What to Look for in a Dorm While on a College Tour

stylish interior in modern residential house
Lauren Ward
Lauren Ward

Our collaborative team of content writers and researchers stay up-to-date on the latest news to help you ace your applications. We hope you enjoy the blog.

The biggest hang up for a lot of rising freshman? For most, it is university “dorm life,” and for a good reason: many people at the mere thought of having to share a room with a stranger go into panic attacks. While often dramatized, there’s no need for an uncomfortable living experience in college. From the good, to the bad, we know there are a few really important things to look for in a dorm on a college tour.

A dorm experience can make or break a freshman. If it goes well, it can set up a positive college experience for the entire four years. If it goes poorly, it might even be the catalyst towards dropping out. No one wants that! So let’s talk about what to look for in dorms while you’re in the midst of a college tour.

(You are planning on taking a tour, right? Even if it’s the same university your grandfather and mother went to, take the tour. Even if it’s a virtual tour. Take the tour. You’ll probably feel a little better, we promise.)

Look for cleanliness

Each university has several dorms for each student to choose from, but that doesn’t matter so much because the student population isn’t going to differ dramatically across campus. So even if your tour doesn’t take you into each and every one, make sure to keep a close eye on the ones you do go and see. General standards and all that. Be sure to look at the quality of the following:

  • Elevators
  • Bathrooms
  • Front entrance
  • Carpet (if there is any)

Without giving examples or going into any specifics, truly examine the quality of the bathrooms and the elevators. This especially applies if you are a guy. A very small portion of guys have the uncanny ability to give the rest of men a bad name, and namely for habits a three-year-old boy should have mastered. However, that said, there are a few girls out there that are capable of the same. Anyways, you get the point.

Regardless of what gender you are; you’re looking for overall quality. How people treat the space they live in is indicative of the type of people they are. If they don’t treat their home with respect, they’re not going to treat you with respect. So, as you’ve probably realized by now, unfortunately B-rated movies about college life sometimes aren’t too far from the truth, but thankfully many times they’re just attempts at cheap laughs. Still, keep an eye out for any Animal House antics.

Distance to and from (including a bank)

Believe it or not, distance from the bank should absolutely be on the list of what to look for in a dorm. In addition, you’ll want to ask yourself how far the university dorms are from classes. Even in the best of situations, the walk to and from classes is going to take a few minutes. When it’s really far there are some things you want to consider.

For example, what is the on-campus crime rate? Where are the emergency phones en route if and when you should need them? What sort of public transportation is there, and, more importantly, what time does it start and end service?  Long story short, you need to feel safe where you live. If you don’t think you would feel safe traveling about, it’s a very valid reason for crossing off a college from your checklist.

Proximity to the library and the cafeteria should also be very high on your list. Again, see how close everything is, and whether or not you would need to use public transportation (keeping in mind crime rate, emergency phones, etc). The library is going to be a frequent place of travel for you. It’s true that you’ll actually be going there for books regularly, but youll undoubtedly use the space to work & study too. Whether you’re writing a paper late at night and you don’t want to keep your roommate awake, you need to be in a public space to be more disciplined, or you just need a change in scenery, like it or not… you’re going to spend a lot of time in the library. So when considering what to look for in a dorm, think about a decent library!

If it’s unreasonably far for you, consider putting another university as your first choice. Notice you’re not being asked to rule it out completely, as there are undoubtedly alternatives you may not be aware. Ask your tour guide for alternative work spaces to the library. He or she will probably be able to list off four or five without thinking.

Bathroom Access

Yep, bathrooms made it on the list again, but this time: take note of where the bathrooms are in regards to the rooms. Do the bathrooms go by floor, or are they attached to the rooms? It’s probably not a big deal to a lot of you, so no problem. But for some of you, having to get up two or three times in the middle of the night and walk across the hall might be a deal breaker. If you’re one of those people, look for a college dorm where the bathroom is attached. Don’t let yourself be miserable, and for Pete’s sake, don’t let yourself become one of those ‘no one’s looking’ guys.

Laundry access

Lastly, let’s discuss laundry. Had you thought about it until you saw it just now? If not, chances are someone is still doing your laundry for you. So if you know washing your clothes isn’t going to be high on your list of priorities, you’re going to want (no, scratch that), you’re going to NEED a laundry room that is close by.

Most college campuses will have laundromats near high traffic areas, but you’ll have to physically tote your dirty laundry there yourself. This isn’t a big deal, but here is where you need to be aware of your strengths and weaknesses. Do you think you would make that journey at least once a week? Once every two weeks? You don’t want to be that person who wears the same jeans everyday (that somehow smell like fast food, sweat, and cigarette smoke) paired with a don’t-notice-me-hoodie on top. College is all about discovering yourself, but this doesn’t include fully realizing your BO spectrum. After all, weren’t you also hoping on maybe meeting someone there?

This is all to say: laundry access is an important addition to the list of things to look for in a dorm.


Look out for what you can when you are looking at potential dorms. But don’t think you can’t conquer anything in your way, if that school feels like the right place for you to study.

At the end of the day, letting a dorm help you choose your college is really about understanding your own limits. What are you willing to put up with and what do you need to feel comfortable and safe? If seeing the dorm life at a potential university has caused you to take a step back, maybe you two aren’t the best fit. And that’s completely OK. There are thousands of schools to choose from in the US alone that will check off most, if not all, of your must-haves. So keep looking if your first date with so-and-so university didn’t go well. There are plenty of other universities out in the sea.

If you need additional help selecting the best college for you, sign up to talk to one of our college counselors today.

Questions? Let us know!