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Resource CenterCollege LifeSocial LifeChoosing a Dorm

Choosing a Dorm

So, you finally decided on which college you’ll attend.  Congrats!  Unfortunately, the decision making is still not over.  Next up – choosing a dorm! 

Residential options are sometimes determined on a first come, first served basis.  Therefore, we recommend sending in your housing information/preferences as soon as possible.  As you begin narrowing down your options, here are a few points to consider:

All Freshmen vs. Mixed Classes
It’s quite common for schools to designate certain dorms freshmen-only while others remain open to all classes.  So, how do you know which one is right for you?  Both options definitely offer their own set of advantages and disadvantages.  While all-freshmen dorms are historically rowdier and slightly more chaotic, they also ensure you’re on equal footing with your neighbors.  In other words, everyone in your dorm will be new to the school and in your graduating class.  You’ll be navigating this experience together and everyone will be looking to make friends and settle into college life. 

On the other hand, upperclassmen are more likely to have their routines and social circles cemented down.  They might not be quite as eager to hang out in the lounge until dawn or attend that 80s dance party with you.  However, upperclassmen are already well integrated into the fabric of campus life.  They can show you the ropes and offer guidance on everything from which professors to take (or avoid) to which dining hall offers the best cereal options.

Location, Location, Location
No matter if you attend the tiniest liberal arts college or a mammoth university, a school set deep in the country or within a booming metropolis, chances are your campus will be spread across many acres or city blocks.  Therefore, it makes sense to consider where dorms are located in comparison to your classes, activities and various campus amenities.  After all, you might not want to live in a dorm that’s a 20 minute walk from the nearest dining hall or next door to the football stadium where you’ll have to deal with boisterous fans throughout the season.

Themed Housing
A dorm is a dorm is a dorm right?  Well, yes and no.  While many dorms are generic housing complexes, some schools assign certain buildings (or floors) a specific theme.  For example, there might be a dorm with a Spanish theme for language lovers who want indulge and strengthen their Spanish skills.  Another residence might be dedicated to eco living and environmental action.  Theme housing offers you the opportunity to live in a community of like-minded individuals and host/participate in a myriad of activities surrounding this unifying interest.  However, you should also be aware that some theme houses expect their residents to adhere to certain rules and regulations (e.g. composting all waste, only speaking French with neighbors, etc.).  Make sure you’re up for the challenge before committing.

Lifestyle Housing
Similar to theme housing, some students choose their dorm based upon lifestyle preferences.  Indeed, undergrads can often opt for single-sex, substance free or quiet housing.  These are welcome alternatives for more conservative students and undergrads concerned about living in a safe, comfortable and calm environment.

Physical Building
Though this might seem obvious, make sure you also consider each dorm’s physical attributes.  Clearly, some buildings will feature newer construction and hence might have nicer amenities (be it central ac or cable ready rooms).  Of course, older dorms might provide more charm or a greater sense of history. 

Additionally, some dorms are huge housing complexes, offering up a diverse group of students with numerous undergrads on every floor.  These can frequently be a hub of activity but sometimes feel less personable and homey.  Other dorms might actually be converted houses, containing far fewer rooms (and students) and a cozier vibe.

Further, you should also give some thought to dorm layout.  Are you hoping to share a double with a classmate?  Or do you think a quad would be more your speed?  Have you been fantasizing about living in an apartment style suite?  Or will a single room and a communal bathroom down the hall suffice?  It’s important to contemplate which set-up holds the most appeal for you.

Choosing a dorm is your next big step in gearing up for college.  You want to find a place that excites you and to which you’ll enjoy returning after a long day in the classroom.  Of course, don’t stress over the decision too much.  A dorm won’t necessarily make or break your collegiate experience.  And, at any rate, you’ll certainly be moving out come next May or June! 


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Don Munce