Choose your domicile

From houses to co-ops to complexes, there are plenty of options for your new dwelling

Between houses, apartments, co-ops and off-campus dorms, the choices may seem overwhelming. We’ve talked to some students who have lived in each to help you make a more informed decision.

If you’re not quite ready to venture into apartment life with the burdens of paying rent and utilities and living farther from campus, but would like more space and amenities than a normal dorm, consider living in an off-campus dorm. The two main off campus dorms are the Castillian and Dobie Center. The Castillian is similar to a dorm in that it is a single, shared room. Dobie Center, on the other hand, has different floor plans that can include a suite style set-up with a shared living area.

Cori Baker, a sophomore pre-journalism major said, “An off campus dorm, like the Castillian, is nice because they are much more relaxed about rules than normal dorms. The location is awesome compared to a lot of other places too. Although, I kind of wish I had just gotten an apartment because it’s basically the same price.”

Freshman business major Will Matthews sang praises to not only the convenient location of Dobie, but also all that it has to offer, “I’d say Dobie is the best price in off-campus dorm living because it includes a Dobie suite, unlimited meal plan, a private gym, basketball court and pool.”

Many students live in apartments— West Campus being the most popular neighborhood, primarily for its convenience. Apartments provide you with just enough freedom and space without the full responsibility of taking care of a house. Also, apartments can often include amenities such as a pool or gym, and allow you to be in close proximity to other students. For junior business major Sheridan Schaefer, this proved to be a burden at times. “A warning for anyone planning to live in a West Campus apartment: It gets pretty crazy on the weekends. I personally prefer to live in a house the most, but I think living in walking distance to campus from my apartment was best for my first year,” she said. A word of advice: the sooner you begin your search the better. The most desirable West Campus apartments can get snatched up quick.

Houses can be just as great as apartments, and often cheaper. The further away from campus you get, the more cost-effective your options become. For sophomore radio-television-film major Sam Houdek, freedom is the most important aspect of his Hyde Park home. “Living in a house offers the freedom to make your own policies, paint your own walls, and essentially do what you want,” he said. Unlike the student-oriented West Campus, other neighborhoods see a more eclectic range of Austinites and offer some peace and quiet away from campus life when you go home. “There’s an interesting mix of folks up in Hyde Park. It’s is definitely my favorite neighborhood in Austin,” Houdek said.

Freshman pre-journalism major Christine Ayala said, “I really enjoy living north of campus because the buses pass right through my neighborhood, making access to campus really easy. It’s also nice to not always be at school. I’m probably the youngest UT student in our neighborhood though.”

If you like the cost-effectiveness and independence of a house but would rather stay closer to campus life, consider co-operative housing. There are nine different houses to choose from, where students own and manage the property themselves. Each house has its own personality, including two that are vegetarian/vegan; one has a pool, etc. Most are located in West Campus, while two are located in North Campus. They set their own policies on quiet hours, pets and household duties. “Living with a lot of people in such a small place can bother some people; you really have to have an open mind in order to cooperate with such a diverse group,” said Will Salazar, a sophomore international relations and global studies major who has lived in the Eden House co-op for two years. “I’ve met so many different people living here and made so many friends,” Salazar said.

Houdek recalls a summer when he lived in a co-op as “one of the most crazy, fun summers of my life. There’s a beauty in sharing and taking care of a home with 18 other people, but it can also be a burden at times.” Houdek said he didn’t get much free time to himself as there was always something going on, but he wouldn’t trade his co-op experience for anything.

Each setup has its own pros and cons, and ultimately depends on one’s personal preferences. No one option is necessarily better than another, just different. Most places are what you make of them— and on the plus side, you’ve got four (maybe five) years to try everything! Getting an early start is important, so once you’ve got an idea of what you’re looking for, the best thing to do is start looking!