IvyWise Resources

Dr. Kat’s List: Five Colleges to Live in Luxury

This month, as college freshmen prepare to move into what will be their homes for the next four years, rising high school seniors are finalizing the list of colleges to which they will apply. College is an academic but also a social experience, and when finding the schools that are the best fits for you, it is important to consider the lifestyle that each school offers. Though historically dorm rooms have earned reputations as notoriously tiny spaces to sleep and study, colleges are increasingly offering residential halls where students can enhance their personal and educational growth. In honor of move-in day, the expert counselors at IvyWise have compiled a list of schools where you can live in luxury.

George Washington University, Washington, DC
Convenient access to the restaurants and boutiques in Dupont Circle and balconies offering breathtaking views of the Washington, DC skyline are just the beginning. George Washington University (GW) provides a myriad of residential options to the school’s 10,000 undergraduate students, 75 percent of whom live on-campus in DC’s Foggy Bottom and Mount Vernon neighborhoods. GW’s residence halls include the Ivory Tower, where apartments feature a living room, full kitchen, dining area, private bathroom, one or two bedrooms, and tasty dining options like Dunkin Donuts, Pita Pita, and Potbelly’s sandwich shop. Another housing option is Mabel Thurston, the largest first-year house, which boasts a fitness center, television and piano lounges, and academic study spaces. Students interested in green living should check out Building JJ, which features motion-sensor lighting, EPA Energy-Star appliances, Toto low-volume toilets, and Niagara low-flow showerheads. Students can also find their niche in one of several academic residential communities such as the Politics and Values Community or the Civic House community. For a more historic abode, students can settle in at the Hall on Virginia Avenue; HOVA, a converted hotel near the Potomac River that was used as a lookout spot for the Watergate break-in; or City Hall, a former high school that was later renovated as the St. James, a boutique hotel. Today, students enjoy the building’s marble bathrooms, designer kitchens, and outdoor pool and courtyard.

This private institution might take a cue in luxurious living from its neighbor, the White House, which is just four blocks from the 43-acre campus. In addition to nearly 70 majors, more than 400 student organizations, and the countless cultural and entertainment options available in the nation’s capital, GW students can indulge in one of 300 study abroad programs in luxurious locations like Argentina and Paris.

Bryn Mawr College, Bryn Mawr, PA
They say a [wo]man’s home is her castle, and at Bryn Mawr College in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania, this could be taken literally. Likened to Harry Potter’s Hogwarts, the school’s residential system, comprised of 14 dormitories, houses, and apartments, has been repeatedly recognized on Princeton Review’s list of schools with “dorms like palaces.” Many of the buildings, designed by architects John Stewardson and Walter Cope (who were inspired by the gothic architecture of Oxford and Cambridge Universities), include charming features such as fireplaces, stained glass windows, and castle-like towers. Undergraduate students might live in Rockefeller “Rock” Hall, the school’s largest residence hall and a gift from John D. Rockefeller; Batten House, an environmentally-friendly co-operative option where residents share cooking and cleaning responsibilities while addressing environmental and social justice issues; and the Haffner Language and Culture House for students interested in foreign languages and cultures. Each year, students from many of the school’s residences participate in Project Dorm Room, a contest in which undergraduate students’ digs are judged in categories such as Best Use of Space, Best Use of Color, and Most Original. In past years, grand-prize winners in each category have won prizes like iPods and gift certificates to the Bryn Mawr College bookstore.

Students looking to make this small women’s college their home away from home will be welcomed with a rich history of tradition. Each fall, sophomores lead new students in Customs Week, a bonding experience for each dorm. Come spring, students celebrate the last week of classes with May Day, which features class breakfasts, a parade, maypole dancing, and a variety of Medieval-themed events. Bryn Mawr students also feel at home in the classroom, where they choose from 36 majors and 38 minors including “Growth and Structure of Cities” and “Peace and Conflict Studies.”

Kansas State University, Manhattan, KS
“Dorms are for sleeping. We have residence halls here at K-State; those are for living!” says Kansas State University senior, Blaire, just one of the more than 5,000 on-campus residents. The KSU, or “K-State,” residential community consists of three dining centers, nine residence halls, a leadership and scholarship house, and three apartment neighborhoods. One of the most popular options with undergraduate students is the Strong Complex, which features study areas, computer labs, a billiards room, several television viewing rooms and lounge areas, and easy access to sand volleyball, tennis, and basketball courts. Alternatively, students at K-State enjoy apartment-style living at the Jardine Apartment Complex, featuring 1-4 bedroom apartments, studios, lofts, and townhouses complete with kitchen and laundry. Students can feel even more at home by joining a specialized cluster floor. These designated floors allow students to live and learn with like-minded peers in topics such as agriculture, engineering, and R.E.S.P.E.C.T. (Residents Encouraging: Study, Peaceful Environment, and Community Thinking). In 2011, Campus Splash honored KSU in the First Annual Dorm Awards as one of the “14 Schools with the Best Overall Dorms” and one of “14 Schools with the Best RAs.”

