Choosing a Dorm

The Nitty Gritty on Dorms, Suites & Apartments

Three young women studying in student dormitory, one at desk
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As parents, we obsess over those housing forms: double or triple, freshman or all-classes, suites or floors, and, of course, figuring out which dorm is the best fit for our young adults. Shiny, new dorms are always enticing, but if they are in a bad location or if their demographic is not something your student will feel comfortable with day-in and day-out, the appeal of automatic toilets or Amazon lockers will quickly disappear.

Dorm life is a unique and often one-year-only experience that can make or break a student's freshman year experience. With more and more access to meeting roommates before move-in day through social media, most students have a good idea of what they're getting into when it comes to who they will live with - but who will live around them can be an unknown. There are many options that can help to minimize the difficulty of transitioning between the comforts of home and the freedoms - and challenges - of dorm life.

Types of Dorms

Freshman vs. All-Class Dorm:

  • Freshman dorms are packed with teens going through the similar first year experiences, so most of those living in freshman dorms are eager to meet people and make new friends.
  • While dorm life as a freshman may not be the most restful or peaceful experience, it can be key to getting off on the right foot socially for many. Encourage your student to 
  • A dorm that mixes under and upperclassmen will not have the same social vibe, as older students tend to have their groups of friends already.
  • In an all-class dorm, upperclassmen can be incredible resources for new students, if they are open to mixing with the new kids.They know which professors are the most fascinating and which the dullest. They understand how to navigate administrative and financial aid issues, and where to go for medical, academic or internship help. They also have cars.​

    Suites, Floors and Apartments:

    • The classic dorm has double rooms that open directly onto a central corridor. Living quarters can be tiny and restrooms are shared with 20-40 people, but the atmosphere is vibrant and sociable as students pop in and out of each other’s rooms.
    • Suites, which are usually arranged as a set of three or four single or double rooms, a shared restroom, and a small living area, offer significantly more privacy – and quite a bit less socializing with the neighbors down the hall.
    • Campus apartments offer the most privacy. They’re usually assigned to upperclassmen who already have a circle of friends and, one hopes, at least rudimentary cleaning and cooking skills.

    Special Interest Dorms:

    Special interest dorms range in type, including:

    • Quiet dorms for those who prefer to have a room that is conducive to studying and sleeping
    • Dry dorms for those who are not comfortable with alcohol or recreational drugs
    • LGBTQ dorms for those who are looking for a safe place to be comfortable with their sexuality and avoid possible conflict with less-than accepting roommates or suitemates
    • Gender neutral dorms which allow for students to choose roommates of the opposite sex or sexual fluidity


      Location, Location, Location:

      Depending on your major, special interests or extra-curricular activities, your dorm location can be very important to your lifestyle:

      • Athletes spend a lot of time at practice. Living near their playing fields or facilities is helpful.
      • Music majors, especially those who have heavy instruments to carry to and from class, will be happier living within a reasonable distance of performance halls.
      • Pre-med students are better off living near the science classrooms.
      • Students who rely on public transportation to get to part time jobs, internships and other off-campus activities should consider living near local train stations and bus stops.
      • For those with disabilities, choosing a dorm with easy access, especially at schools with older buildings, can be very helpful. 

      Single Sex Housing: Once upon a time, every dorm was single sex.

      Now all-female and all-male dorms are more the exception than the rule. In the 21st century, most dorms are co-ed. If your child would prefer a non-coed option, he has three options: a single sex dorm, a single sex floor in a coed dorm, or going Greek.



      Updated by Sharon Greenthal