At my university, students are only required to live in the dorms or private certified housing organizations for their freshman year of college. The university sees this requirement as a way for students to acclimate to college life before having to be entirely responsible for themselves and do the whole "adulting" thing. After freshman year, students can choose whether to continue with dorm life or private certified housing or venture out into the "real world" and take on apartment life or move into a sorority or frat house, among other options. However, you have to make this decision in October of freshman year, just as you're getting settled into your routine.
I was not in a position to say goodbye to the safety of my dorm and hello to living on my own at that point in time. Therefore, I chose to stay put and do the dorm thing one more time before moving on with my life. While there are moments that I feel like there are too many rules, that the showers couldn't get any grosser, or that there is no way I can eat another meal from the dining hall without hurling, I've found that the decision I made as an overwhelmed 19-year-old in a new world was the one a strong, well-adjusted 20-year-old would be forever grateful for. Here's why.
1. You get to take on leadership roles
This year, I got to serve as an Ambassador in my Living-Learning Community. I love that I've been able to help and befriend students who were in the same position I was a year ago. Without staying in the dorms again, I would not have had this opportunity in the college setting.
2. You get to participate in housing traditions for another year
At least at my university, the housing department puts on events throughout the year, including specialty meals in the dining halls and holiday activities. One more year in university housing = one more year of fun, FREE things to do and try.
3. You are in the same building as your friends
The apartment I am living in next year is about five blocks away from our friends' apartments. That's not going to be a fun walk in the winter. Right now though, we are enjoying living in the same building on the same floor, something we would not have had otherwise.
4. Very few messes are your responsibility
Nasty smell in the bathroom? Crumbs all over the lounge? If you didn't cause it, it's not your problem in the dorms. At your apartment however, your friends' messes are your messes to clean unless you want to live in filth.
5. There is always food ready to eat when you're hungry
Dorms come with dining hall meal plans. Apartments do not. Apartments come with a kitchen and the need to prepare your own food for every meal. Need I say more?
6. You live relatively close to all of your classes
Most dorms on most campuses were built with students in mind—they were built in close proximity to where classes are held. The same cannot necessarily be said about apartment buildings. I got one extra year of not having to walk more than 10 minutes to any one class. Even if the distance was far, there are bus stops right by the dorms. Once again, apartment complexes are not factored into these sorts of decisions made by the university.
7. The environment is pretty well noise-controlled
If someone's being too loud near your room at 2 a.m. in a dorm, the RA on duty can swoop in and rescue the remaining time you have to sleep with a reminder of quiet hours. In an apartment building, what are you going to do? Go knock on someone's door and tell them they need to shut up in their own apartment? I don't think so.
8. The opportunity to make new friends is still easily accessible
Dorms force you to socialize with other people because it is impossible for you to stay in your own space 24/7—you have to at least go to the shared bathroom at some point or another. As a second-year dorm resident, I felt much more comfortable talking to people on my floor than I did previously. This has led me to meet new people I wouldn't have met if I had decided to do the apartment thing as soon as I could.
9. You don't have to become an adult before you're ready
I think this is the most important I've learned throughout this dorm life experience. I firmly believe that no matter how much I felt like an adult, I was absolutely not ready to move on to the next phase in my life last August. I needed this one last year to truly feel out who I am as a grown woman. Now, I am very sure of myself that childhood is behind me and I am ready to take on this whole life in front of me.
This year when I pack up my room, it will be quite bittersweet. I'll be saying goodbye to the industrial-seeming building that has become my home for one final time. Although it is time for me to move on, no matter how fun and exciting apartment life may turn out to be, nothing will replace the satisfaction I've found living in my dorm for two years.