Located in Manhattan, Kansas, this large, public institution is home to nearly 24,000 students from all 50 states and more than 90 countries. In addition to a multitude of residential options, students also have an array of academic and social options – the school offers 250 undergraduate majors and minors, from Agribusiness to Bakery Science to Web Development Technology, and 475 student organizations including the Exotic Animal Medicine Club and the Parachute Club. Though the school offers extensive study abroad opportunities in locations ranging from Turkey to Morocco, students find an abundance of culture and comfort on campus as well. The 668-acre campus contains a golf course, insect museum, dairy bar, and multiple gardens.

Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering, Needham, MA
Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering‘s 350 undergraduate students make up a tight knit community. Ninety-nine percent of students live on campus in the school’s two residential buildings, West Hall (for underclassmen) and East Hall (for upperclassmen). The school’s focus on science and engineering is evident in Olin’s state-of-the-art residential facilities, which include wireless connectivity, connections for cable TV, and voice, data, and fiber-optic outlets. West Hall’s double-occupancy rooms feature private bathrooms and central air and each floor hosts a living room with cozy couches, a large, flat screen TV, and gaming devices. In addition to sharing West Hall’s technological offerings, East Hall’s 19 suites each possess six single occupancy bedrooms, a living room, two bathroom areas, and a suite-sized micro-fridge. The modern, four-story residential building also offers high ceilings, music practice rooms, an exercise room, study rooms, lounge areas with fireplaces, and bicycle storage.

This unique, private institution located in Needham, Massachusetts, emphasizes hands-on learning with an interdisciplinary, project-based approach. The school’s three majors (Electrical and Computer Engineering, Mechanical Engineering, and Engineering Concentrations) conclude with the SCOPE program. As part of SCOPE, groups of 5-7 senior students are challenged with a yearlong project by a corporate sponsor such as Boston Scientific, Boeing, and Microsoft. The school further positions students for success by providing every admitted student with a scholarship to cover half of tuition expenses. The scholarship also covers cross-registration at neighboring Babson College and Wellesley College, with whom Olin shares extracurricular activities and facilities.

Scripps College, Claremont CA
The nearly 1,000 undergraduate students at Scripps College in Claremont, California enjoy comfort and character in the school’s 10 distinct residence halls, many of which feature balconies and fireplaces. Per the urging of trustee Janet Jacks Balch, each residence contains a “browsing room,” which is generously supplied with books by alumnae and trustees. Among the rose gardens, strawberry plants, and fruit trees (grapefruit, pomegranate, and kumquat, among others) is Ellen Browning Hall, named after the school’s founder and featuring a large living room complete with a piano, a study room, television room, and two kitchens. This popular residence offers relaxing views of three different courtyards. Just across from Ellen Browning is Susan Miller Dorsey Hall, featuring French doors that open from the dining room onto an adjoining terrace. Students might feel more like taking a siesta than studying given the school’s Spanish and Mediterranean-inspired architecture and lush gardens. Not surprisingly, this small, women’s college received an A+ from students on College Prowler who say “From the antique structural design to the beautiful old furniture and scenic courtyards, Scripps dormitories truly do live up to their reputation of being palace-like dorms.”

In addition to providing luxurious living quarters and cultural locales such as the Motley Coffeehouse (a student-run, environmentally-friendly, fair-trade coffeehouse) and the Ruth Chandler Williamson Gallery, Scripps provides several unique academic opportunities. On-campus, students pursue majors such as Environmental Science and Public Policy Analysis. With Scripps’s membership as a Claremont College, students can pursue additional majors such as Computer Science and Linguistics at fellow undergraduate schools in the Claremont Consortium, including Pomona College, Claremont McKenna College, Harvey Mudd College, and Pitzer College.

There are thousands of factors to consider when choosing which colleges to apply to, including where and how you will create a home away from home for the next several years. Ultimately, we hope you find the school where you will thrive not only academically, but also personally – now that’s something to write home about!


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