How to Decide Which Kind of Dorm is Best for You

Dorm life: it’s a trademark of the college lifestyle, and it’s a world unlike any other. College is one of the few times when you will be surrounded by hundreds or even thousands of people your age just like you, looking to have an amazing four-year experience. One of the most important parts of this experience, however, is your choice of housing. Nowadays, there are so many different options: single housing, doubles, triples and quads, themed-housing, substance-free housing and so much more. Luckily, HC has rounded up some of the best and worst features of each so you can choose the one that’s best for you!

Choose a single if…

You prefer things your way or the highway.

You’ll meet tons of awesome people in college, and sometimes clicking with a random roommate is easy. Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case. The roommate horror stories have done their job – you cringe at the mere thought of sharing a place with a total stranger. What if she doesn’t clean? What if her nocturnal habits keep you awake? A single dorm may be the way to go if you like everything on your own schedule. In a single, you’re the queen. The decorations, layout, closet space and everything else are totally up to you.

You can listen to your music without headphones, study in silence at any time of the day and have guests stay over without checking with your roommate first (perfect for collegiettes in serious relationships). On the flip side, you also will never have to worry about the awkward, morning-after encounter with your roommate and the guy she brought home from the frat party last night…

If you have a bad case of FOMO (Fear of Missing Out), this is not a good option. “While all your friends are getting ready together with their roommate, sharing clothes, you’re all alone!” says Hillary Coombs, a junior at Bryant University who experienced single-dorm life while her roommate was abroad sophomore year. “I am also a social butterfly, so I hated this part.”

When you get locked out of your room, when your alarm doesn’t go off for class or when you begin to feel lonely, not having another body in the room may actually be a huge negative. And without a roommate, you may have to put in a little extra effort to meet friends on campus and people who can introduce you to others. Also, who said privacy is free? Singles are usually more expensive than multi-person rooms.

Choose a double if…

You’re easygoing and need a little bit of company in your life.

Living in a double is one of the most traditional types of college housing, but it can also be one of the best. Assuming you and your roommate tolerate each other (or better yet, become great friends and future bridesmaids in each other’s wedding), you will have someone with whom you can go to the dining hall, order late night food, go to parties and so much more. If you get sick, she will hopefully take care of you. And if she knows a lot of people at the college, you may be able to score a few new friends from her connections. For any shy girls, this is a great way to easily boost your social circle. Plus, if you both really hit it off, you may be looking at a potential roommate for the next few years, making your future housing decisions a lot easier.

One of the most important lessons for living in a double is learning to compromise, especially if you’ve never shared a room with another person before college. When you don’t have buffers (a third or fourth person in the room) tensions may rise faster between you and your roommate. But don’t worry! There are plenty of ways to fix roommate drama. To avoid awkward situations (for example, walking in on your roommate and her boyfriend, the first time she sees you changing clothes or your first fight), which are very likely in a double, make sure to communicate often.

Choose a triple/quad if…

You can’t stand the thought of being alone in your room – ever.

In a dorm with several roommates, it’s unlikely that you’ll ever be completely alone. So if you want someone with you at all times to avoid those creeping homesick feelings, check out triples and quads. If you’re looking to save a few pretty pennies and still live in the heart of campus, this type of housing may be your best option. One of the most appealing features is that they are generally considerably cheaper than the average single or double dorm room. Also, as you gain more roommates, the chances of you getting along with at least one of them usually increases. The more friends, the merrier, right?

Although having lots of people in your room can be a great thing whenever you want company, it can also be a huge negative. After a long day of classes and work, you probably just want quality “you” time. In a room with two or three other people, privacy is a rare luxury. You and your roommates will likely have different schedules, making it difficult to always respect each other’s sleep time, or study time. Therefore, in a triple or quad, you may have to be extra concerned about showing respect for your roommates. It’s also not uncommon to be worried about becoming the “odd one out” in a room with two or three other girls. You can’t always prevent this clique-y situation, but communication among all roommates will definitely help.

Choose substance-free housing if…

The idea of drinking or drug usage totally freaks you out.

Substance-free housing means you’re making a commitment to live in a dorm free from alcohol, tobacco and other drugs. (Note: At most schools, it doesn’t mean you have to abstain completely once you’re outside of the dorm!) You’ll likely feel more comfortable when your roommates and hallmates share similar values. The lack of peer pressure in your immediate environment may even encourage you to stick to your beliefs. Plus, life will seem easier when you don’t have to worry about your roommate throwing a booze-filled rager the night before your big finance exam.

