April 23, 2020
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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