Helpful Hints For A Student’s Look At College Housing
College-bound high school seniors and their families are at the home stretch where they must narrow down your short list to one school. Academics are certainly a consideration, so is comfort and fit. Part of comfort and fit is satisfaction with college housing. During this new reality of COVID 19 your options may not be the same as freshmen or transfer students were offered in the past.
When you visit a college will see that there are varied approaches to college housing.
- If you’re offered admission to an honors program, for example, you may also receive an invitation to live in an honors residence hall or floor.
- Other schools group incoming freshmen together through survey responses or choices of freshmen seminars. Some schools reserve entire halls for freshmen; others mix students of different classes together.
- Some schools designed their college housing to be corridor-style (several double rooms share a common bathroom and lounge), others suite style (a smaller number of students share a lounge and bathroom). Some schools offer living/learning communities around areas of academic or personal interest.
Get an idea of what it’s like to live on campus
Ideally, you visited your short list of schools before submitting applications and got a glimpse of a typical freshman room. Now that acceptances are in, arrange for your student to visit friends who live in such a room, or ask the admissions office to arrange a Friday night visit for you. Incoming students should know what its like to live in a residence hall on a Friday night, when the current students have no classes the next day.
Here’s a few questions–and answers you need– to keep in your head:
Did students leave the hall to go out, or did they stay in?
Did they go home for the weekend? A quiet floor on a Friday night sparks those questions. Personally, I do not like too much quiet, unless there are activities that frequently draw people out of the hall.
If they stayed in, what did they do? Party, study, or something else?
Ideally, a campus environment should strike a balance between activities in the hall and outside of it. There is a time to study, but there is also time for fun. And it’s very hard to make friends among people who study all the time.
How did the resident advisor (RA) interact with students on the floor?
When I was in school I knew RAs who organized activities very well, and took the effort to know all of their students. I also knew others who did next to nothing. Ideally, you want to know that the RA will be helpful when you need help. One interesting note, the better residence life programs appear to be at schools where there is a higher level of school spirit and early engagement. Some schools that stand out: Indiana University-Bloomington, Miami University of Ohio and the University of Georgia.
What is the condition of common areas such as bathrooms, laundry rooms, lounges and kitchens?
Students are responsible for their own rooms; some are neat, others not. But common areas are the responsibility of everyone who lives in the building and the maintenance crew. A friend of mine, a vice president of an excellent public university, once told me that “if you give students nice things, they will respect them.” He’s overseen the construction of some of the nicest residence halls I’ve visited, and I’ve seen that the students on his campus do care.
How is the hall governed?
I realize this may not be the first thing that comes to mind for students, but it is important. The student voice in residence life is different from campus to campus. Some schools have “dorm clubs” that have very little money and the students have little say in the operation of the hall. Others are residential colleges where the students have a larger budget, more resources and a stronger voice.
Residence hall governance depends on how the student population changes from year to year. A freshman-only hall is more likely to have a club; it better supports a population that comes and goes. A hall that accommodates all classes or only upper-class students is likely to have more resources; the school wants to have students who will stay in the hall for more than a year.
How’s the food?
Most colleges will force freshmen who live in college housing to buy the most or second-most expensive meal plan. This is less of a problem at schools like Gettysburg, Purdue or Virginia Tech, where students have high praise for the food. It’s a major source of complaints at other schools. Ideally, you don’t want to spend too much money to eat meals elsewhere while you’re on the meal plan.
College housing comes in all sorts of arrangements, none really the “best” for everyone. It’s up to you, as customers to consider which will be the best for you not only for the first year, but those afterwards.
Want to know more about me? Check out these podcasts!
Listen to my talk, College Is A Learning AND Living Community, hosted by Dr. Cynthia Colon from Destination YOUniversity on Voice of America Radio!
Listen to my talk, What Exactly Is a Good College? hosted by test-prep experts Amy Seeley and Mike Bergin on Tests And The Rest!