Where To Live At College
Where To Live At College
Harlan Cohen (Author) gives expert video advice on: Should I live on or off campus my freshman year?; Are there advantages to living off campus?; What is a 'residence hall' or 'dorm'? and more...
Should I live on or off campus my freshman year?
Any student who has the opportunity to live on campus during their freshman year should absolutely live on campus for their freshman year. The idea of living with 30 total strangers and eating with them, showering with them, partying with them and studying with them might not seem like a lot of fun. I don't mean all at the same time, because I don't know any residents hall where 30 people shower together. No one's written to me about that yet, and if it happens, write to me. The thing is those are our experiences, living with people who you aren't familiar with, being immersed into this group experience. Everyone's so afraid to look stupid or look like a freshman, but if you can live in a place where people are stupid and are all freshman, and of course I don't mean that anyone is stupid, but it's that feeling, it's that insecure, uncomfortable feeling to be in a place where everybody's together. It is a group experience that makes something difficult so much easier, and there are built in resources and a safety net that you only get with living in a residence hall.
Are there advantages to living off campus?
There are advantages to living off campus if you like paying you own bills you like dealing with the landlord. If you like dealing with the cable company. If you like shopping and cooking you own meals. If you like dealing with roommate situations without anyone who can help intervene. If you want to deal with all those things then that's cool, you can do that. Those are some of the advantages. But living on campus you don't have to worry about all those little things that can be a headache. So to live off campus, yeah you can do that. You can do it your sophomore year, your junior year, senior year, double bonus senior year you have that opportunity. But living in a residence hall and sharing in that group experience is amazing plus you get to see what is happening. There are flyers all around to keep you in touch. People are recruiting you to get involved on campus. A lot of times there is free tutoring. A lot of times there is free mental help; there's free sexual health screenings. There is so many different things you see as a product of living in that community that you don't get living somewhere else.
What is a 'residence hall' or 'dorm'?
With a residence hall, sometimes people call them 'dorms'—and I'm not really crazy about calling them dorms. I know that residential life staff, they like to call them residence halls, because it's not just a room. When you hear 'dorm', you think room with bed, desk, window, and maybe a bathroom outside - there should be, or outhouse, whatever your campus has. But it's really a community, and that's what a residence hall is. It's like a cruise ship, let's say, without the water and the gambling, (sometimes there's online gambling—there's internet poker). I'm saying it is like a cruise ship without the water. And it has everything for you to help you have an amazing experience; emotionally, physically, spiritually, academically. And that's why the advisor and residential hall staff like to call it 'residence hall' instead of 'dorms,' because it's something so much bigger than just a room.
What will I need to bring to my residence hall?
For God's sakes, bring your flip flops. You need to bring these flip flops. The flip flops that go on your feet, where else would they go? They're flip flops. Because if the floors could talk, they would scream. They'd be "Aaahh!" because of the bodily fluids that fall on the floor. The just general grime and dirt, and bacteria, and, you can use your imagination, and people just walk around and they're like "Hey, its no big deal. I can walk on this." But you need to bring these flip flops. It's really... Bring the flip flops. Bring flip flops. Bring them.And then, if you want to bring some other things, that's cool too. And you talk to your roommate: what do I have, what do you have? Some people have more than other people and some people have very little, they've just come with like a pencil and a notebook, and just be really cool about it. Ask them what they have and be cool with whatever they have. Another thing to do is go to one of these stores--you know, these stores out there that cater to college students who are puttin' their rooms together, and oftentimes there are lists. And go through that and just get the essentials. But know that you don't have everything, that's okay, that you can always get those other things. The most important thing-- I don't know if I mentioned this-- you need to bring flip flops. It's very important to bring flip flops. Flops. Flip flops. Bring 'em.
What are the advantages of a co-ed dorm?
With a Co-ed dorm there's this thing I call “the convenience hook-up”. It's one of the fifteen forms of the college hook-up. It's cool because it's like a convenience store. You just walk down the hall and it's like “hello love” - and it's there sometimes. But it's all good until things go bad. And then you could get in a lot of trouble because your ex is living a couple of doors down. So the relationship part of it, that's one thing that's cool. That's a positive. It's nice to meet people of different genders. It's interesting. People who bring different things to the table, not just their anatomy but their points of view. How often do you get to live in a hall and sometimes someone is right next door to you but it's someone of the opposite sex. Now there are even co-ed rooms in some colleges now. That I think is a bit ridiculous because you don't need to live with someone. If you are dating them, you can live apart and see how that works. You'll spend the rest of your life living together. But when it comes to living down the hall, there are some positives to that.
