In college, you’re finally independent, can make your own choices and now you get to branch out and explore out your interests. All that is awesome, but where are you supposed to live? For many people, the answer is college dorms, but this leads to questions about personal safety and wellbeing.
College dorms are close to campus and owned by the school, which means residents have easy access to protective services offered by the university. However, they can be uncomfortable and sometimes damaging to mental wellbeing, school performance, and physical health.
While staying with Mom and Dad might be cheap, that option doesn’t give you the independence you were looking forward to. If you want to live close to campus, you can live in a dorm or a student apartment.
But where your safety is concerned, is a dorm or an apartment better? First, to make sure we’re on the same page, let’s talk about the differences between the two.
Dorm vs Apartment
College dorms are generally cheaper, smaller, and closer to campus than student apartments.
You can sometimes choose your roommate, but sometimes they are assigned. The dorm will not have a kitchen (except maybe a microwave and a sink,) and food is usually provided in a communal kitchen in the building.
Student apartments on the other hand are bigger, they include a kitchen, and you and your friends can go in on rent together.
This means that you will be cooking your meals, paying for utilities, and hanging. out with people you know and trust. Apartments could also be cheaper overall, depending on how many roommates you have to help out with rent.
Both options offer different benefits but come with drawbacks as well. If you’re considering a dorm, the following are some advantages that might be appealing to you.
Benefits of Dorm Life
If working in the kitchen gives you a headache, a dorm might be a good option. Making your own food is not something you’ll need to worry about. You can either attend the cafeteria where there is a meal rotation, or you can go out to eat. This can get expensive if variety is important to you, but if you’re content with the options your dorm offers, it could save you a lot of money and time.
Though your overall space is small and somewhat cramped, you don’t have to worry about paying for utilities. That expense is included when you pay for the dorm. All furniture is provided, so that’s another expense you save on. You could also choose your roommates, but they might be chosen for you.
Dorms are located on campus. This means less walking for you, which is a major benefit if you don’t have a car. It also means that the school policy and rules are enforced in the dorms. While not everyone lives by these rules, they do offer some level of protection that an apartment usually won’t.
Living In a Dorm Has Its Downsides
Dorms can be a great option for you, but they may not be what you’re looking for. A dorm can come with nasty roommates, cramped living quarters, and hazardous circumstances.
Since you can’t always choose your roommates in a dorm, you could end up living with someone who doesn’t clean up after themselves, brings over suspicious houseguests, or wants to actually do you harm.
Of course, not all assigned roommates are like this. Sometimes an assigned roommate can become your best friend, but there’s always a risk.
Even if you are living with someone you trust, dorms are not always a pleasant experience.
Because of the close-quarters, if one of your roommates is sick, you will probably get sick as well. It could also be hard to find a quiet place to study because you are in each other’s space all the time. This can make the normal stress of college even worse.
Not only are college dorms perfect places for infections to spread, but they are also susceptible to pests and infestations. You might find mold, rats, or bedbugs lurking in your dorm room. All of those can add to the biohazard that already exists in such small spaces.
The cramped space also means you won’t get much privacy. This can sometimes get awkward and annoying. Your entire life is displayed before this person you may or may not know. If you’re the sort of person that prefers lots of alone time, a dorm is probably not a good fit for you.
Depending on the dorm, there may or may not be a need to be concern about sexual/physical safety. Generally, if you’re staying in a dorm that is same-gender, there is less of a concern.
However, you have no control over who your roommates bring over.
An anonymous dorm resident told me, “I do not remember a single time when something violent happened. There was a rumor of a nudist showing himself off, but I never saw him… There was a lot of practical joking that went on there.”
She then went on to say that even if the dorms themselves were relatively safe, the walk home wasn’t. “I had to walk down ‘Rape Hill’ at night sometimes, and that was scary,” she says. “It is called, ‘Rape Hill’ because there have been multiple rape incidents there.”
In choosing a place to live while you’re in school, you should also do your research on the paths you’ll need to take to get to and from class. Regardless of where you choose to live, use the buddy system as often as you can to get from place to place.
You’re living on your own now. You need to be able to keep yourself safe. Whether you choose to live in a dorm, or an apartment, wash your hands often, keep important personal ID or valuables in a lockbox of some kind, check fire alarms regularly, and avoid situations where you’re alone with someone you don’t trust.
College dorms can be cheaper, more convenient, and safer options for college students if you’re on your guard and take proper steps. Good luck with college and congratulations and surviving high school!
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent those of the College Reality Check.