College doesn’t simply educate you – it prepares you for life. Some people argue that substance-free housing reinforces close-mindedness. If you live with people who share all your beliefs on drugs and alcohol, will you ever learn to accept differing points of view? These dorms also tend to have stricter policies. If you do decide to have a few drinks while out, you may not be allowed to return to the dorm while under the influence. Since you’re responsible for your guests, make sure they understand the rules, too. Read the fine print on the contract before move-in day!

Choose single-sex housing if…

Joining a “No Boys Allowed” club sounds like a great idea.

There’s nothing like having a classic girls’ night. So why not do it 24/7? Single-sex housing can lead to awesome, long-lasting friendships with some amazing girls. “I thought single-sex housing would be awful,” says Bucknell University senior Sarah Dubow. “But last year I lived in my sorority’s housing and it was such an amazing, empowering and fun experience to be around my sisters all the time and get so much closer with them.”

If substance-free housing is too much of a commitment, but you still want to steer clear of potentially dangerous influences, single-sex housing may be your best option. The president of The Catholic University of American in Washington, John Garvey, cited studies that showed students in single-sex housing participated in binge drinking half as much as students in co-ed dorms. Single-sex housing is less likely to foster the typical, college “hook-up culture,” as well, and you won’t have to dodge boys when you’re headed to the bathroom, or when you’re in your towel. Also, female housing tends to be cleaner, without the smell of boys wafting down the hallway. Always a plus!

In a single-sex dorm, you won’t meet that cute boy on your floor. So if you’re trying to make guy friends or meet the frat boy of your dreams, single-sex housing may put you at a disadvantage. When you’re surrounded by girls, you might also find that you’re more self-conscious, or encounter catty situations much more often. In single-sex housing, you should always be careful about what you say and protect your reputation – the last thing you’ll want is a hall full of girls gossiping about you.

Choose co-ed housing if…

Group hangouts are your “thing.”

Like painting your nails and playing video games? Co-ed dorms will give you the best of both worlds. While you’ll definitely have the chance to make some great girl friends, guy friends won’t be hard to find either. Co-ed dorms tend to offer a more light-hearted atmosphere, and there’s never a dull moment, says Jordan Chang, a University of Florida senior who lived in co-ed housing while studying abroad in Shanghai. “The boys and girls would all go out together, so it was really easy to meet up with people,” she says. “And even better, we would all walk home together at the end of the night. It really made us girls feel a lot safer.”

Added bonus? When you’re baking in the community kitchen, we’re sure the boys will be more than willing to taste-test your awesome brownies – and the ones you burn.

With something always happening in the halls, Jordan says you can expect the noise level to definitely be greater in a co-ed dorm. When you’re living near boys, you should also be more aware of who’s around you. This means walking around in a towel or a sports bra may create more commotion than if you were in a single-sex residence hall. And remember, you should also prepare yourself for the possibility of seeing a bit more of the boys than you originally planned. If the thought of running into a boy in a towel makes you uneasy, a co-ed dorm may not be the right choice for you.

Choose themed housing if…

You’re looking to meet people just like you.

Eco-friendly living, art housing, international floors and more – the different types of themed-housing are endless. Whether you’re looking to connect with people who share your same interests, culture or major, themed-housing is probably your best bet. It’s a simple way to make friends fast. After all, having a conversation-starter when you first meet is the simplest way to kick things off on the right foot with potential new friends. This type of housing typically has tons of activities and events for residents, too. No need to worry about being bored when you’re living in a themed dorm.

Northwestern sophomore Katherine Mirani, who lives in the communications-themed residential hall, says she has loved the experience. Her 100-person dorm is filled with mostly journalism and film majors. “I got to know a lot of people really well through the dorm traditions,” she says. “For example, we do a 50-hour continuous radio broadcast for charity in the fall, and we have multiple screening rooms, so people are always watching movies together.”

Katherine says she wouldn’t trade her experience for anything, but she admits others in her dorm didn’t share the same feelings. While one of the perks of themed-housing is the formation of a close-knit group of people, this can just as easily be a negative. What happens if you really can’t connect with the people who live around you? Will it be easy for you to branch out and meet people outside of your dorm? Keep in mind that by choosing to live with people who share your same interests, you may not be fully expanding your horizons. But themed-housing can still be an adventure, so give it a fair shot if you’re considering it as one of your first choices.

Now that you know what to expect from each type of housing, think long and hard about your decision. Living in a dorm can be a great experience when you choose the setting that’s best for you. Get excited, prepare to make new friends and pick a dorm that’s going to make you love college life even more. Good luck, future and current collegiettes!

Photo Sources
Female Student
Friends Talking 
Women Symbol
Students Moving In
Young Women in Bathroom