By Sam Coren
We get tons of college questions about dorms and student housing on StudentAdvisor. Student housing seems to be on a lot of prospective students minds – mainly the ones that are just out of high school. For many new college students, college is their first taste of life away from home and without parents. For them, their dorm will be their home away from home for most of the year. That’s why many students (and parents) experience “Freshman dorm shock” on their college tours.
Don’t Be Fooled By the Growing Number of Glitzy Housing Options
Some colleges have more resources to pour into student housing than others. There are even colleges such as University of California-Merced that are now taking advantage of the large number of foreclosed luxury homes known as “McMansions” and converting them into student housing. Colleges will often use this prime real estate to entice high caliber students from looking elsewhere. For example, during my first year at Northeastern University the school opened a brand new apartment-style complex to house only Freshmen Honors students (although the building is now used for Honors Upperclassmen). What was more amusing was when those Honors Freshman had to do their housing selection for next year and realized that their low lottery numbers guaranteed them to have less cushy options for Sophomore year housing. Talk about bait and switch!
The Awful Truth About First Year Student Housing
In the vast majority of cases there’s no way of knowing what room you’re going to get when you make your admissions decision. Here’s the awful truth: you’re almost certain to get the worst housing on campus for your first year of college. I’m talking three students crammed into a room originally intended for two with chipped tile flooring, no closet space, bunk beds and cinder block walls. Having a bare bones freshman dorm with no AC is almost like a rite of passage at this point. It’s right up there with awkward prom photos and sitting through boring graduation speeches. But the good thing? That first year will breeze by quickly, and hopefully you’ll look back on the experience positively if you end up spending more time outside your dorm room learning new things and making new friends.
What Can You Do? Pay More Attention to Policies Than Accommodations
Rather than focus on what the actual buildings are like I recommend reviewing the policies in student housing. How long are students guaranteed on-campus housing for? What’s the process for signing in guests like? How good is campus security? What authority do RA’s have? Schools with religious affiliations tend to have very strict housing rules and for students who make the transition from a non-religious academic setting it can be frustrating. And if you really can’t stand the thought of living in student housing on campus, but don’t want to turn down an otherwise best fit college: look into getting an off-campus apartment.