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5 Reasons to Live Off Campus as a Freshman at the University of Florida

By Nicole

So you’re an incoming freshman at the University of Florida – congratulations! Your first year as a Gator is sure to be an unforgettable time, but after you decide to come to UF, you have another big decision ahead: deciding where to live.

If you’ve already started to look at places to live your freshman year at UF, you might feel overwhelmed. Between on-campus dorms and off-campus apartments, students have countless living options around Gainesville.

While the University of Florida has 26 residence halls, students at UF are not required to live on campus for their first year. In fact, you might be surprised to hear that 78% of UF students live off campus

Maybe you’re enticed by the luxurious amenities that off-campus apartments offer, or maybe you just can’t stand the idea of lugging your shower shoes and caddy to a community bathroom every day.

At Sweetwater, we understand that your first-year living experience can be crucial in making sure you start off on the right foot at UF. To help you understand why many students forgo traditional dorm living, we’ve created this list of some of the biggest reasons that students choose to live off campus.

group shot in front of the UF stadium

While you can have a great time at UF no matter where you live, choosing the best student housing option for your lifestyle can enhance your success academically and socially!

Where Students Live Off-Campus Near the University of Florida

Before we dive into the main benefits of living off campus, we’ll touch on the most popular areas that UF students choose to live. If you’re looking for a more comprehensive guide to the housing types and features of each of the neighborhoods around campus, check out our article, Where to Live Near UF If You Don’t Want to Live On Campus.

University Avenue

Located just across the street from campus and steps away from plenty of dining, shopping, and entertainment options, it’s a no-brainer why University Avenue is one of the most popular spots for UF students to live. University Avenue has many high-end apartments that are purpose-built for students, making this a hub for those looking to optimize their social and academic lives.

Read Next: 5 Reasons Students at UF Should Live Near Campus

Although University Avenue is one of the more expensive areas to live around campus, many students agree the price is worth making the most of your college years. 

13th Street

Another popular area for student apartments is 13th Street, lining the eastern edge of campus. Apartments on the northern end of 13th Street are typically walkable to campus, sorority and fraternity houses, and other nearby apartment complexes, while the southern end of 13th Street is more reserved from the action of University Ave.

Located at the corner of University and 13th, Sweetwater is one apartment with a prime central location. Only a block from the northeast corner of campus, you’re walking distance from almost anything you could need!

Archer Road

If you’re less concerned about walkability and are fine with commuting via bus, bike, or car to campus, Archer Road is another great option. Apartments in the Archer Road area are generally much more affordable than those around University Ave and 13th Street, but they tend to feature less luxurious amenities and more dated finishes. 

5 Benefits of Living in an Off-Campus Apartment Versus an On-Campus Dorm as a Freshman at UF

three roommates hang out in their kitchen at Sweetwater, a student housing apartment in Gainesville near the University of Florida

Whether you’re trying out new recipes or hosting friends, one bonus of choosing an off-campus apartment is having the extra space of a kitchen.

1. Cook for Yourself

Most residence halls at UF limit you to a microwave and mini fridge in your dorm room. This means that unless you plan on living off of ramen noodles, you’ll be heading to the dining hall or eating out for most meals. 

However, most off-campus apartments have a full kitchen! If you enjoy cooking, baking, or even hosting friends, having a kitchen is a game-changer. The full-size fridge, pantry, countertops, and other appliances give you the opportunity to explore recipes that you might not find in the UF dining halls. You also won’t be restricted to the hours that the dining halls are open (everyone needs a late-night snack sometimes!).

Whether you enjoy an elaborate meal or choose to keep it simple, having an apartment with a kitchen puts you in control of what and when you eat every day.

2. Have Your Own Room

Many dorms at the University of Florida are double, triple, or even quad occupancy, meaning you share a bedroom with one or more roommates. Many residence halls also have communal bathrooms, meaning you’d share with all or a portion of the people living in your hall. Some dorms offer suite-style or private bathrooms that you’d share with your roommates and/or suitemates. 

UF does have single-occupancy dorm rooms, but they’re extremely limited, are more expensive than a traditional dorm, and may still require you to share a bathroom.

four girls walk through campus at the university of florida

While meeting new people and making lifelong friends is a huge part of your college career, it’s just as important to have your own space when you need it.

According to the UF Housing & Residence Life Website, traditional shared dorms with community bathrooms are the most populous housing type. This living style is available in 22 of UF’s residence halls.

This being said, having your own space is easily one of the biggest draws of choosing an off-campus apartment. 

It’s a big deal to commit to living, sleeping, eating, studying, and more in the same room as someone else for a year. Especially as a freshman, transitioning into your new college lifestyle can be overwhelming. Adding a roommate into the mix can sometimes make this transition more stressful, which is why lots of students opt for their own bedroom in an off-campus apartment.

Not only can an apartment offer you your own room, but when you live in a dorm, you’re typically also sacrificing having a kitchen and living room. Plus, apartments have more storage space, meaning you don’t have to share half of your closet, shelves, and cabinets with a roommate. 

Personally, one of my favorite parts of having an off-campus apartment is the bed size. The full-size beds at most furnished student apartments make a world of a difference compared to the twin-size beds in most UF dorm rooms.

3. Stay During Breaks

Unlike the UF residence halls, apartments don’t close for winter, spring, or summer breaks!

If you have an internship or job in Gainesville, are an out-of-state or international student, or just prefer to stay near campus over breaks, this is a huge bonus that apartments offer compared to dorms.

4. Amenities are Right in Your Building

yoga room in Sweetwater

Sweetwater’s yoga studio has floor to ceiling windows which flood the space with natural light to elevate your zen experience.

While you can use your student ID to access the recreation centers, pools, and other student life buildings across campus, you typically aren’t going to have any on-site amenities other than a study lounge or two when living in a residence hall.

Dorms at UF typically won’t have any amenities on-site (other than a study lounge or communal kitchen). Sure, you can head to the Rec for a workout, but you definitely won’t have a rooftop pool at your residence hall.

Read Next: Top 5 Pool Decks Near UF

One of the best parts of living in an apartment building is that you have a whole host of amenities all under one roof. There’s no need to walk across campus to take a dip in the pool, find a private study room, or hit the gym; in an apartment, almost anything you need is only an elevator ride away!

At Sweetwater, you can find your center in the yoga studio, detox in the sauna, then grab a handmade cup of Daydreamer coffee (and more!) all without ever leaving the building.

four girls at the university of florida play with a dog

If you plan on having a pet with you at college, then you’ll likely need to live off campus!

5. Bring Your Furry Friend

Unlike dorms, most student apartments in Gainesville will allow you to bring a pet with you!

Pet-friendly apartments, like Sweetwater, ensure that you won’t have to leave your furry friend at home when you move to college. Even if you aren’t a pet owner, you still get to meet all of the sweet animals that live in your building.

We hope that this article has helped you explore a few of the benefits of choosing an off-campus apartment over an on-campus dorm at UF. We’re confident that by calling a top-of-the-line community like Sweetwater your home, especially with our freshman-specific roommate matching, you’ll be able to make the most of your first year at UF. 

If you have any more questions about off-campus student apartments or Gainesville living in general, please contact the Sweetwater team who is always happy to help!


Nicole is the Community Manager at Sweetwater. She has worked in Property Management for 10 years. She have two little boys and a little girl on the way!

May 08, 2023

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