Image from Pexels

Image from Pexels

Now that it’s May and most incoming freshman (or transfers) have made their final college decisions, it’s time to start thinking about living arrangements. At most universities, students who choose to live on-campus are placed in two styles of housing: hall and suite style. Each type has its perks and disadvantages, and you may favor a style that another student absolutely despises. When it comes time to start listing your housing preferences, how can you decide which style is best for you? The first thing to remember is that every university is different so definitely be sure check on your school’s resident life website for dorm descriptions, but I’m here to provide you with a standard guide to distinguishing the ups and downs of hall and suite style dorms.

Hall Style

The Basics
Most hall style dorms allow two people per room, however some buildings may also feature triple or even quadruple rooms. The room opens up to a hallway that leads to the rest of the floor, and somewhere along the hallway is a community bathroom shared by the residents of the floor. Depending on the size of the school and number of students in the building, there may be 1-2 bathrooms on each floor. Floors may be co-ed or gender specific, and the university’s housekeeping cleans hall bathrooms.

The Best Parts

  • Because each room is bordering a long hallway, there are usually more people in these dorms, which can create more opportunity to get to know your whole floor and make new friends.
  • Hall style bathrooms are usually cleaned by once (if not twice) a day.
  • More showers and stalls in the bathrooms due to more people in the dorm.
  • You will not have to invest time or money into cleaning your own bathroom.
  • At some universities, hall style dorms run at a cheaper housing rate.
  • If you don’t get along with your hall-mates, you do not have to see them much because you can escape to your room on the hall.

The Worst Parts

  • Less privacy because there are more people along the hall.
  • Walking down the hallway to and from the bathroom after showers—be prepared to either get dressed straight out of the shower or be skilled in the art of towel-wrapping.
  • Items may be stolen if they are left in community areas like the bathrooms or hallways.
  • More of a secluded dorm community because you may only see hall-mates in passing.
  • If you do not get along with your roommate, you will either have to hang out in another part of the dorm or another building to get away from them.
  • Less security—halls only have one door of access to get past besides your bedroom door.

Suite Style

The Basics

In suite style dorms, there are also typically 2 people per room, but some universities offer single, triple, or quadruple dorms as well. In suite style, there may be a sort of common lounge area that connects 3-4 rooms, where students share combined living space. Depending on the university and dorm, suites will connect to each other so that anywhere from 2-6 dorm rooms share a bathroom, but private bathrooms may also be available. Suites and their connecting bathrooms are gender specific, but can sometimes be up to the students in the suite to clean.

The Best Parts

  • More privacy because there are less people, and in terms of security, a person has to gain access to the dorm building itself, the door to the suite, and the door to your bedroom.
  • You could probably walk from the shower to your room and vice versa in your birthday suit and not be seen (at your own risk of course).
  • Bathrooms are less crowded and more secluded.
  • A more intimate atmosphere with your suite-mates; you may get closer with them in a smaller setting than on a hall.
  • Some have a common area, which serves as a living room for you and your suite-mates to watch TV or hangout outside of your bedrooms, or a place to go if you need to escape your roommate for a bit.
  • Some consider suite style dorms to be homier in a more closed-off atmosphere.

The Worst Parts

  • Your suite-mates may leave their cosmetic or personal items all over the common room and bathroom.
  • Divvying up who buys what cleaning supplies and who cleans the bathroom on what day.
  • Less worry of items being stolen.
  • Loud suite-mates who come home late and make a lot of noise in common areas.
  • If you do not get along with your suite-mates, you still have to interact with them often.
  • At some universities, suite style dorms run at a more expensive housing rate.

Final Thoughts

Whether your loyalties lie in the realm of hall or suite style really depends on your personal preferences. If you get a choice in your housing, think about how much privacy you’d like, how sociable you want to be with the people you’re living around, and what would be most convenient for you to feel at home in your dorm.  No matter what dorm style you get, there will probably be something that you really like, and something you wish you could change. The key is learning how to adapt as best you can so that you’ll have an awesome year. Happy housing!


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the author

Allison Capley is an editor, college life writer, and a member of James Madison University’s class of 2016 in Harrisonburg, Virginia. At JMU she studies Writing, Rhetoric and Technical Communication, with a minor in Health Communication. Allison’s favorite hobby is horseback riding. In the future, she aspires to live life to the fullest and obtain a career in medical and pharmaceutical writing.

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