From size and style to location, air conditioning, proximity to the cafeteria and more, residence halls come with many options these days, choices that can make a world of difference in how quickly and successfully first-year students adapt to life away from home. Two Illinois students share their experiences:
Tim Sutyak, a freshman studying electrical engineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, chose a large residence hall his first year. He says this was "mostly based on the fact that most of my friends were also trying to live there, and the floors are not coed -- fewer distractions. I also liked that it is really close to the engineering quad."
Kathryn Aguirre is a senior in elementary education at Bradley University in Peoria, Ill. "Freshman year, I lived in University Hall. It was the only dorm that was completely freshman based, which is what I wanted."
"The building I chose was boy-girl by floor with one main bathroom in the middle of the hall," continues Aguirre. "My room, like every other room, was a two-person room. My roommate brought the futon and TV. I brought the mini fridge. We each had a desk, printer, chair and closet."
"I thought about suite style and coed floors," says Sutyak. "I decided against suites because I would not get out and meet as many people. Here I leave my door open all the time and have met a ton of people. I also chose to live on a non-coed floor because, honestly, there would be a lot more 'questionable activities' between genders living in close proximity of each other.
"There is a shared bathroom in the middle of the floor. This works really well, and I have had zero problems with anything. The showers are all private, and there are plenty of toilets and sinks -- no waiting to use anything in the bathroom.
"Dorm rooms can be really awesome if you put good thought into them. My room is a double. It's small, but nice. On my side of the room, there is a lofted bed with a couple of beanbags underneath it for guests. The mini fridge is under my bed and is shared. There is a desk next to my bed where most of my school stuff is. We have a rug, which is a great addition. There are also Christmas lights up in our room along with a few lamps; so we never use the main light. This adds a nice homelike feel. There is a TV in the center between my desk and my roommate's desk. My roommate's side has his desk next to his bed, which is lofted halfway.
"There is also a common room on our floor. We use this room to hang out a lot and play board games, card games and video games."
For students enrolling without a roommate selected in advance, some colleges offer an online personality profile to help with room assignments. Students list favorite activities, how and when they like to study, and so on.
"I only knew my roommate through our conversations on Facebook," says Aguirre. "I did a lifestyle profile before I got matched up with her, yet the profile thing did not work. We were complete opposites. We had many problems that ranged from heat and AC control, boys spending the night, and TV sound." Aguirre moved into a sorority house her second year.
Sutyak's assignment worked well. "We did not know each other before we moved in. We have worked well together. The only survey question I filled out was 'smoking or nonsmoking.' I am lucky our schedules work well and everything," he says.
"The best thing to do with problems is to talk about them and try to be reasonable. Sometimes I go to bed early, and he turns down the brightness on his computer. Sometimes I am playing music too loud, so I turn it down." Sutyak plans to return to the same residence hall his sophomore year.
*Do's and Don'ts
"Start shopping for items now," says Aguirre. "Decide who's bringing what (e.g., futon, TV, mini fridge).
"Bring shower shoes, crackers and blankets. Do not bring junk food, because the freshman 15 (the tendency to gain weight the first year away from home) does in fact exist.
"College is supposed to be fun, so live it up. I had a great freshman year (even though) I did not like my roommate. It forced me to get out of my room and meet lots of people."
Sutyak advises, "Bring Christmas lights, a few lamps, a rug, a small extra chair for guests and duct tape; it fixes everything.
"Don't bring too many school supplies. I have way too many silly school-ish things I never used. It's good to be prepared, but don't overprepare. You don't have a lot of space in your room, and you want to make your room a nice place to live."