Ah, dorm life. Most of us spent our first year or years of college in cinderblock bomb shelters where plastic bags covered metal detectors and vom covered communal bathrooms. This ultimate bonding exercise created lifelong memories and new strains of STDs.
For many students, though, dorming means spacious rooms and state of the art facilities. Over the past couple of decades, schools have been putting millions upon millions of tuition dollars towards new housing to justify robbing us blind. A majority of these new dorms are apartment-style suites, and many include amenities that our parents could not have dreamed of. On the other end of the spectrum, some schools have maintained dorms for over a century which are beautiful enough to put the greatest modern architecture to shame. We’ve combed through residence halls of all shapes, sizes and ages to determine the schools that offer the best dorms in the country. So without further ado and in no particular order, here is our list of the 24 best college dorms in the US.
High Point University
You likely haven’t heard of High Point before, but if you have, it was probably because of their crazy amenities. Unsurprisingly, their dorms are as luxurious as their top-ranked student center. HPU has a five-tier housing system. Above tier one, which is mostly for freshmen and consists of traditional doubles, students must pay extra. Benefits of upper-tier units range from full beds to private bathrooms to marble tile flooring. Students can hang out at one of the five outdoor heated pools and Jacuzzis or nearby fire pits after grabbing a snack at the free ice cream truck. But the most bougie dorm is the R.G. Wanek Center and University Center II, where you can catch a movie at the 200-seat movie theater on the first floor after grabbing dinner at the upscale steakhouse on the fifth.
The eradication of Greek life in 1997 lead to fraternity houses at Bowdoin being repurposed as swanky dorms called “College Houses”, which are expected to plan events that will strengthen college culture. These houses are designated for lucky upperclassmen who have gone through an application process to prove that they would be valued members of the community. Possibly as a throwback to a simpler time, every Bowdoin student is assigned a telephone number for their four years, and all rooms (not just in the College Houses) come equipped with a phone.
Washington University in St. Louis
Students at WashU may choose a “traditional dorm” with a communal floor bathroom, but most of the dorms are “modern dorms” with four to six-person suites. All students benefit from Tempurpedic mattresses (*gasp*) and a cleaning staff. The South 40, where the many dorm buildings are split into different “residential colleges”, is where most students end up living. The residential area acts like it’s own little pedestrian-friendly town filled with student-run stores within arms reach. South 40 House even has a rooftop garden. Bonus: for those willing to shell out a few hundred more dollars per semester, the student-run laundry service may take some of the stress out of dorm life.
Like a few of the other schools featured on this list, Rice randomly sorts their students into residential colleges (with their own traditions and rivalries) that they will belong to for the rest of their undergrad career. Most students live in the dorm of their associated college, which all offer their own in-dorm facilities like dining halls. Some dorms have energy-efficient bathroom pods in each room which were once on exhibit at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. As icing on the cake, all on-campus residents are given complimentary HBO Go and Philo. There is even an app for the campus laundry service.
University of Texas, Austin
If using the fully furnished apartments, pool, 24-hour gym, computer lab, game room and theater room in the Callaway House sounds stressful to you, don’t worry: a maid service is there to clean up any mess you make. This is freshmen living at it’s finest.
Florida Gulf Coast University
As if being 15 minutes from the gulf coast isn’t enough, FGCU freshmen in South Village live in suites with a resort style pool, movie theaters, fitness centers and game rooms. Besides recreational amenities, those same dorms include a full-service dining hall, first-year classes, tutoring labs and academic advising. North Lake Village and West Lake Village are situated directly on the campus waterfront.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
M.I.T. students have plenty of opportunities to take a break from the school’s famously rigorous academics in Simmons Hall, known far and wide as “The Sponge”. The most noteworthy addition to this 5,500 window building (designed by architect Steven Holl) is a giant ball pit. Simmons has the biggest rooms on campus, and all rooms have either a private bathroom inside or a bathroom shared with the neighbors, still conveniently placed right outside the door. Singles come with nine windows, doubles come with eighteen, and walls often take strange “curvilinear” forms. It is an aesthetic most reminiscent of Rolie Polie Olie. If you’re still not satisfied with your living situation, the hall holds House Meetings in their two-story theater every other week to make and vote on proposals for the dorm. According to their website, residents are pushing for “hot tubs, ziplines, and teleporters.” One successful proposal brought a telescope to the roof.
Pomona’s château-like dorms seem too good to be true. Not only are the halls beautiful (some include fireplaces with crown tiling if that’s indicative of anything), a whopping 75% of rooms are singles. The two new dorms, which are certified LEED Platinum and some of the most environmentally-friendly dorms in the country, have a different kind of charm. Sontag Hall has daylight sensors and a rooftop garden, while Dialynas Hall houses an Outdoor Education Center and a rooftop classroom. The fact that only 2-3% of the student body opts out of dorm life speaks for itself.
