Should I Live in a “Themed” Dorm?
One of the primary benefits of on-campus housing is how easy it can be to make friends who share your interests. After all, you’re surrounded by people who are having the same core experiences. There are plenty of opportunities for connecting and helping each other out.
Some campuses have taken that concept a step further and built dorms around specific themes. In these cases, students are able to find not only peers who share the college experience but those who have their specific interests in terms of field of study.
Let’s take a closer look at these themed dorms and what benefits they could bring.
Themes used in student housing
Not every college or university offers themed housing, but it has become increasingly popular as institutions aim to provide positive experiences for students.
The most common themes are built around areas of study. Many programs, for example, offer housing specifically set aside for STEM majors or those who intend to go into medicine. That’s the case for Cornell College, which offers first-year themed living in STEM or art. Likewise, the University of Utah offers focused living communities around STEM, science, art, business, and more.
Other themed housing communities may be built around shared cultural ties. At Berkeley, for example, students have a wide range of identity-focused housing options including Empowering Womxn in STEAM, Casa Magdalena Mora (focused on Latinx and Chicanx culture), the African American Theme Program, the UNITY Theme Program (focused on LGBTQ+ identities), and more.
Still, other themed housing communities find their center in shared passions that may be interdisciplinary in nature. Saint Louis University’s themed living communities, for example, include the Micah House (focused on social justice) and a Diversity and Global Citizenship Learning Community.
What are the benefits of themed student housing?
Being connected to peers is a huge benefit for college students. Those who find meaningful connections are more likely to succeed academically and professionally, and the built-in shared interests of a themed community can be a fast track to finding that sense of belonging.
• Those who live in themed student housing may find a wide range of benefits:
• Decreased feelings of isolation or loneliness
• Like-minded peers for study groups and homework help
• Better academic outcomes with fewer distractions
• Stronger support groups and emotional connections
• Acquaintances that can provide later professional connections
Are there downsides to themed student housing?
One risk to themed student housing — especially those themed around an academic subject — is that not everyone sticks with their initial choice in major or field of study. The National Center for Education Statistics finds that switching majors is a fairly common occurrence. Within three years, about one-third of students switched their focus. This was even higher for students in specific fields such as math (52%) and natural sciences (40%).
Students who pick their themed living arrangement based on a plan to go into a specific field may find themselves feeling a bit out of place if they change their minds.
Still, many themed housing arrangements are limited in scope (most offered only to first-year students), and even students who end up going on to other fields of study can still benefit from the close-knit nature of their initial cohort.
Overall, choosing a themed learning community offers more benefits than downsides for most students. If there’s a theme that’s calling to you, finding other people who share your interest can be a great way to make your college experience the best it can be.