The Big Question: Deciding Where to Live

interior of living space with bicycle and desk

By Katie Corbett, Guest Contributor


One of the most daunting questions you’ll face before you even get your orientation date is this: Where should you live? If you’re transferring in from another school, you might have to choose between dorm life and living in an apartment. Many colleges and universities require freshman to live at least their first year on campus.

Is that all there is to decide? Of course not!

Before I started my college career at The University of Wisconsin – Whitewater, I talked to friends I knew who were currently studying there. I asked them questions and used their responses to pick the right dorm for me. Here are some questions to consider when choosing where to live:


  • Which side of campus is the most crowded? Since I’m blind, I ask a lot of questions when navigating an unfamiliar area. I wanted to live on a side of campus where I would have the likelihood of encountering a large number of people I could ask for directions. (I eventually did move to a quieter side of campus, after I’d gotten more familiar with the general layout.) If you have other needs, you’ll want to take those things into consideration when choosing a dorm. Only you know what those are, so speak up and don’t be afraid to inquire.


  • Are there dining halls, workout facilities, or other desirable areas close to the dorm I’m interested in? I picked a dorm right across the street from a dining hall that was open until 2 a.m. most nights. I took advantage of their amenities during late-night study sessions or hangouts with friends. If fitness is important to you, you might choose a dorm close to the campus gym. If you know you’ll enjoy studying in the library instead of your small dorm room, why not pick a hall close to that building? If you already know you’re going to study music and there’s a dorm right next to the arts building, it might be a good idea to sign up for a room in that dorm.


  • Does my campus have learning communities or other groups of people I could live with with whom I might have something in common already? Let’s face it: it’s hard making friends. You’ll be homesick, you’ll miss your dog and suddenly your annoying little brother won’t seem so annoying anymore. I found out there was an Honors Learning Community and decided to live on a floor with fellow Honors students. This provided me with friends I still keep in touch with today. Not in Honors? There might be a learning community for a foreign language you’re studying or the major you’ve chosen. Either way, it can’t hurt to ask. You just might end up with a group of lifelong friends!


  • Is my dorm building made up of residents who are all the same gender, or are genders divided by floor? This is an important one to find out about. (You don’t want to assume you’re living in a dorm of all girls or all guys, only to be surprised coming out of the bathroom to find someone of another gender walking down the hallway.) Even if you’re not concerned about this, your parents likely will ask about it. I’ve lived on an all-girls wing, a “scattered” floor (both girls and guys) and in an all-girls suite. Each arrangement worked out fine, so it’s up to you what you prefer. And if you identify as a gender you weren’t assigned at birth, you’ll have a few more questions to ask, so keep that in mind, too.


  • Can I join a sorority or fraternity? If you’re thinking you might enjoy Greek life, it’s worth finding out more about those options, as well. You’ll probably be assigned a dorm room at first, since you’ll have to rush and pass tests and get accepted before you can move into the house. Your school might have specific rules about when you can move to a fraternity or sorority house, so remember to check on that. (I joined a Professional Arts and Communications Fraternity and didn’t have to live with my Zeta Phi Eta brothers and sisters, so sorry, I don’t have any secrets for you about pledging into a social fraternity or sorority.) Greek life can also be another place to make lifelong friends and connections, so if you’re the least bit interested, definitely ask about the options available.


Whether you’re an introvert or a social butterfly, picking a place to live could make or break your college experience.

Ask questions, weigh your options and choose wisely. Where you live will largely determine the people you’re around, the food you’ll eat and the friends you’ll make.

Because, let’s be real: no matter how motivated you might be to eat healthy, workout at the gym or hang out with your BFF from high school who lives all the way across campus, you’re probably going to default to the closest food, exercise place—or none—and the new floor-mates and friends you make when looking for hangout buddies. Wouldn’t it be smart to pick the spots that seem the most right for you?



Katie Corbett seeks to encourage people to overcome challenges, so that they can find happiness and fulfillment in their lives. She does this through career coaching, asking people the questions that will help them discover their dreams. Want to learn if you’d be a good fit for her coaching? Visit her online at to see if coaching is right for you!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s