Many first time college students and upperclassmen alike get finalized housing assignments in the summer. Some schools have very straight-forward, predictable systems whereas others are completely random and each dorm gets reorganized every year. As a freshman I was placed in what might be considered the worst dorm. It was one of the oldest and had never been renovated. It did not have a finished basement like most of the other dorms, and the doubles were fairly small compared to freshmen rooms in other houses. I tried not to let it get to me, but it did, and many of my hall mates were clearly peeved as well. From day one there was talk of how to transfer the following year because my school generally made switching dorms difficult, or even switching before freshman year was over. Fast forward to the end of freshman year when all of my friends and I ended up staying in “the bad dorm” because of what it had done and promised to do for us.
It’s Probably Not That Bad
When I visited my school for an overnight my host told me that the one place I did not want to live was, of course, the dorm I ended up getting assigned. I imagined pest infestations, a creepy basement, and totally dysfunctional bathrooms. What I ended up finding was your average number of bugs, a nothing special basement, and a utility sink that clogged. If you are basing your fears on rumors, don’t worry until you see for yourself what all the hype is about! Your dorm may not be the nicest on campus, but it would not be around if it was truly uninhabitable.
It’s ok to not be over the moon about living in a less than ideal house, but try not to focus on the negatives. Even if the carpets are dirty or the walls are peeling, if you don’t focus on them constantly you will surely forget these small issues soon enough. Always remember that if you find your room condition really is giving you serious problems, there are always other options. Try working in the library or a friends room so you are not distracted. If the room/dorm is especially bad and you can prove it is effecting other aspects of your life, see if you can contact your residential office about a change.
Nothing brings people together like a common enemy, and at first glance that is what a bad dorm can become. While it may not be the most positive conversation you ever have, the subpar bathrooms and creaky floors can be a great icebreaker to kick things off with new neighbors. These small conversations can lead to bigger ones about preserving the good parts of the dorm and even petitioning to get major issues in common areas fixed.
In my experience the dorms in poorer condition foster a sense of community which develops from camaraderie about housing conditions to full blown support systems for any problem. People in my dorm seemed hyper sensitive to the lives and needs of their neighbors in a way I never saw or heard of in other dorms, and in some ways I think the state of the house was the cause of it.
The Upside of Anger
While it may not be obvious at first, there are always positive aspects of a wholly negative situation. When housing applications came up for sophomore year, I was astonished to see that my house had nearly double the singles of every single other dorm on campus, even those with many more people! For the past two years every single person who wanted a single in my dorm was able to get one, which is not at all the case for the rest of the school. Because so many people in less desirable dorms move out and also have fewer people coming in, you will likely have better choices for rooms if you stay in your dorm. Some schools with a housing lottery system may also take into consideration that you were in the less ideal dorm before and give you a better lottery number in the future. If neither of these are true for your dorm, keep an eye out for what makes your dorm special, even if it’s not too obvious.
The bad dorm probably is not all that horrific and there are definitely some positives to the situation. At the very least you can bond over the nightmares that are your living arrangements with your neighbors and get to know people that way. Consider the other positives to the experience such as a better chance of housing options in the future or the motivation you have to explore other aspects of campus.