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USACollegeChat Podcast

Aug 2, 2018

Well, we are up to Step 10 out of the 14 steps of your kid’s summer homework. So far, so good. Keep checking our workbook How To Explore Your College Options: A Workbook for High School Students for further detail and more examples (it’s still available at Amazon).

Step 10 calls for your son or daughter to investigate on-campus housing options, which could make some difference in where to apply and where to enroll if you are planning for him or her to live in college housing. Some students, of course, will be commuting to campus, so these questions might seem less important; however, plans change, so housing is still worth a look--both freshman housing and upperclassman housing.

By the way, there are some colleges where the majority of students live in campus housing well past the freshman year, including colleges that actually have a multiple-year housing requirement. What are all those colleges--and their students--thinking? So, send your son or daughter to each college’s website to answer Questions 28 through 31 on this topic.

1. Freshman Housing Requirement

Question 28 asks students to check off whether each college on their LLCO (that, is, their Long List of College Options) requires freshmen to live in on-campus housing. Why would there be a freshman housing requirement, you might ask? Here’s what we wrote to students just like your son or daughter:

Let us start by saying that we think you should live on campus as a freshman if at all possible, given whatever financial constraints your family has. As a matter of fact, many colleges actually require it--for both good and not-so-good reasons.

A really good reason is that living together in campus housing (whether that means traditional dorms or residential “houses” or something else) does promote a kind of camaraderie among students that is hard to develop any other way. Living in close proximity to others in your same situation often provides a system of support and friendship that many kids at college want and need--whether that comes from studying late into the evening/morning together or eating together or walking back and forth to classes together or meeting each other’s friends and just hanging out together. Perhaps a not-so-good reason, though an understandable one from a college’s point of view, is that colleges need to fill those dorm rooms and bring in the revenue that comes from filling them.

The importance of living on campus is similar to the importance of going away to college, in our opinion. Both provide you with a way to spread your wings in a relatively safe and protected environment before you are ready to be completely on your own. Living in campus housing requires you to figure out how to eat, study, do laundry, clean up, sleep enough, and manage money--without having to deal with the safety and transportation and utilities issues that come with off-campus housing and without the comparative ease of living at home.

So, even if you are going to a college in your hometown or within commuting distance of home, try to live on campus--especially if you can afford it, but even if you need to use scholarship funds or loans to cover it. Why? Because it is an integral part of the college experience--especially if you are attending a college close to home.

2. Types of College Housing

If you have visited any colleges so far in your search, you probably already know that not all residential facilities are created equal when it comes to attractiveness, comfort, convenience, supervision, and security. But prospective students should also remember to think about what residential life will be like not only as freshmen, but also as upperclassmen with more and/or different housing options, including apartments nearby, but off campus, and perhaps fraternity and sorority houses.

The residential facilities that a college provides are usually well described--even bragged about--on a college’s website, can be seen on virtual campus tours on the website, and can certainly be seen firsthand on a college visit. College tours love to take visiting kids and parents to look at dorms, even when they are of the most ordinary kind. While we don’t think any student should choose a college because of its housing facilities, we do think it is reasonable to put housing in the scale when weighing choices, which might mean taking a college off his or her LLCO if the housing options seem terrible.

Your son or daughter might expect to find at least these housing options in his or her research:

Traditional college dorms, with long halls of double and single rooms and a huge bathroom shared by everyone on the hall, usually with upperclassmen serving as residential advisors to provide some level of supervision and support for students

Apartment-style suites, with several bedrooms and a bathroom--and sometimes with a living area and a kitchen--for four to six or so students, usually with a residential advisor nearby

Residential houses, which sponsor both social and academic activities for residents, often have one or two faculty families living with the students, often have their own eating facilities where everyone dines together, and have their own sense of community pride

Many colleges have a mix of housing facilities, including off-campus apartment buildings owned and operated by the college. And then there are some colleges that do not offer housing at all--including many two-year community colleges--and that expect students to commute to campus.

Questions 29 and 30 ask students to check off the types of housing that a college offers and, then, to jot down any interesting housing information, including any statistics about how many students live in campus housing and how long they stay.

3. Commuting to Campus

When Marie and I worked at the high school we co-founded in Brooklyn, most of our students who went on to college ended up commuting to a college in one of the five boroughs of New York City. We understand what commuting is like, and we urge families to think about a few things that are sometimes overlooked.

For example, if your son or daughter will be commuting, think about whether he or she would be using public transportation and, if so, how frequently those buses, trains, or subways run during the day and at night--and how late at night, if he or she is staying on campus to do a group project or to study at the library. Think about what traffic and parking would be like if he or she were driving a family car to the campus, including late at night. Think about what the commute would be like in bad weather. And don’t forget the cost of commuting as well--unless the college is within walking distance, of course.

Questions 31 asks students to jot down what the commute would be like if that is in your family’s plans.

Well, that’s it for housing. We are almost there. Join us next week for Step 11. It’s one that parents won’t want to miss.

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