As an incoming freshman, one part of college life that I was particularly looking forward to was living in a dorm. Being able to have my own place to live in and decorate was exciting, and I spent months obsessively pinning decor and furnishings on Pinterest. Although I may have been an expert at planning my decorations, I certainly wasn’t as good at choosing a dorm. Already feeling the pinch of a tight wallet, I decided to save money and select the cheapest option available.
Although this was a financially savvy decision, there were many downsides that resulted from cost being the only factor. At the time, I hadn’t realized how much the dorm I picked could alter my college experience, and it definitely had a profound experience. Learning from that experience, I decided to put together a list of ten factors for both incoming and continuing students to consider before choosing your future dorm.
Factor One: Cost
For many students, the cost of housing is a major factor when choosing where you should live on campus. Although it’s important to evaluate where you can afford to live, it’s important to know that you get what you pay for, a lesson I learn more and more as I become an “adult”. Sometimes, putting a little extra money into where you’re going to be living can make a huge difference in your living situation and how much you enjoy your college experience.
Factor Two: Location
When deciding where on campus to live, look at a campus map and the distances between your dorm and the buildings your classes will be held, as well as the dining hall, gym, library, and other important locations on campus. Choosing a dorm that is closer to these locations can save you time, sleep, and give you more motivation to get out of your room. (After all, if the gym really is just next door…)
Plus, if there is inclement weather, the difference between that 10 minute walk to class and a 5 minute walk to class can be monumental, and you’ll be thanking yourself in the long run.
Factor Three: The Community
Many dorms strive to form some sort of community by encouraging its residents to get out and know one another through activities, mascots, and group bonding factors. To see what type of community the dorm has, look to see if it has any social media accounts, a website, or a calendar of events. You can also ask what type of programs have been held in the past, as they can give you a good idea as to what will come in the future. Attending events in your dorm can not only be a great stress reliever throughout the semester, but it also allows you to meet other people in your dorm, and can make your dorm seem much more of a home and much less of a “house”.
Factor Four: A Living-Learning Program
A living-learning program is a dormitory that takes on a “theme” that most–if not all–of its residents have in common, such as being a certain major, being in the honors program, being interested in healthy-living, and so on. From what I’ve seen, these programs are becoming more and more popular, and rightfully so. Students living in these communities all have at least one thing in common with each other, which can help them bond, as well as give them chance to live with the same students that are in their classes, which can help with study sessions.
Personally, I have lived in a dorm that was not a living-learning program, as well as a dorm that is, so I’ve experienced the differences between living in each. Personally, I loved living in a living-learning community because it gave me the opportunity to be in an environment with students that were in the same classes as me, which was insanely helpful when meeting up for class projects or trying to decipher a homework assignment’s (complex) instructions.
Factor Five: Style of Living
When I say “style of living”, I am not referring to how nice the dorm is (although that is a perk); I am referring to whether the dorm rooms are community-style or suite-style.
Community-style means that the bathrooms are not attached to the dorm room and are instead in a separate area on the floor, whereas suite-style refers to a room that either has a private bathroom or shares a bathroom with the neighboring room.
Everybody has their own personal preference and there are pros and cons to each. A community-style bathroom can be inconvenient, but you don’t have to worry about cleaning it or providing your own soap, toilet paper, and paper towels. A suite-style bathroom, although convenient, means that the residents are responsible for cleaning it and providing these same items, which means budgeting more money for these items.
Factor Six: Age of the Building
Although the age of the building is not typically discussed when looking at possible dormitories, it can be a critical factor. An older building can have older features (such as heating and cooling), older furniture, and will be more worn out due to it’s prolonged usage over the years. Newer buildings, although nice, can also be expensive because of these newer features and conveniences. However, you shouldn’t solely depend on the age of the building to determine its upkeep due to the next factor…
Factor Seven: Upgrades/Refurbishments
Although a building may be old, it doesn’t mean that it hasn’t had any upgrades and/or refurbishments over the years to keep it up-to-date.
Some upgrades are more important than others (such as a new water heater versus a new coat of paint), so it is important to research what type of refurbishments the dorm has had and how long ago they were made. This information may be posted on the building’s (or housing office’s) website, but other times it might not be, so it may be worth asking around to see what’s been done.
Factor Eight: Reviews
The best way to find out what a dorm is actually like is by asking a student who has lived in it, or by searching for reviews online. Students who have lived in the building can give you the best insight as to what living there will be like, as pictures and floor plans posted online by the college often tend to hide any problems living there may have.
Although finding reviews of a dorm may be a bit harder for an incoming freshman to do, some great people to ask are your campus tour guide or upperclassmen helping out with class registration.
Factor Nine: Previous Building Issues
This is definitely a factor that you will have to find out from other students for (or from news articles), as the college’s housing office probably won’t advertise any issues with their buildings. However, doing your research can definitely pay off in the end. Are the elevators constantly breaking down? Have there been any mold issues? Has the building experienced any fires or floods that could have damaged the rooms? These are just a few examples of questions you might want to ask, because these previous issues can go on to affect you if you choose to live there, as well.
However, just remember that although there might have been a previous issue, it doesn’t mean that it hasn’t been fixed. It’s important to see if it is a reoccurring problem, which can indicate that it may happen again in the future. You will want to avoid predictable issues like this, as they can give you unneeded stress throughout the school year.
Factor Ten: Amenities
An amenity is what comes with the dormitory besides the room. For example, some dorms may provide their residents with a microwave and/or fridge in their room, a common kitchen, study rooms, a common lounge area with games/media, a computer lab with printers, etc. The importance of the amenities available will vary from person to person, but their availability and necessity for each student can have a profound impact on a student’s dorm decision.
Living on campus during college can be a great experience, but having a bad living situation can quickly change that. That’s why it is extremely important to take these ten factors into consideration when choosing your dorm in order to make your college experience the best one that it can be.
Looking for more of my college dorm posts? Check out my post on A Tour of My Freshman Dorm Room and Suite, The Display Dorm Room vs the Real Dorm Room, 10 Original Dorm Room Hacks, 10 Items to Delay Purchasing Until After Dorm Move-In, and 15 Must-Haves for Your College Dorm.