Dorm life and college living accommodations may not be the first thing you think of when deciding on a college or university. Other concerns, such as academic quality, school reputation, available programs, or cost, will likely be higher on your list. But, think about it, where and how you’re going to live for the next four years will quickly become a top priority. You’ll be spending a lot of time in your dorm. A good housing choice will have a strong bearing on your college experience. This list provides examples of some of the very best college and university dorms in the country. We’ve broken the list into several categories designed to help you quickly and easily identify those colleges and universities with student housing options that best fit your needs!
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- CLEANEST DORMS
- “GREENEST” DORMS
- BEST “CLEAN” AND “GREEN” DORMS
- BEST DORMS FOR QUIET STUDY TIME
- MOST ATTRACTIVE DORMS
- BEST PARTY DORMS
- MOST INCLUSIVE DORMS
- SAFEST DORMS
Washington University in St. Louis
Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri has always provided a high standard of the best learning environment for its students. The South 40 Residential Colleges at WU consist of traditional and modern buildings. The modern buildings are made up mostly of double rooms with some triple and single rooms. Most of the rooms in the modern buildings are made up of two double rooms joined by a bathroom. Traditional buildings consist of single, double, and triple rooms available on each floor.
Washington University has a reputation among its students for maintaining especially clean dorms. Available on their website is a checklist and cleaning schedule for each residential building. Bathrooms are scoured either every day or every other day with a weekly cleaning of vents, ledges, and lights. Shower curtains are also replaced or cleaned on a monthly basis.
Since the Covid-19 pandemic, Washington University has also transformed their Moonrise Hotel and Quadrangle Apartments into student housing in order to maintain social distancing. The clean reputation at WU has been amped up in this building including weekly cleaning of all students’ rooms as well as free laundry service.
Warren Wilson College
Warren Wilson College, located near Asheville, North Carolina, is a small liberal arts college that is committed to sustainable practice in education and practice. With a campus surrounded by mountains, forests, and farms, WWC’s students actually farm much of their own food as well as study in their discipline, engage in sports and other activities as well as hike in the hundreds of acres around campus. More than 80 different student work crews also support every area of campus operation making Warren Wilson College students a tight-knit group and personally invested in their own campus.
Warren Wilson College is renowned not only for its beautiful location, active school life, and sustainable goals but also for its EcoDorm. The EcoDorm at WWC boasts the honor of becoming the first building on a college campus to “achieve LEED Platinum certification in the Existing Buildings (EB) category. Platinum certification is the highest rating level a building can receive under the LEED system.” EcoDorm includes solar-powered hot water heaters as well as radiant floor heating and high-efficiency boilers. One of the most unique aspects of EcoDorm is its 10,000-gallon train tanker car which was salvaged in order to hold rainwater which is used to flush toilets in the dorm as well as to irrigate the dorm’s permaculture landscape.
College of the Atlantic
Some of the greenest dorms are located at the College of the Atlantic in Ben Harbor, Maine. These include the Kathryn W. Davis Student Residence Village. The six student residencies in the village were built as an example of idealism in action. Every aspect of student housing was imagined with a conscious awareness of resources. Double stud walls with a super-insulated design include a foot of insulation made up of recycled newspapers. Frequent thermal breaks in the walls lead to a high level of integrity causing minimum heat loss. A wood pellet boiler provides the primary heating for the building through hydronic, in-floor radiant heating. Composting toilets, windows that maximize natural light, and orientation for optimal solar harvesting are a few more features of this unique set of dorms.
Two other historic cottages on the campus of the College of the Atlantic have also been preserved, updated and fitted with green apparatus similar to the Student Residence Village. The cottages, named Seafox and Sea Urchins, were summer vacation homes on the East Coast built in 1885. Between student initiative and generous donors, these cottages were brought to a highly efficient green standard. Both the cottages and Student Residence Village make the College of the Atlantic a pioneer in green campus centers.
The new college residence hall at Dickinson College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, is one of the few to attain Platinum status from LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design). Joining 5 other LEED Gold certified buildings on campus, the new residence hall has 130 beds and is an example of sustainability in student living.
