There are over 5,000 colleges and universities in the United States, and figuring out which ones you might want to consider attending can seem a daunting task. You can’t apply to all of them, much less find the time to visit and tour thousands of schools. I’m here to help you figure out how to break it down in order to create your personalized college list.
This is the third installment in Narrowing Your Search, a four-part mini series in which I’ll dive into different factors to consider while choosing which institutions to apply to. I’ll talk about location, academics, housing, and extracurriculars. In this installment, I’ll talk about housing and student life.
College is different from high school. (Well, obviously.) There are lots of things that set it apart, one of the biggest being that lots of students choose to go to a university far from the place where they grew up. College is the first time many students will live alone, away from their families.
Of course, not everyone will choose to live at school. If you choose to go to a commuter school, or one that’s near your home and doesn’t require you to live in the dorms, this isn’t something you need to be thinking about. However, if you do choose the dorm experience, there are some things you might want to think about.
You can do a quick google search to find out what the dorm buildings are like at each school you’re considering. What kind of housing options are available to first-years? How close are the dorms to the classrooms?
At UChicago, there’s another question to be answered: how are the dorms assigned and broken down? Housing here is required for the first two years of school, and students can rank each of the 7 dorm buildings in accordance with their preferences. One of my favorite things about this place is that we have a Hogwarts-esque housing system (although ours are assigned randomly, not by sorting hat). Each dorm is divided into house of 40-100 students, each with its own name, flag, traditions, and favorite house trips. For example, I was put into Trott House, one of eight houses located in Campus North. Some Trott House traditions include: our red-carpet Oscars party with awards for the best dressed, trips to thrift shops and restaurants downtown, throwing our RA’s into the lake at the start of the year, and a bonfire at the lake to close off Spring quarter.
Like I said, our houses are assigned randomly, so in one you’ll find students with all different majors, interests, and backgrounds. However, some schools do it differently. For example, another system, sometimes called a “Living & Learning Community” groups students into dorms by area of study. In a dorm like this, you’ll be living near people who all share your academic interests.
The living experience on campus consists not only of the place where you’re sleeping, but also about the traditions and events that are unique to each institution. UChicago has no lack of quirky and fun traditions that keep life here interesting. For example, for three days each spring you’ll find students running around campus, trying to invent sliced canned bread, write a holiday card inspired using rock lyrics and a rock song using holiday card lyrics, or procure a Michelin® tire signed by a chef at a Michelin® restaurant. This is all part of Scav hunt, an annual campus-wide scavenger hunt that once held the world record for being the largest scavenger hunt in the world (until Google went and one-upped us and made a bigger one).
Another thing to keep in mind: dining! Schools have a variety of meal plans and dining options, and also serve different kinds of food. Do you have dietary restrictions or allergies? It might be a good idea to look at the different accommodations available in the dining halls.
I hope this helps get the ball rolling for you as you start to think about what’s important to you in a college. Keep an eye out for the next and final installment of this series, in which I’ll talk about extracurriculars and athletics!