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Answers to Your College Questions

Should I live in a dorm or off campus during my freshman year of college?

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At all costs, live in the dorm your freshman year!

Residence halls, dormitories, dorms, campus housing—whatever you call it, these are the places most new students who live on campus call home. They are long halls filled with hundreds of mostly clueless people on a common journey. It’s like a cruise, but without the swimming pools, room service, spa, casino, alcoholic drinks, ports of call, free midnight buffets, fine dining, all the water, and the boat. See, exactly like a cruise.

Living in a residence hall is a once-in-a-lifetime experience, so you should experience it at least once in a lifetime (more if you enjoy it). Living in campus housing is so important your first year that some campuses require new students to do it. It’s required because not living on campus means missing out on so much. The logic is to put all new students in a place where everyone is equally as clueless, naïve, lost, and seeking to find their own place in one place. There’s an electricity that buzzes in first-year residence halls (if the buzz is too loud, call maintenance, but don’t expect them to come right away). And if that doesn’t excite you, appreciate that it’s just easier living. There is enough going on during your first year of college to not have to deal with things like paying bills, paying rent, setting up utilities, dealing with landlords, getting cable, getting groceries, finding a place to live, getting to classes, and setting up Internet connections.

Yes, it’s true that living with so many people can get annoying, irritating, and disgusting, but the alternatives do not compare to what you do get. If you’re a commuter student, look into living on campus. At the very least, work to make friends with people living on campus. Between the cost of traveling, the inconveniences of driving, and the challenges of feeling connected to campus life, you might be better off living on campus. Talk to a financial aid advisor and see if you have any options. But everyone should do it at least once.

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Tagged in: College Life Dorms

Harlan Cohen is the author of The Naked Roommate series of books and is one of the most widely read and respected syndicated advice columnists for people in their teens and twenties. His column, "Help Me, Harlan!," is distributed by King Features Syndicate. Harlan regularly tours high school and college campuses giving presentations to students, professionals, and parents. He lives in Chicago, Illinois. Follow Harlan on Twitter @HarlanCohen.


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