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5 Tips to Help Guide Your College Housing Application Process

By Torrey Kim at College Confidential.

Getting into the college of your choice is such an exciting occasion that you may think it’s time to put all of the hard work involved in your college applications behind you and finally put your feet up to relax. Although that’s partly true, you may still have some tasks ahead of you to ensure that your college experience is as perfect as you’d always hoped it would be.

One important consideration after you select your college of choice is to think about where you’ll live when you attend school. If you plan to commute from home, you won’t have to worry about housing, but those who aim to live closer to campus may want to check out the following five tips about applying for housing.

1. Start Your Research Early

The best time to start thinking about where you might want to live on campus is when you first tour a college. Being on campus allows you to observe the proximity of each dorm to the academic buildings where you’ll be studying, the distance to the gym or cafeteria, or other important considerations based on your priorities.

In addition, being on campus allows you to ask questions of tour guides, admissions officials and other students about the amenities that each dorm offers so you can gather the data you need to make a well-rounded decision.

2. Snag A Residence Hall As Soon As Possible

Ideally, by the time a college accepts you, you’ll already know which dorm is your first choice so you can immediately apply. But if you haven’t yet done that research, you may want to make it a priority, advises Kayla Lowery, student experience manager at College Housing Northwest, a non-profit that helps students find affordable housing.

“Students should look for housing as soon as possible,” Lowery says. “Some universities have a live-on-campus requirement for first-year students, so if you’re a first-year student, start exploring which residence hall would be your preference right away.”

Hot tip: Some colleges will allow you to register for housing on a non-binding basis even before you commit to the school. If this is the case with a college where you applied, you might consider doing this even if you haven’t committed yet, just to ensure that you secure a spot. However, don’t register for housing if a non-refundable deposit is required to do so unless you’ve committed to the school.

3. Check Social Media, School Resources for Advice When Needed

If you’re looking for housing near campus rather than on campus, that can be particularly challenging, especially if you are not familiar with the area or the proximity of housing options to the school, Lowery says. “I suggest that students join housing groups on social media related to the college/university or encourage them to call the university housing department for help,” she advises.

In addition, talking to current students can also help you find out which areas are ideal near the campus for your particular situation.

4. Remember: Not All Dorms Cost the Same

It may be obvious that apartments will cost you different amounts than dorms, but some students don’t realize that residence halls within the same university may vary significantly in price. In addition, prices can vary within the same residence hall based on how many people live in the room, the amenities (such as kitchens or extra bathrooms) or other factors.

Take a close look at your budget, whether it’s your personal allotment or one set by your financial aid package, before pursuing a particular dorm. Carefully scrutinize the room and board prices of each option the college of your choice offers and compare those to your budget so you can evaluate the most affordable living situation.

5. Know What to Do If Housing Is Full

Unfortunately, not every student will get his or her first choice when it comes to residence hall selections — and sometimes, you’ll find that all housing options are full — but that doesn’t mean all is lost.

“Advocate for yourself, and don’t settle!” Lowery advises. If you must find alternate housing, make a list of your non-negotiables when it comes to space, and ensure that the housing options you consider meet those standards. “Too often, students delay and make rash decisions and then end up in a housing situation that has a negative impact on their education,” Lowery says. “Finding the right housing for yourself is critical!”

The residential life department at your school of choice can give you tips on how to get on a waiting list for a dorm, or may match you with a student who has housing but needs a roommate. Your best bet is to reach out to residential life as soon as you find out the dorms are full so they can advise you of all the alternatives.

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