Effects of Crowed Dorm Room on Freshmen?

Question: Have there been any studies conducted that suggest the optimal living situation for freshman students (single, double, triple, quad …)? My daughter just entered her freshman year at a small liberal arts college and the room–clearly designed for two–is housing three students. All students in the honors dorm are similarly housed, and I question the overcrowding and how this may negatively impact her academics.

I don’t know if any freshman housing studies have been done, but I suspect that there have been many. After all, what topic these days hasn’t been studied ad nauseam? And, of course, any time there’s a question with a common-sense answer, it somehow seems that thousands of dollars are spent researching it anyway. Certainly, the common-sense answer here is that students crowded into too-small dorm rooms will often have less study time and added stress. It’s usually easier for two roommates to coexist rather than three or four. The more bodies squeezed into a small space, the more likely it is that there will be multiple sleeping schedules and study schedules … and many multiple visitors.

So, sure, as a parent, it’s understandable that you are worried when you see that your daughter’s rooming situation is less than ideal. But do keep in mind that there are many lessons learned in college that aren’t learned in the classroom. As a result of her crowded digs, your daughter may hone her skills in time-management and diplomacy. Moreover, as the parent, it’s easy to project your own needs onto your child’s. When most of us are old enough to be sending a kid to college, we’re also too old to imagine sharing a bathroom with a dozen others or even a closet with a near-stranger. But such rites of passage come with the college turf, and they aren’t as terrorizing to teenagers as they might be to you and me.

Thus, as your daughter’s freshman year gets underway, it’s important that you encourage her to make the most of her situation—assuming that she’s bothered by it in the first place. Don’t point out the negatives; emphasize the pluses. On the other hand, if there are problems that seem irreconcilable, then you can support your daughter as she notifies the Residence Life staff at her school, with the hope of prevailing upon administrators to provide more reasonable accommodations. But, meanwhile, don’t anticipate these problems. Your daughter may do just fine, and she might even emerge from her close quarters with greater flexibility and self-confidence, along with a few extra pairs of socks and undies, too. 🙂