The residence hall includes an energy-efficient roof as well as exterior walls and high-efficiency windows. The building is connected to a nearby central energy plant and has an upgraded stormwater-management system installed which includes four rain gardens. The new landscape around the dorm includes 92 new trees and over 16,000 plants.
BEST “CLEAN” and “GREEN” DORMS
Residential and Dining Enterprises at Stanford University along with students at the university combined efforts to make some of the cleanest and greenest dorms in the country. A recent article explains the sustainable cleaning solution piloted at the university. According to the article, a machine attaches to taps and, using electricity, creates stabilized aqueous ozone (SAO). This “engineered water” has proven itself to be as effective as traditional chemicals and has no negative effect on the environment. Surveys conducted showed that residents and custodians felt their space to be just as clean using SAO.
The “Green Cleaning” system was the only one at any West Coast university when it was implemented. The program earned a best practice award by the California Higher Education Sustainability Conference. Residents of Mirrielees House and Wilbur Hall were among the first to have access to SAO from their laundry rooms, saving them time and money and making their dorm room cleaning efforts more efficient than ever. The Residential and Dining Enterprises aim to implement the green cleaning system in all campus residences by 2024.
BEST DORMS FOR QUIET STUDY TIME
Bryn Mawr College
Quiet, academic quality and architectural beauty reach a near-perfect balance in any of Bryn Mawr’s ten residence halls. Bryn Mawr’s dormitories were all designed and constructed according to a wide variety of architectural styles. What sets these dormitories apart from many other schools is the large number of residence halls designed in an “Academic or Collegiate Gothic” style, that was very popular in the U.S. during the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
The outstanding quality and reputation of Bryn Mawr are fully complemented by the serene, yet awe-inspiring, student housing. There are plenty of nooks to retreat to in these complex and beautiful buildings. With thick walls and in some instances original window seats and fireplaces, Bryn Mawr’s student housing creates the perfect atmosphere for quiet study at one of the top colleges in the country.
Williams College is a private, liberal arts school located in Williamstown, Massachusetts. Established in 1793, Williamstown has a beautiful historic campus within driving distance of both New York and Boston. Williams College prides itself on the variety of dorm experiences the school can offer to its students.
Thompson Hall, located on the campus of Williams College, is a beautiful brick building that was formerly home to the campus health center. More recently, Thompson Hall has become the designated quiet housing on campus providing 32 beds for those students who need a quieter atmosphere in order to focus on their studies. With an attractive central kitchen and fascinating history, Thompson Hall is also located close to the campus tennis courts and dining hall.
MOST ATTRACTIVE DORMS
Scripps College is widely recognized as one of the most beautiful college campuses in the country. It is also home to some of the very best dorms in the world. Located in Claremont, California, just about 30 miles from LA, Scripps’s campus layout takes advantage of the weather and landscape. What nature provides in setting, campus architects mirror in academic and residential buildings.
The Gabrielle Jungels-Winkler Hall is the prized jewel in the crown of beautiful buildings at Scripps. The hall, named after alumna Gabrielle Jungels-Winkler, opened in 2000 and is constructed on a 1920s Mediterranean model. Scripps offers a large number of resident activities and opportunities, including community dinners, outings, movie viewing parties, and other activities.
Pomona College, located in Claremont, California boasts some especially attractive and comfortable dorms. Established in 1887, Pomona was intended to be in the style of New England on the West Coast.
Harwood Court, a student residence built in 1921, is not only picturesque but has also been remodeled in 2010 to a higher level of sustainability and comfort. Built around a central courtyard, Harwood Court now has its own kitchen, television room, grand piano as well as mostly single rooms.
The two newest halls on campus, Dialynas and Sontag halls, are built to LEED platinum standards. With suite-style apartments, the halls have a large kitchen on each floor, a drop-down movie screen lounge, as well as a rooftop garden patio. The halls have 78 and 76 rooms respectively as well as common areas on each floor in which to socialize and study.
