Upon accepting your college admission offer, the first thing you want to secure is your accommodation. For that, it is important to do some research into the different options available to you. Understand why you feel one would suit you better than the other based on your personal preferences. This is crucial since you would be living away from home and you want to be comfortable in your surroundings which you will use to study, relax, and make lifelong friends! If you are an out-of-state or international student, this becomes a key aspect of college life that you need to adapt to. Sometimes in-staters too avail themselves of on-campus housing if they wish to spend time learning more about the ‘real world.’
Special Interest Houses
Sometimes also called ‘Themed Housing’, Special Interest Houses are those that make room for a student community with a shared interest. These could be focused on an academic area such as Engineering or Computer Science in which case, SIHs are called Living Learning Communities. SIHs also exist for those who share a passion for the Arts or Languages. Additionally, there are also SIHs that are culture-focused: such as those based on sexual orientation, ethnicity (Latinx/’Desi Americans’), or one designed for those working towards the acceptance of diversity.
As an example:
University of Oregon’s “Gender Equity Hall” is one where students share rooms regardless of gender or sexuality. This includes transgender, gay, straight, bisexual, and intersex students who are treated with utmost respect as everybody should.
I have also come across SIHs for healthy living, women in STEM, and gaming. Frat and Sorority Houses also fall under the category of SIHs.
As you can imagine, this option is open for students with a common interest to come together and share their ideas and grow together as a community outside of the classroom. However, the bonus is that you get access to specialized facilities catered to your interest, whatever it may be.
SIHs have a governing body with a Director and runs as a fully functional student body who makes their own decisions. If this interests you, feel free to sign up for a leadership position. Additionally, you may be required to pay for the specialized amenities you’d be using. This could range from 50$ to 175$ on an annual basis.
You can apply to a SIH as a freshman, and your application is carefully reviewed by a committee. Given the limited accommodation options, especially if you’re applying to a medium or large-sized school, you may not be accepted. But, don’t worry! An interesting fact is that you can still be part of a special interest housing group when you’re not actually living with this community. This means you can be part of all of their events, activities, community service events, weekly meetings, weekend parties as an “off-floor member.” The benefit of being a part of a SIH is that you are with like-minded people and therefore, your college experience can initially be less intimidating if you’re one from the introverted tribe.
Fun Fact: SIHs do not always mean entire houses, they could also just be a single or a couple of floors combined! Don’t fall for the literal meaning of the term ‘houses’. Check the university website for more details so you know what you’re signing up for. You may be required to submit an essay to demonstrate your genuine interest in living in a SIH given that there are limited rooms available.
Very simply, these are on-campus houses that accommodate students regardless of their major. Generally, these would be divided into co-ed or single-sex dorms and floors. You may apply for a single-sex dorm or floor if you’d feel more comfortable living away from home in this way.
A dorm could mean a single room, a room for two or three people. Colleges also offer suites that accommodate two, three, or sometimes, more students. If you have lived in a hotel suite before, you would know what this means. Unlike a single room, a suite has a common area which makes the accommodation feel more spacious. Sometimes this could include kitchen facilities and also include a private bathroom.
Most of the medium or large colleges and universities in the US will have tie-ups with off-campus housing options. These are rented by the university and then let out to students. However, a lot of commuter schools (i.e. public schools, especially those as big as the UCs) will give you the option to stay wherever you want off-campus. Sometimes students choose to live with their parents or their peers from high school, so this could also prove beneficial if you have that option open to you. This makes you independent in a different way since you have to manage your bills and food, preparing you for post-college life. Also, you get more space and freedom to do things you’d like to do without worrying about who your roommate would be or which party you would next be dragged into.
Start your college house hunt sooner than later. It is always best to reach out to the university or college housing office to learn more about the housing options open to you. It is recommended that international students utilize the International Office so that they can enquire and make the most of the housing choices available.