Broken water pipe

A student rides his bike past BYU’s Heritage Halls dormitories. A study shows that Freshmen who live on campus tend to do better in school. (FILE PHOTO)

PROVO -- Living on campus in college has many benefits: you don't have to find parking, you can walk to all your classes and the library is always close for studying but now you can add getting better grades to the list of ways living on campus can benefit students.

A study done by BYU student Hannah Marchant shows that when freshmen live on campus their GPAs are higher by an average of a tenth of a point compared to freshmen who live off campus. Marchant used data from BYU's housing and admissions departments and analyzed all freshman students from 2004 to 2010. She said some of the findings were surprising.

"One of the most significant findings was that students who live off campus are 1.7 times more likely to enter an at-risk academic group," Marchant said. "They are nearly twice as likely to get a GPA below 1.0 versus students living on campus. Those students that enter that at-risk group, they are affected for the rest of their career."

Marchant also said females did better living on campus compared with their male counterparts.

Based on her experience living on campus as a freshman she said there were many reasons why that living arrangement may contribute to better grades.

"One is that support system," Marchant said. "The dorms have hall advisers and a resident assistant that lives with the students in the building so students feel like there is someone that they can go to for help. They are trained to spot symptoms of extreme homesickness, depression and even suicide and can reach out and help those students that need help."

Marchant also said the proximity of on-campus housing to university resources like the library, tutoring and counseling centers is another big perk of living on campus.

Jan Scharman, vice president of student life at BYU, said they have always encouraged freshmen to live on campus whenever possible because it helps with the transition process.

"Going from high school to this big university is a big transition. Students feel like they are more a part of the campus and are housing with students going through the same transition and issues," Scharman said. "The social piece is a really big piece for freshmen and it is hard to focus on academics if they are anxious or don't feel like they are fitting in."

Marchant said when she was a freshman she participated in a program called Freshman Academy through which she was placed with roommates who had the same classes as she did. She said having roommates in her classes was like having a built-in study group, which helped her in figuring out how to be on her own.

That program is now gone but BYU has replaced it with freshman mentoring, in which older students are hired and assigned to groups of freshmen and are then responsible for reaching out to them and helping them with the transition.

Marchant said while her study focused only on BYU the results could apply anywhere and that students and parents should take the decision about where they are going to live seriously.

"There is an effect of housing and people think seriously of their individual or children's needs," Marchant said. "It needs to be taken more seriously and not just the social aspects of where you are going to live."

Marchant's entire research thesis, "The Effect of Housing on First Year Students' Academic Performance," can be checked out at the BYU library.