Every Yalie is randomly assigned to one of four “residential colleges” before their freshman year where they will live for all eight semesters. All residential colleges have a library, dining hall, gym, music practice room, TV room, and dzope courtyards. There are also theaters, dance studios and recording studios for all those rappers Yale is notorious for churning out. Rory Gilmore, lay down that fat track if you will. Some colleges even have pottery studios, woodshops, printing presses, museums, bookbinding studios, fabric arts studios and game rooms. Each basement has a Buttery: a snack bar that sells cheap, late-night eats (read: drunk food). If you’re thinking, “I have some of that stuff in my dorm!”, don’t kid yourself. The foyer of just one of these colleges is likely nicer than all of your school’s dorms combined, duh. The Heads of Colleges also host afternoon teas, which are opportunities for students to meet in small groups with guest speakers. We’re talking Denzel Washington. Even if Denzel’s career took a 180, sending him spiraling into a pit of despair and turning him to a derelict with no faith to be had on the horizon, he would not come within 50 feet of my crack attic of a dorm.
University of Cincinnati
You didn’t know you needed floor-to-ceiling windows that deter birds and can be adjusted for opaqueness until you saw Morgens Hall, which houses students in two to eight-person apartments. All units in the newly renovated dorm come with a kitchen and either one or two bathrooms, and the penthouse apartment has a private deck and skylight. Another unique housing option is the Campus Recreation Center Hall, which is exactly what it sounds like. Two hundred and thirty students get to live amongst the best facilities on campus, including a lazy river and a climbing wall. The Campus Rec Center also houses a wide variety of dining options and a large convenience store.
University of Arizona
If you hate humongous apartments with custom-designed furniture, walk-in closets, insulated walls, fitness centers, full spas, 22 foot LED TVs, sand volleyball courts, cabanas, hammocks, sundecks, rooftop game lounges and rooftop infinity edge pools with oversized hot tubs, the Hub at Tucson may not be for you. But if living like Zack and Cody on crack sounds appealing, you don’t even have to stop there. The VIP, Mansion and Spa upgraded apartments include additional amenities like top floor views, floor restricted steam rooms and outdoor patios, private terraces with hot tubs, and body spray shower systems. Just look at that sorority recruitment video of a virtual tour!
University of North Florida
The 1,000 students who live at Osprey Fountains, the newest housing complex at UNF, have an in-dorm library, but it’s hard to focus on studying when you have a lazy river right outside. Other unique perks include a ’50s themed diner, outdoor swings and a deck full of plasma televisions.
Illinois Institute of Technology
Not every dorm is conveniently located next to a stop on Chicago’s L train, and even fewer are the brainchild of bigshot architect Helmut Jahn, but State Street Village is both. Three buildings appear as one under a shared façade, each with a tricked out fifth-floor lounge and two rooftop terraces which offer enviable views of the Windy City. The 24-hour staff is always there for residents when they need them.
The Student Village 2 (StuVi2) dorm houses more than 900 students over 26 floors. The top floor is reserved for common areas, so students lucky enough to be placed on a high floor aren’t the only ones who get to take advantage of the panoramic views of the Boston skyline. With all that collective floorspace, students are given large rooms with walk-in closets in either apartment or suite-style units. The building also pulls out all the stops when it comes to energy efficiency. Another attractive housing option at BU is the small dormitory-style residences, which are some wicked-Boston, Federal style brownstones housing between 14-65 students.
University of Chicago
Theaters, libraries and club rooms with fireplaces are just a few of the amenities offered in these stunning residence halls. Like Yale, these dorms are tight-knit, for real. Each house community even has a crest! Musicians can perfect their craft in their dorms without bothering their neighbors in music practice rooms, take moonlight strolls through indoor courtyards or lift their pinkies in the oak-paneled tea room. Unlike many of its peers, though, the University of Chicago has been focused on strengthening its Hogwarts-esque system by building completely new structures. The Campus North Residential Commons, which was designed by Studio Gang Architects and opened in 2016, has over 10,000 feet of retail space. As of 2018, the school is on its final phase of a new $450 million, 1,300-bed dorm, the Woodlawn Residential Commons, which is scheduled to be finished in 2020. UChicago students suffer through arguably the most rigorous coursework in the country, so they’ve earned a res life with a treat-yo-self attitude.
University of Virginia
If you would rather be surrounded by history than pool parties, there may be no better place to spend a semester than the Lawn at the University of Virginia, which was designed by Thomas Jefferson. Yes, you read that correctly. While these 54 rooms lack some modern amenities like air conditioning, students lucky enough to be placed here can get plenty of fresh air while contemplating the rich history of UVA and our great nation on their designated rocking chairs.
