Today, we’re talking dorm rooms.
College is an exciting time of possibility and discovery. Each semester, students flock to campuses to expand their minds and challenge their discipline. The pandemic, of course, has shifted things drastically. Some aspects of a “normal” college experience will never be the same. Even so, we are learning to adjust and adapt to the dynamics of public health in a face-paced world. Students are back to in-person learning. And with that – students’ lives unfold on campus and in their dorm rooms.
Dorm life is a common element of higher education. A positive or negative dorm experience can massively impact an individual’s capacity to learn and retain their experience.
With all of this in mind, it’s important to constantly be seeking improvements and adjusting systems to better meet the needs of today’s students. Here are some dorm improvements that every college student is looking for. By investing in some of these improvements, a college and campus will be more competitive and successful.
Students need things to work well. This is basic. It stretches from door handles and key cards to bathroom showers, wifi, and mail delivery. With each year, students’ tech fluency and expectations regarding functionality, sustainability, and efficiency grow. These needs and desires are spread out across a wide spectrum based on individuals’ contexts and areas of study. Regardless, the old dorm rooms of the 1970s undoubtedly need to upgrade to today’s current climate of learning. Students look for dorms that are functional and efficient.
One idea that is gaining particular traction in college dorm settings is the implementation of smart lockers. These lockers utilize smart technology in a progressive way. They are quick and easy to use. Smart lockers minimize wait time. They can be accessed 24/7 depending on a student’s schedule. Instead of relying on the mailroom, swamped with people at particular hours in the day, students can use smart lockers to come and go in manners ideal for their specific schedule.
Additionally, smart lockers are already being used on campuses as ways to redistribute food to students who might be struggling with hunger. One hopes that reforms around higher education and predatory loan programs will be effective immediately. In the intermittent time, a functioning building can help to mitigate some pressures from students’ day-to-day needs.
While students might not have the same expectations of cleanliness as older generations, many students do look for and appreciate cleanliness in their dorms. This is something dorms can improve upon, particularly in the common areas that are popular study zones and community use spaces. Maintaining cleanliness can look many different ways. Often, a dorm will need to employ staff to keep bathrooms, study areas, and shared kitchens clean. This is not easy work, and these employees should be paid a living wage in order to stay aligned with the ethos of what higher education represents. This is an ongoing conversation on campuses around the country.
Community Use Spaces
And speaking of community use spaces, this is another thing that many students look for in their dorm buildings! It’s not a shocker. Young people flock to university and college campuses to get an education. They also embark on an intensive social journey. Students are often at a time in their life where they will form deep friendships, work partnerships, and mayabe even fall in love. Orchestrating a building that promotes learning should also emphasize comfortable and collaborative spaces for minds to meet and collaborate.
In the past years, our conversations around campus safety have evolved considerably. Headlines, investigative reporting, living art installations and protests, and books such as John Krakauer’s Missoula shine the light on the ways we need to reform campus safety.
It’s not just clickbait, however. Students are organizing and reimagining what safety looks like for them. They are putting pressure on campus officials to meet basic security requirements and implement systems of accountability and restoration, particularly around sexual assault.
All of this impacts what college students look for in a dorm. And it’s an invitation for universities to make dorm improvements that both protect and empower the people living in them.
Cameras in public areas and hallways are one idea. Free and accessible training and workshops are another. Consistent peer presence and student leadership presence can make a difference. And then there are the basics: functioning locks, quick key replacement, smart lockers – all of these seemingly “little things” make a space more secure. Therefore, they are foundational in creating an environment of safety. This is so important in cultivating a healthy learning environment and a culture that promotes young adults into their future.