Hello, everyone! Although it seems like classes have just begun for the Spring semester, it will be time to register for our Fall courses before we know it. While registering for courses is exciting, it also means that many students—whether incoming or current—will also be choosing their dorm for the upcoming year.
As an incoming freshman, 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 also some downsides to only considering the dorm’s cost. Learning from that experience, I have 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 evaluating where you can afford to live the next academic year. Although cost is important, you should consider other factors as well. Sometimes, putting a little more money into where you’re going to be living can make a huge difference.
Factor Two: Location
Depending on the size of your campus, this can become a pretty major factor. I would advise using a campus map to look at the location of your prospective dormitory in relation to your classes, the dining hall, the gym, the library, and anywhere else that may be important to you. Having a dorm with a good location can make a major impression on how your semester goes.
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
From what I’ve seen, living-learning programs are becoming more and more popular (and rightfully so). If you are unfamiliar with what a living-learning program is, it is a dormitory that takes on a “theme” that most–if not all–of its residents have in common. For example, I have seen living-learning communities for certain majors (such as fine arts, business, etc.), honors programs, healthy-living lifestyle, ROTC, etc.
I have lived in a dorm that was not a living-learning community, as well as a dorm that is, so I’ve seen the differences between living in each. Personally, I love living in a living-learning community because it gives me the opportunity to be in an environment with students that have the same interests as me, as well as the same classes. For many students, this also makes studying and working on group projects much simpler because it is easier to create study groups when you live in the same dorm.
Factor Five: Style
When I say “style”, I am not referring to how nice the dorm and its rooms are; 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 sometimes be inconvenient, but it is also great since you don’t have to worry about cleaning it or providing your own soap, toilet paper, and paper towels. A suite-style bathroom, though convenient, means that the residents are responsible for cleaning it and providing these same 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, etc. Newer buildings can be the exact opposite, but that also means that they’re more expensive.
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 performed 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.
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. Although this 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 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; their importance and relevance to you determines wither its a major issue to you or not.
(Just remember that although there might have been a previous issue, it doesn’t mean that it hasn’t been fixed; if the problem has been fixed, check to see if they’ve had any issues with it since then, which would indicate that it is a reoccurring problem.)
Factor Ten: Amenities
An amenity is what else comes with the dormitory besides the room. For example, some dorms will provide their residents with a microwave and/or fridge. Other amenities can include a common kitchen, study rooms, common lounge area, a computer lab with printers, etc. The importance of each varies per person, but the availability of some amenities can definitely influence a student’s decision on which dorm he/she chooses.
I hope this list is helpful as you choose a dorm for the upcoming year.
P.S. Do you have any questions or comments? Please write me a letter back (in the comments) or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I would love to hear from you!