Going away to college is an exciting time for any student. You get your first taste of freedom and independence as you move into your new dorm room. However, not all dorms are created equal. Some offer great amenities and a fun social environment while others leave much to be desired.
In this article, we will take a look at some of the best and worst college dorms based on student reviews and experiences. Our goal is to help you make an informed decision about your college housing.
The Best and Worst College Dorms
The Best College Dorms
1. John Harvard Hall, Harvard University
Consistently rated as one of the best dorms at Harvard, John Harvard Hall offers suite-style living with common areas and private bedrooms. Students praise the large, well-furnished rooms and state-of-the-art amenities. Each suite has a full kitchen, common room, and multiple private bedrooms connected by a hallway.
Reviewers comment on the social atmosphere and sense of community among the residents. Downsides include the high price tag that comes with living in this prestigious dorm. However, for the amenities and experience, many feel it is worth it.
2. Hui O’Hawaii, University of Hawai’i at Mānoa
As the name suggests, this dorm is dedicated to Hawaiian culture and houses students interested in Hawaiian language and traditions. Students love the tight-knit ohana (family) feeling and say it feels like living with extended relatives.
Traditional luaus and hula lessons are regularly held. Rooms are basic but clean. Reviews note the dorm’s central location close to classes and bus lines. Some mention it helped them better appreciate Hawaiian history and customs. An excellent choice for those wanting an immersive cultural experience.
3. The Towers, University of Texas at Austin
Spanning 53 stories high, the Towers are an icon of the UT Austin campus landscape. Known for spectacular panoramic views of the city, these high-rise dorms offer resort-style amenities like a year-round outdoor pool with cabanas, hot tub, 24-hour fitness center, and game room.
Student reviewers enjoy the large bedrooms, extra storage space, and latest HVAC system that keeps rooms comfortable all year. Social events are frequently held. Complaints center around the long elevator rides and potential for homesickness being so high up. However, most feel the pros outweigh any cons.
The worst College Dorms
1. McCormick Hall, Johns Hopkins University
Housed in a century-old building, McCormick Hall is consistently rated as one of the worst dorms at Johns Hopkins. Student reviews complain of constant maintenance issues like crumbling walls, broken plumbing, and spotty internet connectivity.
Common areas feel outdated and unwelcoming. Rooms are small and sparsely furnished with minimal storage. Noise travels easily between rooms and halls. Some also mention feeling isolated from other dorm communities on campus. While historic, most students prefer more modern housing options at Johns Hopkins.
2. Shriver Hall, University of Maryland
This co-ed dorm at UMD has a long-standing reputation as one of the most run-down on campus. Reviews bemoan persistent mold and mildew problems due to lack of proper ventilation. The bedrooms and bathrooms feel cramped and dingy no matter how much students clean.
There are constant parties and loud music in the halls disrupt sleep and study time. Fights sometimes break out between angry and stressed residents. Community managers reportedly turn a blind eye to many issues. With better options available, few students choose to live here willingly.
4. Oglethorpe House, Emory University
Located off-campus a half-mile walk from main class buildings, the remote location of Oglethorpe House adds to its poor rating. Residents complain of infrequent shuttles when rain or extreme heat makes the hike miserable.
Rooms lack central air conditioning, instead relying on unreliable window units that students must provide themselves. Internet access cuts in and out frequently. Reviewers say the dorm feels dark, dreary and isolated. RAs struggle to foster any sense of community in this dorm that many see as the “last resort” housing pick.
Comparing the Best and Worst College Dorms
When comparing reviews of the top-rated dorms versus the poor ratings, some key differences emerge. The best dorms tend to have the following attributes:
- Spacious, well-furnished bedrooms with ample storage
- Modern amenities like central air/heat, high-speed WiFi, common kitchens
- Vibrant social communities with regular events hosted
- Prime on-campus locations near classrooms and campus hotspots
- Attentive facilities staff who address maintenance issues promptly
On the other hand, problem dorms frequently suffer from:
- Small, cramped bedrooms and common areas
- Outdated amenities like window AC units, spotty WiFi
- Isolated off-campus locations far from classroom buildings
- Deteriorating infrastructure like mold, crumbling walls, and plumbing issues
- Dysfunctional communities prone to disruptive noise and conflicts
- Negligent facilities management that ignores maintenance problems
Of course, housing selection also depends on individual priorities and budgets. Some may prefer the intimacy of a small residence hall over lavish amenities. The key is to research housing options thoroughly to avoid ending up in a dorm with serious quality or community issues that could negatively impact your college experience and studies.
Unique Housing Options Beyond Standard Dorms
While traditional dormitories remain the most common first-year housing, many colleges now offer alternative living arrangements. Here are a few unique housing styles gaining popularity:
Similar to Hui O’Hawaii at UH Mānoa, these dorms organize around a specific culture, major, or hobby. Common themes include language houses, honors colleges, arts residences, sustainability houses, and more. Students share academic or extracurricular interests in a close-knit community.
An step up from dorms, these apartments house 4-6 students in their own kitchenette and private bedrooms with connected living space. Popular for upperclassmen seeking more independence and privacy. Some have amenities like pools, tennis courts or fitness rooms on site. Reviews emphasize better socialization than isolated off-campus housing.
Experimental College (ExCollege) at University of Wisconsin
This award-winning cooperative housing model cultivates living-learning experiences through shared chores, activities and governance. Crews of 16-24 students live together planning events, share weekly dinners and develop different talents through enrichment workshops. Graduates cite their influential time with ExCollege fostering lasting friendships, independence and leadership skills.
Living-Learning Communities (LLCs)
Numerous colleges organize housing around academic disciplines to foster integrated classroom and residential experiences. Examples include engineering, science and technology LLCs. Students bond through study groups, research projects and advisor-mentoring while residing together on the same floor or building. Outcomes show higher GPAs and retention rates.
Understanding Housing Complaints and Perspectives
While certain dorms garner almost universal poor ratings, it’s also important to consider the many perspectives and factors that shape student housing reviews. Complaints that bother some residents may not phase others as much. Individual tolerance for noise, cleanliness standards, room sizes and amenities vary widely. Understanding these dynamics leads to a more well-rounded picture.
For example, loud music annoying one insomniac resident may be enjoyed lively socializing by most neighbors. Overbearing clean freaks clash with naturally messier roommates anywhere. Solving roommate conflicts takes compromise instead of harsh judgment. Similarly, facilities issues disconcerting one student may seem trivial to another prioritizing location or affordability instead.
Personality type also impacts dorm satisfaction. Outgoing extroverts usually prefer central social housing while homebodies choose peace and quiet. Resilient optimists often make the most of any living situation compared to frequent complainers. Housing itself does not make or break the college experience – much depends on individual outlook and ability to adapt.
Overall, thoughtful research into dorm options and realistic expectations often serve students best. Positive attitudes adjusting constructively to inevitable challenges foster happier years in any college residence.
While some housing arrangements truly merit poor ratings, reading between the lines of varied reviews provides fuller understanding of this complex university living experience. With this balanced awareness, students can choose housing arrangements confidently aligning with their own tastes and needs.
Conclusion on the Best and Worst College Dorms
Choosing your first college dorm is an important decision that will shape your transition to campus life. While some housing options clearly excel based on student reviews, the “best” and “worst” dorms ultimately depend on individual priorities.
The most positive experiences usually result from proactively researching options, considering one’s study habits and personality, choosing housing that aligns with interests and lifestyle, and constructively navigating inevitable challenges that arise living communally.
With preparation and flexibility, any dorm environment offers opportunities for making friends, gaining independence and building memories to last a lifetime.