Where Will I Live in College? How to Navigate College Room and Board

If you’ve taken a look at the financial aid offer you received from your college of choice, you may have been surprised by the cost of shown for room and board for one academic year. Your ‘room and board’ estimate includes the cost of living in your choice of housing and the cost of food during that year. This could mean a variety of things depending on which college you’ve decided to attend.

It’s important that you understand the housing and meal requirements at each college to which you’ve applied. Some colleges may require freshmen to live on campus, while others may require students to purchase a minimum number of meals per week. Do your research while you’re weighing room and board expenses at your favorite schools.


  • If you’re living on campus, consider a traditional style dorm. This type of housing offers you a room with a roommate and a communal bathroom to share with a few other residents. This is typically the most affordable option for students to choose when it comes to living on campus. The extra money it costs for the more spacious options, such as private rooms or on-campus apartments, can really add up in the end.
  • If you’re living off campus, keep in mind that apartments and houses located close to campus may charge higher rent than those farther away. You might even consider having two or three roommates if your dwelling has the space. This will save on your rent and living expenses.
  • If your college of choice is close to home or you plan to attend a nearby community college, consider living at home for a few years. You could significantly cut the cost of room and board by staying at home and commuting to class every day. Notify your admission counselor that you may live at home to see what your savings might be. You may also be required to complete some additional paperwork.


  • Colleges and universities offer various types of meal plans to students and many are often required for those who live on campus. Consider trying one of the less expensive meal plans that offers fewer meals each week. If you find that you’re constantly hungry, you can always add more meals to your plan later. Try to prepare meals in your dorm room, apartment or off-campus rental. Ask your roommate(s) if they’d agree to split the cost of nonperishable bulk foods that you use frequently.
  • Eating out should be considered a splurge and be limited to only a few times per month. Consider inviting friends over for a potluck or ask them to bring sharable snacks.

Other ways to manage college expenses

  • Submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, each year to see how much financial aid you may receive for educational expenses.
  • Don’t miss out on free money. There are scholarships available every semester, so don’t forget to search for them 24/7. UCanGo2.org and OKcollegestart.org are two great places to start your scholarship search.
  • Consider riding your bike and using public transportation. Larger schools often have their own low-cost transit systems.
  • Graduate on time to reduce the total cost of completing your program.
  • Earn some money. Check with your financial aid office to see if you qualify for work-study jobs or try to find a part-time job in town.
  • Stay away from credit cards. The interest is high, and it can be much too easy to overspend.

For more ideas on reducing college costs, be sure to read the Getting Through College on Less section at OklahomaMoneyMatters.org.

Photo courtesy of Seminole State College