Bryn Mawr College
The Bryn Mawr dorms are credited as the first buildings EVER built in the Collegiate Gothic-style that we all know and love. Student Kara Williamson says, “First of all, all the dorms are gorgeous. Almost every dorm was built in the late 1800s/early 1900s and has beautiful gothic architecture. The rooms are very spacious and even as a freshman I had a huge room. Every floor in every dorm has a “tea pantry”, which is essentially a mini kitchen, and because of Bryn Mawr’s honor code, you don’t have to worry about your food getting stolen. And because the dorms are so old and interesting there are always little nooks and crannies to find and explore. A lot of the rooms have fireplaces which unfortunately can’t be used but are very cute and it’s fun to decorate the mantles and stuff. Overall, living at Bryn Mawr feels very homey and cozy; there’s a reason most people choose to live in the dorms all four years.”
Scripps College is on the US National Park Service’s National Register of Historic Places, presumably because it looks like a movie set. Seriously, these halls remind me more of Luc’s mansion in The Cheetah Girls 2 than dorms. Students who are bored with dining hall food can pick 32 varieties of fruits and other edible plants fresh off the trees found all over campus. The olive oil pressed from the school’s olive trees is literally award-winning. Are we allowed to study abroad here?
Saint Leo University
Many of the dorms at Saint Leo are top-notch, but the crown has to go to Apartment 5. This suite-style dorm comes with built-in flat screens, “nap pods” and an arcade. More importantly, though, the 2,100-gallon fish tank in the lounge area made an appearance on Animal Planet’s Tanked. I guess you can say it’s pretty famous. (By the way, no group of college students has ever been this excited about a fish tank. Aren’t there, like, infinite fish in Florida? Whatever, it’s honestly adorable.)
Savannah College of Art and Design
SCAD’s dorms appear to have been designed by one of their students. Bold patterned wallpaper, abstract lounge furniture and neon signs seem to dominate all of the common areas. The rooms themselves are equipped with private baths, televisions with free cable, and a host of other amenities. And, of course, there’s a pool.
While I would love to accuse them of being rat-infested holes run by crooked slumlords, Harvard dorms are as infuriatingly and unsurprisingly nice as their rival’s at Yale. Since 1636, a good chunk of noteworthy Americans have called Harvard dorms home, which is an amenity in it of itself. Hollis Hall famously housed Washington’s troops during the Revolutionary War. Now, first-year students live in shared suites in or next to the legendary Harvard Yard. After freshman year, students are placed in one of 12 Upperclassmen Houses (all, of course, with their own crest), where they remain for the next three years. These are where you can find all the beautiful libraries, art studios, etc. By “etc” I mean essentially everything the residential colleges at Yale have. Some standouts are a history-making pool turned theater and Boe’s Bees, which appears to be a rooftop beehive. Gotta love a good underdog story.
Grey Towers Castle was a 40-room home designed to mimic royal palaces in the French Renaissance style, with most of it’s original detailing still intact. I mean, look at those friezes! By 1898, the completed castle, ballroom and all, was one of the biggest homes in the country. Now it is a National Historic Landmark, but for a few lucky students, Grey Towers Castle is a freshman dorm.
33 Beekman, the school’s newest residence hall, is also the world’s tallest. This superlative is doubly impressive when you consider that the 34-story dorm is located in Lower Manhattan, where finding comparable accommodations is otherwise close to impossible in 2018. Look at those views! I’m plotzing.
Deep Springs College
What better way to finish off this list than with a wildcard? Of all the outlandish things to be said about America’s smallest college, housing for the school’s 26 students may be the least interesting, but that isn’t saying much. Deep Springs College is as exclusive as it is mysterious. Just reading the Google results for this two-year school in middle-of-nowhere California is comparable to watching Holes. Deep Springs likely offers the most unique dorming experience in the country, or maybe even the world. Students essentially live like cowboys, spending their time completely isolated on a 155-acre ranch near the Nevada border. Information on the house where the all-male (soon to be coed) student body rests after long days on the alfalfa farm is difficult to uncover. There is no internet or television, but previous residents leave their clothes and supplies in a “boneyard” for current students to use.
- Mississippi State University
- Texas Christian University
- Emory University
- Liberty University
- Sonoma State University (All living communities are named after wines. ‘Nuff said.)
- Grand Canyon University
- Regent University
- University of Houston
- Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising
- Loyola University Maryland
- Santa Clara University
- Union University
- University of California, Davis
- University of Michigan
When it gets down to brass tax, what would you prefer? Wild West wasteland of a dorm where exit signs are quickly dismantled and everyone knows each other, or a swimming pool? You’ll take the swimming pool? All right then. Just remember this the next time you’re looking out that penthouse window: the quality of your dorm directly correlates to the consequences of destroying it.