and custodial services. If your room has a problem, you can have it fixed without getting charged. With housing already so expensive, it’s comforting to know you don’t have to worry if something happens to your living space.
Normally, in a pre-pandemic world, off-campus students would also have to constantly make the trek to and from campus. But because classes have either moved online or adopted a hybrid format, you would have to come onto campus much less often than before.
And living off-campus truly is a great way to ensure the city experience. If the University chose to close campus again due to a spike in COVID-19 cases or a state or nationwide rollback, the majority of on-campus residents would have to return home.
All of these factors are important to consider when debating the prime spot to live on or near the Charles River Campus. But nothing is more important than balancing safety and socialization during a pandemic.
On campus, COVID-19 rules are strict: You can’t invite other students to your dorm building, you always have to show your Healthway green badge if there is a security guard and you can’t eat with your friends in the dining hall after the removal of household dining tables.
And there’s always a nagging, pervasive fear that despite all the safety precautions, one day your negative test will turn positive, and you’ll be carted off to isolation housing.
In a pandemic, there’s also little opportunity for social interaction. Attempts at pandemic-safe socialization — whether that be universitywide or driven by Residence Life in singular dorms — have not always succeeded in creating community for students. Dorms that are hard to adjust to and live in may feel even more unbearable without the casual social interaction that typically permeates day-to-day life.
Of course, it makes a huge difference where you live on campus and whether you have roommates. Without roommates, the feeling of isolation can compound on top of itself. With a roommate, you may maintain a sense of normalcy and companionship.
And if you live in a typical “freshman dorm” — Warren Towers or West Campus — the social scene may still be alive and well, with trips to the communal bathroom and rides on the elevator.
But, it’s also evident that not everyone is sticking to their households while in these large dormitories, so they’re cheating a bit in terms of safe socializing in a pandemic.
However, the added security of frequent COVID-19 tests for students living on campus also means they can walk around and actually say hello to people without feeling uncomfortable or unsafe.
Living off campus may give you more freedom to socialize, but it also comes with an added risk of contracting or spreading the virus. And, it might mean living with people who don’t adhere to COVID guidelines or get regularly tested like they would if they were being monitored by higher authorities.
In this case, BU can be the fall guy for enforcing rules on those you socialize or live with. So although off-campus testing is still required for students who take in-person classes, students on campus are considerably more safe in terms of monitoring their exposure to the virus.
Living on campus edges out living off campus for the security it provides us in an otherwise uncertain, unsafe time. You have more peace of mind living on campus knowing you are with people who are held accountable to the same standards as you.
It can certainly feel safer than living off campus or even at home, where there are no green badges, regular testing or monitoring.