Leaving home to go to college is one of the first big steps one takes on the road to personal independence. The next step, for many, comes just a year later: Moving into an apartment for the first time.
Living off campus is, to be sure, a joy. You get to choose who your family-away-from home is; you don’t have to take a hike to the shower, awkwardly clad in only a towel for all your neighbors to see; and the benefits of physically separating school and home cannot be underestimated. Still, the lottery to receive on-campus housing after freshman year exists for a reason: There’s more to look forward to living in a dorm as an upperclassman than one might think.
When I first arrived at Tech over three years ago, I was enrolled as a resident of the Honors Residential Commons at East Ambler Johnston, a dorm that infamously and contractually requires that residents stay a minimum of two years. Though this didn’t really bother me as freshman year kicked off, I soon realized that many of my friends (most of whom lived outside the HRC) would no longer live within walking distance of me come sophomore year, and spent much of the next couple of years lamenting my confinement to the residential side of campus. However, as I now look back on my first two years of school, living in a dorm after freshman year came with a number of privileges that I’ve come to appreciate more with time.
Proximity to the dining halls
This is an upside to on-campus life that can’t be underestimated. Now living off campus as an overachieving senior, time that I can use to cook for myself (aside from instant mac and cheese or homemade sandwiches that make Subway look like the Cheesecake Factory) is unbelievably scarce. I was busy when I lived on campus too, but the amount of time you can save by taking a quick walk to West End, Owens or D2 instead of whipping something up yourself might surprise you. Not to mention, you don’t have to mess with washing or putting away your own dirty dishes. If you live in a residence hall, you will be required to purchase some meal plan or another, but when you go to a university with one of the top 10 dining services in the nation, that’s not the worst thing in the world.
Easier access to study spaces
Sure, we love them, but let’s face it: Roommates can be distracting. If you’re coming up on a hell week with two tests and a quiz to worry about, odds are you won’t be as tolerant of the Playstation-addicted person sharing your cramped living space. If you live in an apartment and need to escape noisy roommates, that means driving yourself to the library or a coffee shop that probably closes far before you plan to finish whatever studying you need to do. That’s what makes the dorm study lounges such a plus. They’re only a few steps away, they’re well lit and they don’t require marching out in the cold with a heavy backpack in tow. Even if all of the lounges in your dorm are taken up, you are still fully able to make your way to Deet’s, Torgerson Bridge or some other popular on-campus think space without having to worry about finding a parking spot.
Less worry about payments
I am a naturally forgetful person, which has led me to fail to turn in my rent at least once as well as a number of near-misses. Add to that the fact that I’m responsible for taking care of my apartment’s electric bill and you’ll understand my surprise at the fact that we’ve never had our power shut off disdainfully. When you live in a residence hall, the necessary payments are typically made on a semesterly basis on the internet through your Hokie Spa account, so you don’t have to worry about setting up online accounts for the many different bills you’d be paying in an apartment. Even if you’re set up on a system that requires more frequent room and board payments — say, monthly — the bursar’s office is often quite generous in reminding you to take care of your fees ahead of time.
Chances to connect with new Hokies
This might be the best part of staying on campus for an extra year or two. College is a lot like high school when you consider how important the guidance and attentiveness of those who have come before you really is. New Hokies will inevitably have loads of questions throughout their first year, questions we all had when we first strutted onto our lovely campus for the first time, so who better to accommodate and cultivate their curiosity than those of us who have already had a taste of college life and all that it demands? You may even end up finding your best friends this way; a year or two in age difference is hardly a hindrance when it comes to connecting with someone who shares your passions and interests.