When I was an incoming freshman, I was naturally looking forward to dorm life and the experience of having a place to call my own. However, I didn’t realize what factors to consider when choosing a dorm, so I decided to save money by choosing the cheapest dorm available. While this was a financially-savvy decision, there were many downsides that resulted by having cost being the only factor I considered from choosing my dorm. At the time, I hadn’t realized how much the dorm I picked could contribute to 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 going to be a major factor when choosing where you should live on campus. But although it’s important to evaluate where you can afford to live, it’s also important to consider other factors as well, as you get what you pay for. Sometimes, putting a little more money into where you’re going to be living can make a huge difference, and the rest of the factors discussed in this post can greatly influence how much a dorm will cost you.
Factor Two: Location
Depending on the size of your campus, where your dorm is located can become a pretty major factor. When making your decision of where to live, I recommend looking at a campus map and judging the distance between your dorm and classes, as well as the dining hall, gym, library, and other important locations on campus. Although you may not realize how much of an impact it has, a dorm with a great location can make your semester much better than it would have been. It can save you time, sleep, give you motivation to get out of your room, and you may not feel as bad about walking in inclement weather if it is for a short distance rather than a long distance.
Factor Three: The Community
Most dorms strive to form some sort of community by encouraging its residents to get out and know one another. See if your dorm has any social media accounts, a website, a calendar of events, or ask around to see what type of programs they have held in the past. 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. You might even make a new friend!
Factor Four: 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 helped when we needed to ask each other questions about homework assignments, as well as meeting up for out-of-class projects.
Factor Five: Style of Living
When I say “style of living”, I am not referring to how nice the dorm and its rooms are (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 its own 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 that the student may budget some more money for these items.
Factor Six: Age of the Building
Although the age of the building is not typically a factor that is discussed when looking at possible dormitories, it is very important. An older building typically means that it has older features (such as heating and cooling), older furniture, and will be more worn due to it’s constant use. Newer buildings, although nice, can also be expensive because of these newer features and conveniences. However, while looking at this factor, it’s also important to look at the next one…
Factor Seven: Upgrades/Refurbishments
I specifically chose for this one to come after Factor Six (Age of the Building) because 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 has 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 are able to give you the best insight into 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 often indicate it happening again in the future. You will want to avoid predictable issues like this, as they can give you additional unneeded stress throughout the school year.
Factor Ten: Amenities
An amenity is what comes with the dormitory besides the room. For example, some dorms will provide their residents with a microwave and/or fridge in their room. Other amenities can include a common kitchen, study rooms (a bonus, especially if you have roommate issues) , a common lounge area or game/media, a computer lab with printers, etc. Each amenities importance 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 can be a great college experience, but it can quickly turn to a terrible one based on one’s living situation. That is why it is extremely important to take these ten factors into consideration when choosing your dorm. If my friend’s and I were to have known what to look for when choosing our freshman dorms, our experiences would have been much better than what they were; that is why it is always important to do your research ahead of time, in order to make your college experience the best one that it can be.