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College Preferences: Academics or Dorms?

Updated on June 29, 2020

Living options is more important than academics

As a junior in high school compiling a list for colleges, one thing stuck out to me the most. Dorms. I consider myself a very high maintenance person who needs her privacy, so whenever I found a college, my first move was to go straight to the Housing section and see if they had what I was looking for. I didn't go and look at the majors they offer or even their tuition and admissions process, but if I would live in a traditional, communal type of dorm, or a suite-style apartment type dorm.

Small room and no space

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What's the difference?

Traditional dorms consist of small rooms with just a bed, a desk, and a closet depending on if you are sharing a double room, single, or even a triple. These rooms also have small closets and barely any space for personal belongings, clothes, etc. Most importantly, bathrooms. There are none! They are usually small bathrooms with stalls at ends of hallways that give students little to no privacy. Suites mainly have individual rooms, private bathrooms, and some have kitchenettes and living areas!

Suites, suites, suites!

If a college I found did not offer suite style dorms for freshman, I immediately clicked out and crossed it off my list. I believe that a college choice shouldn't depend on if they have the greatest academics or best sports teams, but on if you can learn in a space where you feel comfortable. After all, you will be living there for 4, maybe more, years. My main need is and always will be suites. They give you the privacy of an individual room, and there is no need to wander down the hall in a bathrobe, shower shoes, and deal with communal bathrooms where there is no privacy. What about if you are sick, having stomach problems, or don't feel comfortable using the bathroom in a place that feels like school? Most everyone feels most comfortable in their own home bathroom, and suites offer just that. The people you live with share a small kitchen, a living room, each get own rooms, and share maybe even 1-2 private bathrooms, all like a small apartment. I would never be able to survive a communal bathroom or sharing rooms with girls where I would feel clustered, embarrassed, shy, and even angry. That's why colleges get the boot from me if they don't offer suite style living.

Bad experience in traditional dorm

Years ago I went to a camp for the D.A.R.E Program at a college in NJ with one of my friends. We stayed in traditional dorms with two small beds, and one of those walls with a wardrobe, some drawers, and that small space in the middle to share. I hated it. The bathrooms and showers were right outside our door, but they were dirty, I felt insecure and scared to use the bathroom and get ready, or even take a shower with everyone else on my floor. That's when I swore I would never live in one again

My schools as of now

The schools I have successfully found to have what I want consist of: University of Alabama, University of Kentucky, University of Missouri, University of South Carolina, Indiana University Bloomington, and a few others, but these are my top choices. When it came to schools like Alabama or Kentucky, I wasn't picking them for college football or basketball, the Greek Life in Alabama, or checking to see if they had good academics, I made sure they offered suite style which they do, graciously. At Alabama, most of their dorms are suite style, and freshman are allowed to live in them. For example, suites at Presidential Village 1 and 2 have 4 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms, a kitchenette with a full fridge, and a living room. Kentucky also offers mainly 2 or 4 bedroom suites with bathrooms as well in many of their residential dorms. These are my top two schools for those reasons alone, the majors and cost and everything else comes second. Of course all these colleges also offer traditional for students that want to live communally, but the greatest thing they could offer me is a great living space where I know I will thrive and feel happy.

University of Alabama Presidential Village

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What is more important to you?

If you are more focused on getting into a high ranked school that offers a lot academically, is more selective, Ivy League, or any of the sort and don't care where your head rests or you use the bathroom, by all means, choose a school you know will do good for you! Preferences are different among many, and for me, being particular is one of my best and worst traits. You just have to decide for yourself and think about if it's something you can live with for a year, even more, and be comfortable.

Opinions from others

When somebody asks me why I want to go to that college, I tell them the truth. I tell them it's because of their dorm, because of suite style rooms they have. My parents were a little angry and annoyed that I wouldn't look for a better college since I go to a private school in New Jersey where kids always go Ivy or to super selective schools, and then there's me who wants to go to Alabama (Roll Tide) or Kentucky which has I think around a 95% acceptance rate. They wanted me to find something better, but better doesn't always mean the top schools in the country or most well known, but better for me mentally and physically was where I would live at that school. They thought it was selfish and stupid that I would pick a school for its dorm, but in my world, it's smart. I know I wouldn't do well somewhere where I have no space or privacy, and especially if I can't even do a weekend retreat for youth group with communal bathrooms, how would I last a year let alone 4? Even when I told my college counselor, I could tell she was surprised since students from my school aim high and most of the time score high. The thing for me is also that I'm not one of those sorority girls, or a partier, or a huge college football fan, so although many may think Alabama is way out of my zone or if they don't know me well and assume I'm that, they are wrong. I even went on a college tour for Union University in Jackson, TN who is ranked in I think the top 5 for college dorms, and it was very nice, but when they asked how I heard about their school, I'm not sure if it was the *right* thing to do by saying, I saw they were ranked for their dorms... At the end of the day though, Alabama may not be Princeton or Yale, but I know that it's where I would love to go because they offer something that makes me feel safe and comfortable.

University of Kentucky Dorms

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Summer before senior year

I will start applying to colleges in the upcoming months and my only hope is that I get accepted to my top choices and meet the deadlines for housing applications so I can choose my room. I hope that wherever I go, hopefully Alabama, will not only satisfy me in terms of room, but with whatever I decide to major in and the classes I will take and everything else they have. When I visited Alabama back in March before COVID-19 closed things down (and cancelled my visit at Kentucky), I knew even before taking a tour of the dorm that I knew so well after researching for well over a year, that it was perfect and I loved it. The campus, Tuscaloosa, the buildings, and the entire school. I say to everyone, make sure not only do you look at academics, but keep in mind the type of room you want and if a college can give that to you.

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