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Articles / Admissions / Are College Dorm Rooms Air-Conditioned?

April 23, 2020

Are College Dorm Rooms Air-Conditioned?

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Question: Do college dorms usually have air-conditioning? I have a really hard time sleeping in a hot room, and I will be starting college in Sept. 2019 so I'm wondering what I am going to do if my dorm room is too hot. Even if I go to college in New England (which is likely) there will still be some extremely warm days in the late summer and fall. If I can't sleep, I'm afraid I'll get off to a bad start in college.

Once again, “The Dean" must default to an unfulfilling “it depends" response. Colleges and universities in the warmest climates typically have central air-conditioning in all of the student residences (and it may or may not work well). Most colleges in cooler regions have no AC or some AC in dorm rooms (commonly in the newer buildings but not the older ones). Thus, the answer is going to vary widely from school to school, but here are some steps you can take in the months just ahead:


1. As you begin to compile a college list, contact the Housing office at each front-runner campus to ask if the dorms are air-conditioned. If the answer is, “Some are, and some aren't," be sure to ask for the odds that your dorm will be. (It's not unusual for upper-class students to get the snazziest dorms while a freshman may get stuck in one that's earmarked for demolition). ;-)

2. Even if the answer is, “Yes. ALL of our dorms have AC," you then should ask actual students via the College Confidential discussion forum (or in person, if you visit) to see if the AC is really effective on the steamiest days and if it works consistently throughout each building.

3. If you feel that your inability to sleep in a too-warm room could be categorized as a medical issue, request a note from your doctor saying that you require air-conditioning for health reasons. This should give you priority if some of the freshman dorms have AC and some don't. It may even allow you to bring your own window unit, if the college doesn't provide AC. But if none of the freshman residences have AC and if the dorm windows can't accommodate a window unit, you will have to decide if this climate-control issue could be a deal-breaker, and — if it is — tailor your college list accordingly.

4. If attending a hot college means giving up a cool room, you may be able to get by with a powerful fan. Here are some state-of-the-art options. You can also check out these tips from a College Confidential thread.

As you transition from home life to college life, you will encounter many situations where you have to distinguish between your “wants" and your “needs," and this is only one of them. With summer heating up right now, buy or borrow a good fan (and maybe some skimpy pajamas) and then try to conk out. While you might miss the chill of the AC, you may also find you can survive without it. You'll probably have broader college choices (and a smoother transition, wherever you head) if you can train yourself to doze off when conditions aren't ideal. In fact, once college is under way, you could discover that the temperature in the dorm room is the least of your sleep-deprivation worries when your suitemates are sharing a sausage pizza at 2 a.m. with heavy metal blasting in the background. So you'd be wise to invest in some noise-cancelling earbuds along with that potent fan! ;-)

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Written by

Sally Rubenstone

Sally Rubenstone knows the competitive and often convoluted college admission process inside out: From the first time the topic of college comes up at the dinner table until the last duffel bag is unloaded on a dorm room floor. She is the co-author of Panicked Parents' Guide to College Admissions; The Transfer Student's Guide to Changing Colleges and The International Student's Guide to Going to College in America. Sally has appeared on NBC's Today program and has been quoted in countless publications, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, USA Weekend, USA Today, U.S. News & World Report, Newsweek, People and Seventeen. Sally has viewed the admissions world from many angles: As a Smith College admission counselor for 15 years, an independent college counselor serving students from a wide range of backgrounds and the author of College Confidential's "Ask the Dean" column. She also taught language arts, social studies, study skills and test preparation in 10 schools, including American international schools in London, Paris, Geneva, Athens and Tel Aviv. As senior advisor to College Confidential since 2002, Sally has helped hundreds of students and parents navigate the college admissions maze. In 2008, she co-founded College Karma, a private college consulting firm, with her College Confidential colleague Dave Berry, and she continues to serve as a College Confidential advisor. Sally and her husband, Chris Petrides, became first-time parents in 1997 at the ripe-old age of 45. So Sally was nearly an official senior citizen when her son Jack began the college selection process, and when she was finally able to practice what she had preached for more than three decades.

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