College is a chance to obtain a one-way ticket to freedom: a life without parents hovering over our shoulders, without curfews, without rules. Adulthood holds its arms wide open for college students. Many students cannot wait to get into college so they can leave home. Dorm life is an attractive option for high school seniors, but few people consider the severe change in lifestyle that occurs when they make their college decisions. Though living in a dorm has its perks, there are also a few surprises that we don’t tend to anticipate before getting to college.
-A quick commute:
Because most residence halls are located on the college campus, classes are simply a short walk or bike ride away from one’s bed. This means that there is no reason to plan ahead for train or bus delays, or wake up two hours before class starts. James Law Thompson (’11), who attends Columbia College, said, “Since I do live in the city, getting to classes would be inconvenient if I didn’t dorm. I can wake up right before classes and not be late.” Lucy Qian (’11), who attends Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) in Pennsylvania, agrees that as a former Stuyvesant student, the extra hour is invaluable. “Whereas it once took an hour to get to class, [at CMU] it takes you 15 minutes,” she said.
Usually, the college administration will assign a student his or her roommate. The roommate assignment that a student receives is typically determined by a personality survey. A student is paired up with someone who answered the survey with similarly. Some schools, such as CMU, allow a student to request a roommate, and if both agree to this, they will most likely be paired up. This is true in Qian’s case. She is currently living with two other Stuyvesant graduates. In other colleges, not everyone will have a roommate. For example, Thompson lives in a dorm by himself. Whether or not a student will have to room with someone depends on how early he or she applies and it is often decided by a lottery. Though “in freshman year, it is significantly easier to get a dorm [in Columbia],” Thompson said. Samira Siddique (’11), who attends Wesleyan University in Connecticut, lives in a dorm where rooms are “two room doubles, which means I have my own room, but it’s still basically connected to my roommate’s room,” Siddique said in an email interview. This ways, she still has the privacy of her own room, yet has the opportunity to be with a roommate.
Living in a dorm assures that you will never be lonely. If you choose to dorm, you will be with people who attend the same or similar classes to you, and often those who live on the same floor as you will become your closest friends. “It’s distracting, but most of your friends are in your class, and you get to study with them,” Qian said. “We have floor meetings where everyone in one floor hang out together and socialize.”
Siddique agrees and said, “It’s pretty awesome to just wake up and have 120 of your peers to hang out with.”
-Boredom is a thing of the past
Aside from having friends and classmates just a wall away, dorms offer several recreational opportunities. In CMU, like many other universities, there are gyms on campus for students to use for free.
“My dorm regularly books outside bands to come and play in our basement event space, and a bunch of other performances (art, theater, etc.) go on there too,” Siddique wrote about Wesleyan. In addition, colleges are often surrounded by restaurants and parks in which students can relax. For those who would rather stay inside, colleges usually offer free WiFi and cable for television.
Though not as crazy as movies may make them seem, dormitories may have parties on weekends for people to mingle and blow off some steam. “If I want to have fun, I go to a dorm having a party,” said Shilpa Agrawal (’11), who attends Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).
Procrastination can be less attractive when you are living with your fellow students. Many college students avoid the boredom of being alone by studying while living in a dorm. “I get to be with people who love learning and living with people so passionate about learning is very powerful,” Agrawal said.
School food isn’t so bad
If you live in a dorm, you’re most likely going to eat in the dining halls or the many restaurants nearby. Unlike the school food that is known to be less than delicious in high school, colleges try to accommodate students with a variety of palates. There are many healthy choices, but it all depends on whether or not the student will make that choice. Often, the stress coupled with the array of food causes freshmen to experience the “Freshman 15” in which they gain 15 or so pounds after starting school.
For students who have eating restrictions due to religious or other personal reasons, most schools offer a halal and kosher section, in addition to other vegetarian choices.
If students live in a suite, they will most likely have a kitchen to themselves, so if they have the right cooking skills, they can always make their own meals.
For students who’d prefer to eat out, colleges usually have various restaurants bordering them. Siddique said there are “delicious and diverse places to eat in town, which is saying a lot since I’m used to great food while living in New York.”
Money doesn’t fall from trees
With the luxury of living in a dorm comes a hefty price tag. Thompson, who received a full scholarship to pay his tuition, must still pay $17,000 a semester for his room, his dining plan, and books. The cafeteria requires that students pay for a certain number of meals, which varies for each college. Even if a student decides not to eat in the dining hall, eating out in a restaurant every day can be even more expensive.
Colleges also don’t supply students with everyday commodities such as a television, refrigerator, computer, and more. Students must buy these things themselves or coordinate with a roommate and split the costs. However, for students who have no choice but to move away from home, dorms are still a cheaper option than living in an apartment.
Sometimes you may be unlucky and end up rooming with somebody who clashes with you. “If you get a roommate you don’t get along with, you’ll have a horrible time,” Qian said.
In some colleges where roommates must share the same room, roommates might seem intrusive because there is little privacy. In addition, it can be difficult to live with someone who doesn’t clean up after herself. In general, roommates must make several accommodations in order to adjust to the new lifestyle.
Even if you don’t live with a roommate, the other students on your floor can be a nuisance if they play loud music and interfere with your studies. For Thompson, hygiene tends to be the biggest problem when it comes to other students on his floor. His floor has one kitchen that everyone shares and “it can get really disgusting because the people that use the kitchen often don’t take care of it. The person next door to me found a mouse in his room,” Thompson said.
Living with somebody you don’t know very well requires many adjustments that you must be willing to make if you choose to live in a dorm. However, rest assured, “any college does a good job in making sure students transition easily from home to college,” Agrawal said.
Most of us try to avoid using public restrooms, which are notorious for being unclean and often too small to be practical. Though the architecture of bathrooms varies depending on where you go to school, it is safe to say you will probably have to share it with at least one other person.
In Columbia, the bathrooms have stalls, are co-ed, and have two showers, though this may change depending on the dormitory. This may present some privacy issues and may cause long lines to form for the bathroom. However, because students have different class schedules, it can be avoided. “It can get disgusting, but they do clean it every day,” Thompson said. It is still a student’s responsibility to be clean and take others into consideration when he or she uses a bathroom that is shared by so many others.
Missing home sweet home
Despite the eagerness Stuyvesant graduates have to leave home, it is still a milestone in one’s life that requires a lot of work to adapt to. Once you’ve moved into a dorm, you must look after yourself and cannot expect your parents to pick up the pieces for you. The transition can be very difficult, especially having to say goodbye to your parents.
“I was sad that my parents had to leave. I realized I had to live in this room with two people I didn’t live with before,” Qian said.
“It’s always hard being away from home. I miss New York, because it’s a hard place to transition from since it’s such a vibrant place,” Agrawal said, agreeing that though the newfound freedom is exciting, it doesn’t come without nostalgia. Students begin to realize the responsibilities they now have that they previously threw onto their parents, such as doing the cumbersome task of laundry, Agrawal noted.
Of course, moving away from home is a mountain that everyone must climb at some point in his or her life. Although it is very difficult to do so at such a young age, colleges help students overcome the obstacle.
Among the many changes students must become accustomed to when they leave for college, living in a dorm may be one of the biggest. Often people tend to underestimate just how much of a change living in dorms can be. However, it shouldn’t be part of an intimidating unknown. Though living in a dorm comes with its impediments, it also offers many opportunities that students would otherwise be unable to experience. Living in a dorm is simply another unique part of the college experience.