Student Life

How to Pick Housing for College Students

Schools will send housing forms soon. Get the scoop on college dorm rooms, other on campus housing options, and off campus housing.

Kathryn Knight Randolph

March 31, 2023

How to Pick Housing for College Students
Housing forms will be due in the coming weeks – do you know what you want?
Whether you’re a homebody or not, your college dorm room will serve as your headquarters for your first year on campus. That’s why it’s imperative to pick the type of space that will work best for you. Though most colleges do not allow you to pick your room – or even your residence hall – they do give you a say in the type of environment you’d like to be in. With National College Decision Day just around the corner, those housing forms will be sent to you sooner rather than later.

How to Pick Housing for College Students

If you are prepared beforehand with what you want and where you’d prefer to live, you’ll be able to submit your housing form much faster than your peers, which may give you an advantage.

What do you want in a college dorm room?

If you were able to tour your college campus, you were likely shown a dorm room. During most college visits, tour guides show off the best rooms, but not all dorms are created equal, even on the same campus. As you prepare to complete your housing form, think back to the dorms you visited. Did any stick out to you? Rank them in order of preference. If you couldn’t see all the dorms on campus, most colleges host images of the rooms as well as the blueprints on their website. It’s not the same as seeing the rooms in person, but it at least gives you an idea when you’re comparing your options. Many colleges allow college students to indicate if they would prefer to live in same-sex, co-ed spaces, or gender-neutral housing, which means occupants can live in the same room regardless of sex, gender identity, or gender expression. You can also indicate that you would like to live in substance-free housing. Though all dorms are technically substance-free, choosing this designated housing means that you will be grouped together with other students who plan to avoid substances during their first year.
Finally, you may be a student who needs a specific room because of a disability, illness, or extreme food allergy. You will likely work directly with the Residential Life office on campus. Reach out to them before housing forms are sent to determine whether or not you need to fill one out.

How do I choose between on-campus and off-campus housing?

Many college campuses require students to live on campus during their first year of college. However, there are institutions that allow students to choose between on campus and off campus housing.
If you have the choice, there are a few things to keep in mind about off campus housing. The first is that it may be more difficult to make friends if you opt to live in an apartment off campus. Dorms foster a community environment, requiring you to share your bathroom, study space, and lounges with others. In doing so, you’re guaranteed to meet a lot of people. It can also be more expensive to live off campus. Before committing either way, you should look up the average costs for rent, utilities, and groceries for students living off campus. Compare it to the room and board costs of living in the dorms. You’ll also need to keep in mind that there could be repairs and other miscellaneous costs that come with living off campus versus living on. At the same time, you may have the personality to live off campus. It could be that you easily make friends in classes or through extracurriculars, or you may thrive mentally and emotionally by living on your own. You know yourself best – make the decision that’s right for you.

What are other housing options on campus?

Most college campuses come with a variety of housing options. Students can choose from apartments and townhouses that mimic off campus living. They can also choose to live in a unit with students who share the same major, philanthropic efforts, or distinguished scholarship. Larger universities host themed housing for students as well. These may be centered around students who are majoring in a specific language and designated housing exists to provide a more immersive college experience. Other students may be able to find housing centered around a love for the same food, literature, or outdoor living. These are oftentimes referred to as co-ops, or cooperatives. Finally, students may have the opportunity to join a fraternity or sorority while in college. In doing so, they may be required to live in their fraternity or sorority house for a semester or full year. These houses are a lot like the dorms, giving students the opportunity to share rooms, bathrooms, and common spaces. Larger fraternity and sorority houses will oftentimes come with their own kitchen and dining room. For four years or more, your college campus is your home away from home. You’ll have plenty of opportunities to move around and live wherever you want. Just be sure that when you’re making that decision, you’re well-informed of your options so that you can choose the living situation that will best suit your academic, physical, and emotional needs.

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