Living On & Off Campus
No matter where you live, you are part of a diverse and vibrant community at Penn State. Let us help you settle in to residence hall life, find the best dining options, navigate the rental market and learn how to be a good neighbor.
Deciding Where to Live
Nearly every Penn State student faces the choice of whether to live on campus or off campus at some point in his or her college experience. While it may seem daunting, that choice doesn't have to be rushed or uninformed.
In making your decision, take time to consider what you want in a living situation, from cost to flexibility to responsibility. Here are some of the different elements to consider when making your decision.
- Cost: On- and off-campus offer a variety of price ranges, but don’t forget to factor in any hidden fees, utilities, and the cost of food.
- Location: Depending on your preferences and needs, living on-campus or off-campus might be more suitable to you academically and socially.
- Amenities: Whether you are looking for your own bedroom and bathroom, a pool, or a quiet neighborhood, on- and off-campus living offer different things. Consider what’s important to you.
- Flexibility: Do you need housing over the summer? Are you planning a semester abroad? On-campus housing is offered for the academic year but allows for flexibility for students pursuing academic-related programs, while off-campus typically requires a 12-month lease.
- Responsibility: Living off-campus comes with a host of responsibilities that are helpful for some students and a distraction for others.
Penn State's on-campus housing options are generally similar to previous years' prices, with slight rates changes that are announced every spring. Room rates are all-inclusive, covering the cost of utilities, cable TV and WiFi. There are no hidden fees.
The least expensive on-campus living option is a supplemental room, while the most expensive option is a single room in Eastview Terrace.
With close proximity to classes and school-sponsored events, like concerts and athletic events, nothing beats living on campus. Living on campus is a good fit if you like to stop by your room throughout the day, sleep in a few extra minutes in the morning, or to have a short walk home after clubs, sports, or activities.
Upper-class students have more housing options available than first-year students: double rooms in both traditional and renovated buildings, single rooms in traditional residence halls, single rooms in Eastview Terrace, 2-person and 4-person suites, supplemental housing, and on-campus apartments.
You can enjoy easy access to quiet study rooms, community spaces, and dining without leaving your housing area. A short walk will get you to on-campus fitness centers, rec spaces, and additional dining options.
On-campus housing is a great option if you know that you only need to be on campus during the actual academic year. Even if you opt to stay at the University during the summer, on-campus housing offers flexibility with offering housing only during the time period that you need it, so you are not paying extra.
Break Access/Holiday Housing is also offered for students who are not able to leave campus during fall break, winter vacation, or spring break. You’ll be assigned to a designated building that remains open during these closedown periods, so you have the convenience of staying in your room. There is an additional fee for this service, reach out to the Assignment Office to discuss this option.
If you have plans to study abroad or take a semester off, on-campus housing allows flexibility for these situations so you do not have to continue to pay rent.
If you want to focus more on academics than cooking, cleaning, or taking out the trash then on-campus living may be for you. On-campus living provides students with a low-maintenance living option. You will not have to shovel snow or mow the lawn, which may be requirements for some off-campus housing. Cleaning, basic maintenance, and other services are also handled by Penn State Housing staff.
Off-campus living options vary widely in price depending on location, size of living space, and number of roommates. With off-campus housing, it’s also important to include other costs, such as utilities, food, transportation, and commute when considering the price of off-campus living options.
When looking at rental leases for apartments or houses, consider that most leases are paid in 12 equal installments and may include extra expenses such as application fees, amenity fees, ‘redecorating’ fees, or the cost of carpet cleaning if that is required upon move out.
Off-campus living offers students more flexibility in choosing what type of area they would like to live in, a quiet complex located a bus ride away or an apartment overlooking busy College Avenue. When researching off-campus options consider how long it takes to get to campus for class or on-campus events, and whether you would walk, ride a bike, drive, or take the bus.
Off-campus living options are open and nearly endless. Want to come home to a solo apartment far away from the craziness of campus. Or maybe you're looking to live in a huge house with all your friends. Maybe even a high-rise overlooking the city. All are available with varying prices and terms.
Off-campus housing offers options, such as private bedrooms and bathrooms or shared living arrangements. Many complexes boast fitness centers, pools, community rooms, tanning beds, and more. Decide what’s important to you and how much you are willing to pay for those add-ons.
Unlike living on-campus, off-campus apartments and houses are typically 12-month leases. The year-round availability is a great perk for students with local internships in the summer or students who don’t plan to travel home over breaks.
With this perk also comes the responsibility of paying for the rent during times in which you may no longer live there. If you plan to leave over the summer or complete a semester abroad make sure to factor this into your decision.
With the freedom of living on your own off-campus comes the responsibility of maintaining a rented property and adhering to a signed lease. Some landlords will require tenants to assist with things such as snow removal or lawn mowing. You will also be responsible for taking out the trash and cleaning the bathrooms.
Myths about Housing at Penn State
- Myth: I have to sign a housing contract/lease in October.
There is no hard deadline for signing a lease off campus. While many off-campus apartments start taking leases in October, there are many options for housing off-campus that do not have early deadlines.
For on-campus housing, you will submit a request for housing in October and then will receive an invitation throughout November to view available options. You will be able to pick the type of housing option to create a Housing and Food Service (HFS) Contract but are not committed to a space until you actually accept the HFS Contract offer.
- Myth: If I don't sign a housing contract early, I won't find a place to live.
Students often hear that there is not enough housing and if they don’t move quickly, they will not find a place to live. While some housing options may fill up quickly, there are more than enough places for students to live.
- Myth: Downtown State College is the best place to live.
While an apartment in downtown State College may be the right choice for some students, there are many more options when it comes to living in State College. When living further from campus, you will typically get more space for your money. In addition, some off-campus complexes have amenities, such as pools, study areas, workout facilities, or tanning beds. Also consider on-campus options: On-campus housing offers a wide variety of room types and close proximity to downtown State College.
- Myth: I can get out of my on-campus housing contract if I sign a lease off campus.
On-campus housing contracts and off-campus leases are binding contracts. Only sign one! Accepting a lease off campus is not a reason for you to be released from the Housing and Food Services (HFS) contract – you will just have to pay rent AND room and board charges. The University is not required to cancel your HFS contract because you signed a lease to live off campus. Be sure that you only accept one contract/lease to avoid this expensive pitfall.
- Off-Campus Housing
There is no hard deadline for signing a lease off campus. While many off-campus apartments within walking distance to campus start take contracts in October, there are many options for housing off-campus that do not have early deadlines.
- On-Campus Housing
If you are interested in living on campus, you will need to submit a request through eLiving during October. Invitations will be sent to students to view available housing options throughout November and February.
When you receive an invitation, you will be able to login to eLiving and review what options are available at that time. If you see a space where you would like to live, you can select that option, invite any roommate(s) who you want to live with, and create a Housing and Food Service (HFS) contract. Once you and your roommate(s) accept the HFS contract, your space is set for next year. Some options may be filled quicker than others, but all interested, eligible students will have the ability to live on campus next year.
Keep in mind that students' HFS Contracts are cancelled once they confirm that they are not returning to the University. So while you may not initially receive the housing option that you want, there is still an opportunity for you to be re-assigned to that space before the semester begins.