Living in one of U of T’s residences unquestionably has both benefits and drawbacks. One such disadvantage is the hefty price you must be willing to pay for a tiny space right on campus.
You might be wondering whether you should choose a larger off-campus housing unit without burdensome residence rules, or you may be an upper-year student wondering if you should stay in residence past your first year. However, I believe living in residence helps you truly integrate yourself into campus life and has many benefits that you can only get if you choose to live on campus. As such, the somewhat steep cost is more than worth it.
I lived in UTM’s McLuhan Court Residence for the duration of my first year, and later on transferred to UTSG and chose to live in Elmsley Hall and Sam Sorbara Hall residences at St. Michael’s College (SMC) in my second and third year. Residence has been greatly beneficial to my overall university experience.
So, what are the benefits of living in campus residence? The first thing I can point to is academic benefits. I have always had hedonistic tendencies which often got out of control and result in cycles of procrastination. However, living in residence constantly reminded me of why I was here and what my purpose was. I was, first and foremost, a university student, and I wanted to go to law school.
Now I feel qualified to say that residence allowed me to keep a very high GPA while enabling me to engage in extracurricular activities that I was passionate about, none of which I could have done if I didn’t choose to stay in residence.
Next, while the residence rooms are pricey, it’s important to keep in mind that rent is also high in downtown. UTSG residence costs vary, starting at around $1,300 a month. Compare that to the average rent of $2,260 a month for a one-bedroom unit in downtown Toronto as of August, and you’ll find that residence spaces are relatively affordable.
Choosing to live in other regions of the city is reasonable. However, with a full course load, that means a longer commute time. Students might be late for classes, or may choose to skip them altogether.
Living near campus means you do not need to worry about commuting. All of your classes, club meetings, and campus activities are within walking distance.
If you want to attend most of your lectures and tutorials, staying on campus is the optimal choice for convenience, especially if you have two classes or tutorials with a short break in between. In these instances, you can easily return to your room to rest or retrieve items like textbooks. What’s more, almost everything is ready for your use.
Depending on the residence, you may have to participate in a meal plan. This can be a downside: in my experience, meals are not that tasty in any residence.
Nevertheless, with a meal plan, you don’t need to order food or cook and wash dishes. Meal plans save you time and money.
One of the greatest benefits in some residences, including at SMC residences, is unlimited drinks that come with each of your meal swipes. For me the most important part was the unlimited coffee, and, as a U of T student cramming for tests and exams, I did abuse this perk!
Plus, the residence community and staff are quite lovely. I’ve heard many people complaining about not being able to make friends despite the fact that UTSG has a total enrollment of 61,690 students. The fact that a large amount of these students are commuters may explain this discrepancy, since commuting makes it more difficult to meet your peers. If you choose to live in residence, you will be living, eating, and attending classes alongside other students. You will see them more than your family and form lifelong friendships.
In a nutshell, while it’s true that residence rooms are tiny and rules seem to inhibit your freedom, on-campus residences grant you a different kind of freedom: a freedom of time, freedom from responsibility, and the freedom to focus on your life, which deserves your attention the most.
Efe Akan is a third-year Philosophy student at St. Michael’s College.