Graduate with Flying Colors (and No Debt): Living in a Van as a Student


If there’s one thing you need when going to college, it’s money. Today, a lot of students are getting creative in order to live on a budget and save. Graduating without student loans is a feat everyone wants to achieve and so, living in a van has actually become a rising trend. However, the question is if the van life is something that all and not just the few can and should strive to pull off. 

What are the pros and cons of living in a van as a student? Living in a van as a student is a great opportunity to save on rent and utilities. However, you have to face other realities like safety and hygiene issues, cramped space, and the constant lookout for facilities you can use outside your mobile home. 

In this article, we will then be discussing the main pros and cons of living in a van. We will also try to paint a clear picture of what life is like living near the campus. This includes where you can eat, where you can study, what you should do with your mail, and all other necessities of a college student. Aside from campus studies, we will also touch on the topic of remote studies in combination with the van life and if this option is right for you. So, continue reading to get all the know-hows of living in a van as a student. 

Living in a Van as a Student on Campus

The Reason Students Live in a Van 

Nowadays, on campus housing is getting more and more expensive because it adds a considerable cost to the already high price of college education. This is why other students choose to live off campus in exchange for the additional (although smaller) cost of gas. What is another factor that pushes students to look for alternative housing is how they only spend a few hours at home. For some students, home is just a place to sleep and shower. They often study some place else like at the library or go to their part time jobs when they don’t have classes. 

So, these are some of the main reasons why an increasing number of students choose to live in a van. By parking on or near the campus, they can have access to amenities offered by their university. This includes dining options, a pool, a gym, the library, and other facilities like shower rooms and restrooms. 

The Pros 

Accessing Enough Facilities 

Aside from the rent, when you live in a van, one of the things you become free of is having to pay the bills for amenities. Living near the campus, you should not have any problem accessing enough facilities because they are free for you to use, as long as you present your student ID. In using these free amenities, however, you also have to be smart and resourceful to make the most out of them and to avoid the expected inconveniences of living in a mobile home. 

These know-hows include knowing the best time to use amenities. A tip from a student is actually going to the recreational center at night to take a shower, because at this time of the day, there are few to no people around. After taking a shower, you can also stay to do some studying and to charge your electronic devices for free. Aside from that, you can use the cafeteria’s equipment such as a toaster to prepare your meals. 

As for restrooms, you should have no trouble finding one on campus since they are normally spread out for the convenience of students and the staff. Another tip is to find out which nearby stores have their bathrooms open for guests and what time and day these stores open and close. There are also facilities like Wi-Fi which you can take advantage of when you park near enough or go inside big stores. 

Getting Studying Done 

Living in a van, you will want to opt for studying in your university’s library or even at the public library for a more conducive place for learning. Aside from libraries being the best places to focus, you can also access the internet for free. What’s great is that these libraries are open up to 24 hours during exam seasons so you can stay as long as you want. 

In your van, you can also create a makeshift study table. Students actually prefer to study at the back of the van because there are a lot of distractions when you stay in front. A lot of people can pass by so your attention may not always be where you want it. When studying inside the van, make sure to provide enough lighting so you will not strain your eyes. 

Living in a van, you also have the benefit of not having a roommate. So, you don’t have to adjust to a housemate’s loud music or constant chitchat. If the surrounding area gets too noisy, you can always drive away to the nearest area suitable for studying. Having your “home” on campus is also helpful for when you have study breaks in between classes or even just when you forget to bring something. 

Living a More Flexible Social Life 

Some people think you are giving up a certain aspect of your social life when you live in a van. Their concern is that you fail to develop relationships because you can’t invite friends to your house, for example. However, other students think otherwise. When living near the campus, you can attend more school events and you are more flexible for gatherings at a friend’s house you can just easily drive to. The same goes for travelling to places you want to go and meeting other people outside of your university. 

The Cons

Finding a Parking Spot

One of the main cons of living in a van as a student is finding the perfect place to park. A tip when finding a parking spot is to choose one near the student dorms, so you are in a more crowded and safe area. Avoid parking spots that make your van stand out because this makes your home a more visible target. Thus, for those who are staying on campus, you can worry less about safety but you still need to be vigilant. 

Parking on campus, however, you will have to deal with rowdy students especially those who are drunk. So, at night, you can choose to wear ear plugs or park somewhere that is normally not in their path. 

Adjusting to the Weather 

When you’re in a van, there is no electricity right there and then. This means there is no air conditioner or heater in action unless you’re running your van. So, one of the cons of living in a mobile home is adjusting to the weather. This especially gets challenging in summer because while you can sleep comfortably with layers of blankets in cold weather, there is only so much you can do when trying to sleep in the summer. So, students usually install a roof vent fan in their vans but, according to them, this unfortunately does not make that big of a difference.  

Getting your mail 

When getting your mail while living the van life, you have to be a bit more creative as this can also require effort on your part. You can either get a PO box or set your parents’ or friend’s address as yours (if they are in the same city) to avoid additional expenses. Some libraries also take packages for you, so you might want to check out that local option. Needless to say, there are different ways to get your mail, you just have to work a bit harder to find the perfect setup for you. 

Living in a Van for Remote Studies 

Online Studies

Aside from living in a van near the campus, some students are actually considering living in a mobile home and taking an online degree at the same time. This is because these prove to be very cost efficient courses of action. Just imagine that online schools don’t have to pay for buildings and land as well as people to maintain these properties. So, naturally they charge a little bit less because they have less expenses to cover. 

Students have also started to embrace this option because remote studies reduces the need for commuting, offers a more flexible schedule, and allows students to study in their own time and even finish their degree faster than scheduled if they wanted. 

Some Considerations for Remote Studies 

However, when living in a van and opting for remote studies, there are some considerations you have to take note of. First of all, you need to have a reliable internet connection most, if not all, of the time. So, you can opt for mobile hotspots paired with a weBoost to ensure a strong WiFi signal. Those with experience living in mobile homes also suggest having a different service provider from your cell phone plan so you have higher chances of getting a signal wherever you go. 

Aside from that, there are reliable WiFi signals in businesses like fast food branches and coffee shops. As mentioned above, there is also WiFi available in public spaces like libraries, which brings us to the second main consideration. When opting for remote studies, you have to make sure that you are able to master discipline and create a schedule so you can study effectively. This is why going out of your van and studying can be a more effective way to focus because it establishes a separate time and place to learn. 

Lastly, when you opt for remote studies, make sure that you are getting into a school that is worth your money. You can look into the admission rate as well as the employment rate of online universities. You can also research about their accreditation and whether their faculty has good reviews online. 


To end, when living in a van, you have to be open to the small inconveniences that are expected to come with not having the facilities of a traditional home. You have to be up for adventure, you have to be resourceful, and you generally have to love being outside. Despite these challenges, however, students attest that living in a van has been the best decision they’ve made because, more than avoiding student loans, they’ve learned to make it on their own.

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