I was accepted to a college away from home but the dorms looked terrible. Are there any other options or am I stuck living in the dorms?


Scarlet Michaelson, English and Writing Teacher

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You could get an off-campus apartment, possibly sharing with other students who would more likely be sophomores, juniors and seniors. But as other people have mentioned, there is wisdom in waiting at least one term before leaving the dorms. It's part of the "college experience" after all! Best of luck to you.

James Kadamus, National education consultant for K-12 and higher education

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There are a lot of factors to consider when making a final decision on attending college. If the campus environment, courses and other facilities such as classrooms and labs fit your needs, then you may be able to put up with dorms that are substandard. The dorm situation will not change by next fall or even in the near future. It takes two years of planning and construction to build a new dorm. Once built, the residential life office will create a system for selecting students to live in the new dorm. That system will likely give preference to upper class students.

As others have written, you will likely be required to live in campus dorms as a freshman. By sophomore year, you can move off campus. Depending on the available stock of housing in the community, you may need to pay a premium for the better off campus apartments. That's something to research before you make your final decision on attendance. You may find that affordable off campus options are no better from a quality standpoint than on-campus.

So do some research on housing options. Talk to the residential life staff at the campus. This will help give you the facts you need to make a final decision on attendance.

Carrie Hagen, Nonfiction Writer and Researcher, Teacher

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I agree with what Eric says. The dorms may look less than ideal, but if you don't stay there, you might feel more disengaged than you anticipate. The heart of student life resides in these spaces. I had the same concern you did, and as a result, lived in an apartment earlier than most. Although I had fun, involved roommates, I really felt disconnected, and when people talk about their freshman years, I feel like I missed out on them. You will have plenty of time to move on to another living situation should you try dorm living.

I also know that many schools know they need to allocate funding to rebuilding, and even rebranding, student housing. As smaller liberal arts schools struggle financially, this need gets pushed to the side unfortunately. These schools know of the concern, though, and at least a few do what they can to make student life that much more varied and engaging.

Amy Yvette Garrou, College admissions expert (US and international colleges)

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The other writers give good advice. I'll add one wrinkle: many four-year colleges which have a "campus" actually require students to live in on-campus housing their first year. After first year, you can typically live in a private apartment or other non-campus housing. But at many colleges, unless you are going to a residential college that's in your hometown, you are required to live in the dorms first year.

You could certainly ask the student housing office about all the possible housing options, if you are required to live in student housing your freshman year. Often, the earlier you pay the deposit, the better your choices of campus housing are. Are there special-interest dorms you can live in, such as language houses or other "themed" housing?

If your choices of dorm are truly limited and are all pretty much the same, then you'll have to think about how much your first-year housing matters to you. Remember that it's not just about the physical building; it's also about the people you'll meet and even the camaraderie that can develop based on everyone's shared experience in that dorm. I've seen students bond over living in a dorm that's old and doesn't have A/C (but is across the street from where their classes are held).

You don't say whether you were accepted Early Decision to this college with the not-so-nice dorms. If so, you are committed to attending unless it's a true financial hardship for your family.

So, check out what your options are for housing, and best wishes for your first year!

Anonymous, Former graduate student

I'm sorry to hear that the dorms seem terrible at your school. In my general opinion, you should always try to dorm your freshman year because this maximizes the "college experience" and provides the greatest of ease in making new friends. However, I understand that in some situations, such as unattractive dorms, this may not be desired.

Luckily, dorming is not the only option when it comes to freshman housing. If you have a few friends that also do not want to dorm, you can find an apartment near campus to rent out. This is what many students do after dorming their freshman year. Apartment housing may be associated or associated with the university, but either way, this provides an alternative to dorming. This is essentially the only other option when it comes to college housing (albeit a very general option). It really would come down to what apartments you don't think are terrible. Other options would include commuting from your home or renting a room in someone else's house/apartment. I would recommend dorming if you can, but if not, I would recommend looking into nearby apartments. Best of luck to you in finding housing!

Robyn Scott, Educational Consultant, TutorNerds LLC

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Although there weren't too many choices in the past, there are several alternatives to dorm life these days. One thing to look at is the cost of living in the area you will be going to school in. Lower cost of living areas will likely have student apartments near campus that are often less expensive than a dorm if shared with a roommate. Some universities have student housing (other than dorms) on campus or can assist out of area students with locating housing. It's important to be well rested and feel comfortable while learning so, if the dorms would be a distraction from studies or comfort, looking for alternate housing is a good idea. However, many freshmen feel socially isolated if they live off campus so think about joining a club or society to stay involved within the campus community.

I hope that helps!

Amy McElroy, Graduate of Women's College, SMU Law School; Writer, Parent of Two

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You need to remember that the dorms are not something you should compare to your current living situation or even a long-term living situation. Think of it more like summer camp and only as a place you will likely sleep and not much else. You may do much of your studying in the library or another comfortable place on campus. Also, dorms often get so decorated and personalized, you may hardly recognize the place once you put your own personal touches on it if that's something important to you. Try to be flexible, and request a roommate who cares about the appearance of the room. Make arrangements in advance to decide how to decorate and who will bring what. Have fun with it. It will be a memory and a story you have for the rest of your life.

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