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August 20, 2021

Living on Campus: The Inside Scoop on Life as a Residential College Student

Students go through many firsts when they start college — choosing what to study, learning to manage time and staying on top of coursework. But many new experiences for college freshmen have nothing to do with academics. In fact, getting used to living on campus is one of the biggest adjustments for residential students. 

It’s common to be curious, so check out these answers to some frequently asked questions that cover everything from staying in the residence halls to finding ways to engage with your new community.

Answers to 7 common questions about living on campus

1. What are college dorms are like?

For many college freshmen, the traditional residence-hall setup consists of corridors lined with rooms that house between two and four students each. There are usually community bathrooms on each floor and common areas, kitchens and laundry facilities that serve the entire building. This was the arrangement that Leslie Gutierrez ’22, a psychology major in her final year at Berry College, experienced with one other student.

“The room is big enough for you and your roommate to share, and you can definitely get creative with how you set up your furniture to save space,” Gutierrez says.

Some colleges also have additional housing arrangements, particularly for older students. One common option is a suite-style residence that groups a few multiple-occupancy rooms around a shared common area, bathroom and kitchen.

2. What should students bring with them when moving in?

Every college residence hall is different, but there are a few furnishings that are standard for any traditional setup:

  • Bedframe and mattress
  • Dresser
  • Closet or armoire
  • Desk and chair

Lofts typically aren’t included at most colleges, but many students like to rent them to save space in their rooms. At Berry College, however, a majority of the rooms include lofts at no additional cost. It’s also important to focus on packing the essentials that you’ll need to bring with you, such as linens, electronics, laundry supplies, toiletries and any personal items.

“You want enough stuff from your space at home — that will fit in your new room — to make your dorm room feel like a home,” Gutierrez suggests. “I think this helped me with the transition.”

3. How are roommates paired?

Every school determines their own policies for pairing students, though most colleges identify potential roommate matches using surveys or online systems. At Berry College, two students who know each other well can request to be roommates. That said, most students choose to fill out a profile that allows residence life staff to match them as best they can.

Believe it or not, being paired with someone unfamiliar usually works out incredibly well when you’re getting used to living away from home. “Your roommate will often become your close friend, and this is comforting because that person is going through the same thing that you are,” Gutierrez adds.

4. What sorts of dining options do students have?

For students living on campus in traditional residence halls, having a meal plan is usually the most feasible food option. Berry College is well aware of this, which is why freshmen are automatically assigned the most extensive meal plan — it includes some Flex Bucks, funds that can be used at on-campus facilities that aren’t cafeteria style.

“This comes with unlimited swipes in the dining hall and $150 Flex Bucks that can be used in our Viking Court,” Gutierrez says. 

Cooking can be more practical for students who live in suites or other on-campus alternatives to traditional residence halls. Just note that it also requires bringing the right equipment and stocking up on groceries from time to time.

“Personally, I am very busy and do not have a lot of time to cook, so I depend on Berry Dining Hall,” Gutierrez says.

5. How do students get around campus?

The best way to get from place to place really depends on the school. Large universities are often so expansive that you need to plan for a bus pass or some other form of public transportation. Smaller schools like Berry College make it easier.

“Most people will walk or bike on campus,” Gutierrez explains. “I walk everywhere because it is more convenient than trying to find a parking spot.” When you do need to go off campus, you can very often find a ride from a friend or resident assistant (RA).

6. Are there options for staying active?

One of the best perks of being a college student is that you have access to an array of facilities for staying active. Depending on the school, those might include pools, fitness centers, gyms, basketball courts and more. Many colleges even have group fitness options.  

The Cage Center offers afternoon and evening classes where instructors will come and teach things like TRX, yoga, Zumba, etc.,” Gutierrez explains.

Students can participate in varsity or intramural sports as well. For those who prefer to head outdoors for some physical activity, Berry College is an ideal setting — there’s disc golf, kayaking, paddle-boarding and recreational trails for hiking, running and biking. 

7. What options do students have for getting involved on campus?

Trying to figure out your niche can be a bit intimidating at first, but living on campus really puts you in the center of the action. You can join student organizations, participate in community service, attend events or work at an on-campus job. In fact, most students at Berry College are employed part-time through the LifeWorks program.

“There are so many opportunities within departments that will prepare you and give you the confidence that you need for any future job,” Gutierrez explains.

Embrace campus life

While it can take a bit of time to get used to living on campus, many students find it to be both enjoyable and convenient.

“The best part to me is being able to stay up late with my friends in the library — trying to get work done — without having to worry that it is getting too late to drive back home since I am already on campus,” Gutierrez notes.

Staying in student housing also makes it that much easier to engage in meaningful experiences, including student work, as Gutierrez mentioned. To learn more about how on-campus employment can help you develop in your personal and professional lives, read “Working in College: How Balancing Employment and Education Can Benefit Students.”

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