You should not have to deal with things such as mold, bad plumbing, or unpleasant smells just to get an education. This is why picking the right college can often be a tough decision. The quality of the dorms should not be the only thing you think about; living in a run-down building with bad conditions can affect your college experience. So, in this post, I have put together a list of the colleges with the worst dorms.
Some students do not consider the dorms their biggest priority, but it could still end up being a tiebreaker. You want a school with a good level of comfort. Generally, colleges and universities in the US vary in dorm quality, and it’s not always possible to check out the dorms at every school you’re considering. Some schools are known for having less-than-stellar dorms, while others have really nice living spaces that are as good as fancy hotels.
Colleges with the Worst Dorms
This list of colleges with the worst dorms is backed by the experiences of precious and current students to help you make a good decision. I am not saying you should avoid these schools altogether; they might be a great fit for you in terms of education and social life. But we do recommend that you think carefully before putting down your housing deposit. Note that dorms are usually subjective. That said, below are the colleges with the worst dorms.
CMU – Carnegie Mellon University
A friend of mine recently shared a photo of their new dorm room at Carnegie Mellon University, and I couldn’t help but notice how much it resembled a prison cell. The tiny slit window in the room was particularly reminiscent of the kind you might find in a penitentiary.
I later learned that the peculiar design choice was intentional. The person who donated the funds for the dormitory probably specifically requested that the windows be made small and uncomfortable to discourage students from spending too much time in their rooms. Instead, the idea is to motivate them to go outside and enjoy the fresh air.
Pennsylvania State University
The dormitories at Penn State University have a common problem that is also seen at Ohio State University: there are too many students and not enough space. Even though the dorm rooms are advertised online as being able to accommodate two people, it is often the case that three or four students end up sharing the space due to the university accepting more students than it can house. This leaves very little room for personal belongings and makes it difficult to have any privacy or quiet time.
In the worst-case scenario, you might find yourself living in a converted common area with a dozen other students because all the dorm rooms are full. As the semester progresses, students in this situation are usually moved into regular dorm rooms as spaces become available.
What makes this situation even more challenging is that Penn State requires all first-year students to live on campus, regardless of whether there is enough housing to accommodate them. This can be very tough for students who are already dealing with the pressures of college coursework and adjusting to a new environment. If you are considering attending Penn State and becoming a Nittany Lion, ask the housing office a lot of questions and try to get some guarantees before you pay your housing deposit.
University of Miami
The University of Miami is located in the fancy neighborhood of Coral Gables, close to the beach and the lively nightlife of South Beach. It sounds like a dream place to be. However, living in the freshman dorms, Hecht and Stanford Halls, might not be as glamorous as it seems.
These two big dorm buildings feel more like you’re staying in a fancy storm shelter. But at least you know you’ll be safe if a big hurricane like Andrew hits while you’re at school. In the meantime, you’ll have to put up with small rooms, dark hallways, and shared bathrooms that might be clean or might not, depending on who you’re living with.
Fortunately, you only have to live on campus for your freshman year. After that, you can find a place to rent with friends in one of the nearby neighborhoods that are easy to walk around in.
If you decide to stay on campus after your freshman year, the housing gets a lot better for upperclassmen. The school recently built new housing for juniors and seniors that looks like a fancy apartment complex. But be ready to pay a lot if you want to live there and upgrade your living situation.
Purdue University, which is part of the Big Ten, has a reputation for putting too many first-year students in dorm rooms that are too small. Even when they’re not completely full, the dorms at Purdue are known to be plain and tight. Picture walls made of cinderblocks, floors covered in linoleum, and rooms that are 12 feet by 12 feet.
What makes Purdue one of the colleges with the worst dorms is that there are a lot of the dorms for first-year students do not have air conditioning. Even though Purdue is in the northern part of Indiana, the weather in West Lafayette can be warm and muggy at the start of the fall semester.
There are positives though. If you are applying to study at Purdue, you should know that no one has to live on campus, not even first-year students. However, a lot of the social life for first-year students happens in the dorms, especially if you don’t join a fraternity or sorority. If you choose to live off-campus in a nicer place, you might miss out on the chance to quickly make friends and find a close-knit group of people to hang out with.
