A Guide to University Housing Part 1: The Downside of Dorm Life
No parents, co-ed dorms, constant partying and food whenever you want it; living in residence sounds like a blast! And it can be, but if you’re considering spending a year in the frenzy that is residence life take the time to weigh your options. Below is part one of a series by Jobs People Do staff exploring the ups and downs, ins and outs of different university housing options.
Part One: Residence Life is Not One Size Fits All
Cramped, shared spaces, roommate personality clashes, questionable facilities, and non-stop parties at full volume make up the pool of common residence experiences that students either float through or drown in.
In my first year of university, I sunk.
The environment was too much to handle; I simply didn’t like the general atmosphere of my residence and regretted a lot of the choices that I made in living there. The place where you will spend most of your time in your first year of university deserves a lot of thought and careful consideration. There are several reasons why residence may not be for you, and important things to think about when making these vital housing decisions.
Many students have difficulty transitioning from life at home to life on-campus because of their newfound independence and responsibility. It’s an entire lifestyle change, with no curfews, set meal times, et cetera. Life in residence is where social and academic lives converge, and the balance can be hard to strike.
Because of the nature of the work and the necessary adjustment into this new lifestyle, do not be surprised if your freshman grades are lower than those you got as a high school senior. MacLeans Magazine calls this high school to post-secondary grade difference a “grade drop”, claiming that there’s a 14 per cent decline in the average student’s grade at this time.
I did not think much about housing, I just checked off the most common boxes for a double room with a randomly assigned roommate. I had only been to the school once and I had never explored the residence buildings. Come move-in day, I realized that my belongings were being smushed into an old, run-down double room with a shared washroom like a bathroom stall and a busted heater.
To prepare yourself for life in res, visit campus beforehand if possible, in person or otherwise. Most universities in Canada are also beginning to offer virtual online tours, where you can assess the sizes of the rooms and better understand the general atmosphere. If you like privacy, opt for a single room. If you fear anti-social connotations, try for a single room in a suite of single rooms, or take extra effort in befriending your floormates. As long as you are in residence you never have to be alone, but with a single room you have the option.
Roommate pairing is very hit-or-miss, so be wary when it comes to responding to preferences on any streamlining survey offered. Also, try to give an honest report of yourself, especially when it comes to ongoing aspects like smoking and staying up all night.
Rooming with friends you’ve known from well before university may seem like a good plan, but friendships are more commonly lost than strengthened through room sharing. If you and your roommate foresee troubles with your cohabitation, consider writing up sleep schedules or contracts to keep you both on track.
If there are conflicts you have difficulty handling yourselves, there will always be options available for helping you change your situation. Making friends with your resident advisor or ‘don’ is always a good idea, as they will be your first stop for information about the school or housing policies. Visit the housing office on your campus or via school website. Be prepared to take action if necessary, by understanding where to look and who to see if things go wrong.
Life in residence isn’t all bad, but it is a very serious decision. Considering all options and honestly assessing your wants and needs will help you on your way to your best possible post-secondary experience.