BEST PARTY DORMS
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
It may come as a surprise that MIT, universally acclaimed for its outstanding education and research in the sciences, also knows how to relax and have fun! Especially noteworthy is MIT’s architectural signature building, Simmons Hall. This residence hall, AKA, “The Sponge,” because of its exterior design, opened in 2002. In 2005, this 10 story structure was honored as a top achievement in architecture, receiving the Parker Award “as one of the most beautiful pieces of architecture” in the city of Boston.
Housing around 350 members of the MIT community, the hall has its own dining facilities, several lounges equipped with the latest video and gaming TVs and systems. For those looking to see the “big picture,” Simmons Hall has a movie theater. These are only a few examples of how MIT understands the need to party and let loose within the context of an otherwise demanding academic environment. One final perk of Simmons Hall at MIT is a giant ball pit.
University of Texas at Austin
Some might think of football and the storied tradition of athletic tradition when the University of Texas is mentioned. While a true chapter in Longhorn history, this is not the whole story. UT is a top research university with outstanding academic achievements to its credit. While discipline is prized both in the classroom and on the field or court, UT knows how to have fun too!
Dorm life at UT is perfectly set up for great parties. The gold standard of UT student housing is the opulent Callaway House. Rising 17 stories with 750 beds, UT students enjoy downtown Austin life with great in-house amenities. Students have access to fitness facilities and a roof-top pool. A hot tub invites relaxation, while game rooms and a house theater invite a party atmosphere where students can forget the grind of study, classes, and deadlines.
MOST INCLUSIVE DORMS
Oberlin College, the flagship Liberal Arts institution of Ohio, has a long history of leading community-building efforts through implementing diversity and inclusion measures. Oberlin understands that individuality and exchange of views and ideas with others fosters strong community groups that are both diverse and inclusive. Life in Oberlin dorms makes these aspirations real. Oberlin offers top living amenities and comfort as well as excellent dining options.
Of special note is Oberlin’s six kinds of dorm options. Students can live in more traditional college housing or they can choose from a number of focused living arrangements such as Identity-Based Communities and Language Houses, Theme Living, Co-ops, Village Housing, along with the typical Freshman Housing. Whether you’re looking to live with like-minded scholars, interested in language, or simply want to live outside your normal comfort zone, Oberlin dorms are perhaps the most diverse, yet inclusive, college housing in the country.
The Ivy League schools, as would be expected, have excellent dorm life options. Columbia, an Ivy League school with an outstanding history and reputation, carries inclusion and diversity from the classroom to the larger Columbia community. In addition to beautiful architecture, storied New York City setting, pristine conditions, and top environmentally-friendly food and waste-management services, Columbia meet the needs of students in the areas of personal identity and community.
Columbia’s 23 housing buildings together foster serene co-existence and respect. In addition to the standard dormitory options, Columbia also offers several specialized living options. These include housing for Special Interest Communities, Fraternity and Sorority Communities, Housing for Transgender Students, and Open Housing. Whatever your community or housing needs and preferences, Columbia University will be a place where diversity and inclusion characterize dorm living.
Tufts University prides itself on being of the best colleges in the country at making sure its students live and feel safe during their studies. Especially important for Tufts’ dorm safety is the university-wide emphasis upon the eradication of hate crimes and speech. In its efforts to protect and foster strong community bonds through diversity and inclusivity, Tufts has taken the strong step of supporting the Massachusetts Safe Communities Act that seeks to stop forms of discrimination against immigrants.
In addition to being located in a safe local community and having sound campus and dorm safety and security measures in place, Tufts University is a place where minorities and people from other countries can feel safe at a “home away from home” in their college dorms.
Brigham Young University-Idaho
Brigham Young University in Rexburg, Idaho is one of the safest places to get a college education. Rexburg is rated year after year as one of the safest cities in the entire country, and BYU has long prided itself on establishing a safe, study-friendly campus environment. BYU’s honor code can be sometimes stricter than many typical large college or university communities. Regardless of whether they directly contribute to the overall dormitory safety of BYU-Idaho, the fact remains that the school provides one of the safest college housing arrangements in the country.
BYU has in place a wide-ranging campus safety program as well as clearly delineated student housing conduct guidelines. Location, campus safety and security, honor code, and clear guidelines likely combine in BYU-Idaho’s case to make for one of the safest dorm life options for college students.