Ohio State University
So, the good news first. The dormitories at “THE” Ohio State University are generally clean and safe. You can expect a secure place for students to live. However, that’s about all the good news there is. The dormitories are exceptionally huge and overcrowded, and at least six of them don’t have air conditioning. This can be really tough to deal with in Columbus during the hot months of August and early September.
As a freshman hoping to have a room to yourself, you might be out of luck. It’s more common for freshmen to share a room with two or three other people, even though the rooms are really only big enough for two people.
One of the worst things about the dormitories at Ohio State is that students are required to live in them for two years, not just one. This can feel like a really long time, especially if you’re stuck in a tiny room on the 18th floor of a huge building. Meanwhile, your friends at other colleges have already moved into off-campus apartments where they each have their own bedroom.
University of Illinois Urbana Champaign
The University of Illinois Urbana Champaign (UIUC) is a Big Ten school that is known for its not-so-great dorms. This conference is known for its strong academics and football, but the living arrangements are not the best. The dorms at UIUC are old, not very pretty, and in need of some repairs. They are also very small, with two or three people often sharing a room that is really only big enough for one person.
The UIUC campus is very big, so the dorms are often far away from classes, making it one of the colleges with the worst dorms. This means that you might have to walk for 15 or 20 minutes, sometimes in bad weather, to get to your morning classes.
Some dorms at UIUC do not have air conditioning, which can make the months of August and September very hot and uncomfortable. The heating is also not great, so the winter months can be tough as well. Unfortunately, if you are a freshman at UIUC, you have to live on campus. But once you are a sophomore, you can move off campus and find a different place to live.
There are many other options for housing, such as apartments, Greek houses, and program houses. These options often have bigger rooms and air conditioning, and they also give you the chance to be part of a community and have more control over where you live.
Rider University in New Jersey is also one of the colleges with the worst dorms for some reasons. Rider is a small private college with around 3,000 undergraduate students. Usually, smaller schools like this have pretty good dorms, at least better than the big state universities. But Rider is different. It’s known for having some of the worst dorms out there.
The buildings are old-conditioned, and the bathrooms may not be too clean for some, especially if you’re on a floor where people like to party. The rooms are small and crowded, with two or three people packed into a space that’s probably smaller than your bedroom at home.
Also, you have to live in these dorms for two whole years before you can move off campus. That’s a long time to be stuck in a place you don’t like, especially during what should be some of the best years of your life. There is one way out, though. If you join a fraternity or sorority, you can move into their house for your second year and get out of the dorms a year early. But that’s only a good option if you really like the fraternity or sorority and want to be part of that group. Otherwise, you’re just trading one bad situation for another.
College of William & Mary
William & Mary is a fantastic school with a long and rich history. However, it’s not known for its dorms. The school prides itself on its strong academics and dedicated student body. It holds onto the old-fashioned belief that college should be a place of learning and self-discipline, without any unnecessary comforts or luxuries. This belief is evident in the dorms available on campus.
The dorms at William & Mary are pretty basic. They’re not terrible, but they’re not luxurious either. You’ll find yourself in a room with cinderblock walls, old tile or linoleum floors, two beds, two desks, and not much space to move around. It’s definitely not a fancy place to live.
You have to live in the dorms for your first two years at William & Mary. But the good news is that for the second half of your college experience, you can live in a much nicer place off campus. And when you graduate, you’ll have a prestigious degree from a great school.
Going to Georgetown University (GU) is a big deal because it’s a prestigious school with a low acceptance rate of 15.5% for fall 2024. However, you should be prepared for the possibility of living in less-than-ideal freshman dorms.
Not all dorms at GU are bad, but the ones available to freshmen aren’t the best. The worst-case scenario is ending up in Darnall Hall known for being one of the worst dorms at GU and even in the whole country. Darnall is old, run-down, cramped, smelly, and moldy. It’s not a pleasant place to live, and you might question whether the prestige of a Georgetown degree is worth the hassle.
If you do end up in Darnall, you won’t have to live there again after your freshman year. However, you will still need to live on campus for your sophomore and junior years, as off-campus living is only allowed for seniors.
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