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The Freshman Housing Crunch

Once the tuition deposit has been made, what’s next? The housing forms! If they are not going to be living at home, where will your college-bound baby be living freshman year?

First things first: If they plan to live in the dorms on campus, does the college guarantee housing for freshmen? Many colleges require students to live on campus freshman year, but we’ve learned that some of the larger schools don’t. These schools may not have room in the dorms for all entering freshmen and may provide on-campus housing only on a first-come, first-served basis.

Living on campus is a great experience for college students because it allows them to get immersed in campus life. There is so much going on – in the residence halls and all over the college grounds – they may not want to miss out on the full campus experience. Check the college website to find out what percentage of students live on and off-campus before making housing decisions.

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Some colleges may accept housing deposits shortly after college admissions decisions are sent out, before a student is even required to commit to the college, just to ensure they reserve a spot for the limited on-campus housing. Since every school is different, make sure to check the college website for any deadlines on housing deposits and whether any portion of the deposit is refundable.

If your kid will be living on campus, check the college website to find out if housing is assigned randomly or whether students can select a particular dorm. Some colleges offer theme dorms based on student interests, all-freshman dorms, co-ed dorms, and/or single-sex dorms. Watch out for specific application deadlines if your student is considering a specialty dorm and find out if there are any extra fees involved.

You’ll also want to review the dorm options and their respective costs before your kid makes their selection. While many colleges charge a flat room and board price regardless of the dorm assigned, others have a variety of rooming options – doubles, triples, suite style rooms with common rooms and private bath – which are priced differently. Your kid could also end up in a forced triple — a room which, intended for two, actually houses three students due to housing shortages.

Unless your student plans to live in a single (assuming single rooms are even offered by the college for freshmen), students must decide what to do about a roommate. Some colleges assign roommates based on a questionnaire students fill out with their housing application, and do not permit students to choose their own roommate.  Other schools give students the option – find their own roommate or let the school find one for them.

If choosing a roommate is an option, there are several websites that can help match students at specific colleges. Some schools have their own roommate finder websites. And there’s always Facebook, with a group page for each new college’s entering class, which provides important information and a virtual meeting place for students. If your student either cannot be bothered with the roommate finder websites or Facebook, or really prefers to leave it to chance, there is one caveat: if the college offers dorm selection by students (called “self-selection”), some colleges give housing preference to students already paired with a roommate, allowing those students to select their rooms first and making others wait to select their rooms on a later date. Check the college website to find out whether roommate selection affects housing choice.

Finally, if your student plans to live off-campus freshman year and signs a lease agreement, a parent will likely need to co-sign. Leases typically run for a full year, so you will have to factor in summer months, unless the lease allows subletting. Your student will also be responsible for finding roommates to share in all of the expenses and responsibilities.

Depending on the school and their housing options and policies, choosing housing for the school year and submitting the necessary applications and housing deposits can be a little stressful for students, and parents. However, once housing is sorted out and finalized, the fun can begin: Shopping for the dorm room!!


Want to know more?

KnowsyMoms’ College Shopping List

College Roommates: To Choose or Not to Choose

Top 10 Things All College Parents Must Know

Beyond Freshman Year: Moving Off Campus

Like sardines: Pros and cons of dorms’ forced triples by Monica Vendituoli





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