What are the disadvantages of a co-ed dorm?
The disadvantages of a co-ed dorm are that sometimes when you are dealing with convenience hook-ups - and a convenience hook-up is like a convenience store, there's someone who is down the hall and you shop on your floor or at another floor - you have a relationship and then things go bad, and then you have an ex living a few doors down. It becomes very inconvenient. That's the big thing that you don't want to have. The other thing is sometimes safety issues. Some people are just not comfortable living with a woman on their floor. There are a lot of guys that say "I don't want a woman living on my floor. What if she wants to hang out with me, that's scary." There's also women who don't like hanging out with guys on their floor because sometimes there can be an unsafe situation. When you are in a co-ed living situation, sometimes people can be uncomfortable, and that's why there are single sex dorms available.
Is there anything I can do if I don't like my dorm room or residence hall?
If you don't like where you live, you can find a new place. Sometimes it's easier said than done, because there are a ton of people on campus and usually the first couple of months it's tough to find another place to live. However before you think "This is the worst experience ever and I hate it and I hate this place and I hate everyone around me" just think about it. This is because hate becomes more hate and then you start attracting people who also hate it and then you become part of this hate club and you could form your "I hate where I live" Facebook group. And when you hate something so much, you're never going to have a chance to love it. And the thing is sometimes the things that make it uncomfortable and make you hate it really are things that will eventually kind of dissipate and as you find your place you'll realize, "This is actually a cool place to live." You know, if you don't love your residence hall, as long as your safety isn't in jeopardy, use it as an excuse to get more involved, to stay out of your room, to meet more people, because it's really not always the physical dynamics; it's so much of our emotional dynamics.
What is an 'RA' or 'Resident Assistant'?
An RA is sometimes referred to as a CA, and sometimes as many other things that I really can't mention here. They've been called a lot of names, but helpful is often the most common one. A Resident Assistant or Resident Advisor or CA, Community Advisor, are people who actually live on the floors of the students and the residence halls. Sometimes they don't actually live on that floor. There's maybe one RA for every two floors, or sometimes one for every building. The RA is really that person that is - I like to refer to them as a concierge at a hotel - going to point people to the resources on campus to help them to find whatever it is they need. They're also going to help take care of their safety issues, so they are almost like a flight attendant, too. That's a flight attendant's primary job, not just serving drinks and peanuts, although it's hard to find nuts on a lot of planes now which is insane. They are there to make sure your safety is secure. Also, they deal with room-mate situations. They deal with the emotional dynamics, so an RA is really - I wouldn't say a parent, but someone who protects you and should nurture the floor and help to create a sense of community. If you ever have any questions, you should be comfortable enough to approach your RA.
What can I do if I don't like my RA?
If you have a really horrible RA who thinks that being an RA is like free room and board, and don't knock cause I'm getting busy. What kind of RA is that? Someone who isn't doing their job. So what you need to do is find another RA you can connect with. Sometimes you have a friend who has like this amazing RA. You can be like, "Hey, do you mind if I hang out with you and can I talk to your RA?" I've talked to so many Resident Assistants who have adopted students from other floors and have helped them to be part of the community. Sometimes RAs will plan floor events, and there'll be cool craft events and you can make a purse out of tin foil which is awesome. And the RAs will invite students from other floors to be a part of it . So if your RA is the worst RA ever, try to find another one. Also talk to their supervisors, because there's a whole hierarchy within the residential life system and if your RA's not doing his or her job, then you need to tell someone, because that RA is really a lifeline to campus and it's something you really should do. And work your way up through the hierarchy. If you can't find answers, don't stop until you're at the President's office, but your RA should be there for you.
What are some tips to getting the best housing on campus?
To get the best housing, it varies from campus to campus. Sometimes it helps if you get your housing application in right away. Sometimes it helps if you have special needs. Sometimes it can help when you actually get there - and I mean get there when the residence halls open. Whoever gets to the room first gets the best bed, a lot of times, so timing would be everything when it comes to that. The other thing is to talk to students on campus. I haven't mentioned this enough. If there's someone living in a residence hall that you want to live with, email them. Connect with them through Facebook. Ask them, "How did you get to live here? What are some tips?" Within each campus, there are some inner workings, and if you can work the inner workings and find out how to work it, then you can end up working yourself into the best living situation.