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How Long Do You Usually Live in College Dorms?

College is an exciting time in your life, and one of the best parts is living on your own, usually in a dorm. But it’s hard to know what to expect before you actually live in one, and you’ll have many questions about college dorms, like how long you’ll live in one. 

Students at larger colleges tend to live in dorms for at least their first year. Because these colleges usually don’t require students to live on campus, many students move off-campus after the first year. At smaller colleges, you are often required to live in a dorm for at least two years.

This article will explain how long students tend to live in college dorms, what types of dorms schools have, and what resources you can use to learn more about life in a college dorm.

College dorms - how long do you live on campus?

Length of Time in College Dorms

Colleges offer different dorm options and requirements, and they usually depend on the size of the school. 

Larger schools typically allow students to choose whether or not they want to live in a dorm or on-campus in general. If they required all students to live in dorms, they’d need to make tens of thousands of rooms available. 

The University of Michigan doesn’t have any policies requiring students to live on campus. Still, they offer housing options to students who choose to live on campus, regardless of their year. 

Around ninety-seven percent of first-year students live in dorms on campus, equivalent to more than six thousand students. Furthermore, while it’s not required, students can live on campus through to their senior year if they prefer or find housing off-campus (source).

Many students — both first-year and older — prefer to live in campus dorms because they are safe and allow them to get to know other students. It can be a great time to make friends.

There are also helpful amenities in dorms like social and study spaces, laundry, housing assistants, vending machines, and more. 

On the other hand, smaller liberal arts colleges usually have more requirements regarding students living on campus. It’s easier for these colleges to require on-campus housing because fewer students and fewer dorms are needed to provide this requirement for students. 

An example is North Central College, where students must live on campus for their freshman, sophomore, and junior years unless they live with their families. This policy is in place to promote a connection to campus life, academic success, and a higher graduation rate (source).

Types of College Dorms

Schools offer different types of dorms for students. Differences include the number of people allowed per dorm, how many students share a bathroom, if kitchens are provided, and if dorms are co-ed

Single Room

The most common small dorm room type is a single room that houses between one and three people. These are referred to as single, double, and triple rooms. The beds in these rooms may be bunk beds depending on the size and number of people. The bathrooms are usually shared among everyone on the floor, but are divided by gender. 


Another common type of room is the suite. Suites usually house two, four, or six students depending on the number of bedrooms. There’ll be one, two, or three bedrooms with one or two students in each room. There’s a shared bathroom for everyone in the suite and sometimes a common room or hallway to connect the rooms (source).

Apartments and Houses

Some schools also offer university-owned apartments and houses, including kitchens, bathrooms, and a varying number of bedrooms and layouts depending on the number of students. 

These on-campus housing options are rarer than the dorms discussed above, but they’re available at certain colleges if it’s something that interests you. They’re often reserved for upperclassmen if they’re offered, and first-year students will have to stay in a traditional dorm. 

If you’re interested in what housing options are available at your college or colleges you’re considering, check out their housing website. They’ll have all the information you need about housing, like the dorm types, requirements, room tours, and more. You can also contact the school’s housing office if you have questions not answered on the website. 

Dorm Resources

Use the resources in this section to learn more about living in a college dorm and how to succeed while doing so.

Here are books available on to help you learn more about living in a college dorm:

There are also some great resources on Youtube. One example is this video from The Sea Rabbit, which has an abundance of tips and tricks for living comfortably in a college dorm room: 

Here’s another great YouTube video from Bright Side, which gives you all the “rules” you should know and follow to make life in a college dorm fun and low-stress:

Final Thoughts

How long you live in a college dorm will depend on your personal preferences and your college’s housing requirements. Some students, typically at large universities, are not subject to any length requirements for dorm housing

Other students, usually at smaller schools, may have to spend their entire college experience living in a dorm or another type of college housing. Either way, you should consider living in a college dorm to get closer with your classmates, achieve greater academic success, and enjoy the overall dorm experience.

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