3.3 Campus Involvement as a Resident
Living on campus can be one of the most fulfilling and rewarding experiences of your college experience. According to Blimling (2003), living on campus has a positive influence on student retention, participation in co-curricular activities, perception of campus social climate, satisfaction with college, personal growth and development, intrapersonal relationships, and faculty interaction. It is recommended that first-time, first-year freshmen live in the residence halls to assist students’ transition from high school to college (Benjamin & Chartiland, 2008).
Students choose to live on campus for a variety of reasons: to meet new people, to participate in events, for convenience, and for cost savings. Students are encouraged to select where they live based on their individual needs and interests. On-campus residents typically have more convenient access to services such as the library, dining facilities, recreation activities, and computer labs. By living on campus you can save time and money by walking to class instead of dealing with the hassle of finding a well-located parking space. It is easier and usually more affordable to live in a residence hall because they are fully furnished, and rent, utilities, and meal plans are rolled into tuition and fees.
- Why do students choose to live on campus?
- What are the factors students should consider before choosing a place to live?
What to Expect from Living in a Residential Community
There are many benefits to living in an on-campus residential community, whether you are living in a residence hall, such as Kalpana Chawla Hall, Vandergriff Hall, West Hall, or Arlington Hall, or in a campus apartment, like Meadow Run or University Village. Typically these communities have smaller staff-to-student ratios and many resources available to help students succeed academically. Each residence hall and apartment community is staffed with student Resident Assistants (RAs). The RA’s job is to meet residents, to connect with others in the community, and to help you maneuver life on campus. RAs also provide programs and events in the community for students to learn new skills and meet new friends. Each community also has a Residence Director, a full-time, professional staff member that lives and works in the community. Other resources in the community include study lounges, computer labs, and community spaces.
Academic success is the cornerstone of the residential experience. All residential staff is thoroughly trained to know the variety of academic resources available on campus. Some residential communities have specialized academic programs, called Learning Communities. Some students who live in Arlington Hall, K.C. Hall, West Hall and Vandergriff Hall live in learning communities based on their interests or major. Learning Communities are smaller cohorts, approximately 15 to 25 first-year students, assigned to live together in a specific learning community. Learning Community students take classes together and a taught specifically for their major. Special programming and events are geared to these Learning Communities. According to Dunkel and Carodine (2008), “Learning communities integrate the academic community with the residential environment. The main purpose is to expand the learning experience for college students beyond the classroom” (p. 101).
Residential communities also offer a number of ways for students to take on leadership positions. Some leadership development opportunities available to residential students are floor or hall councils/government, departmental committees, as well as employment opportunities as a resident assistant or office assistant. Each of these experiences creates “involvement opportunities where students can increase their understanding of leadership theory, practice specific skills, and apply their knowledge in a supportive environment” (Dunkel and Carodine, 2008, p. 97).
What is the role of the Student Resident Assistant (RA), and when might it be important to seek out your RA?
Living with a Roommate
Living with a roommate can be exciting and challenging and may have a significant influence on your overall college experience. According to Blimling (2003), “Living with one another allows residence hall students to have greater interaction with each other and make more and stronger friendships than students who live off campus” (p. 65). The person you live with will influence your study and sleeping habits, social activities, and living environment.
The communication lines that roommates develop are the key to a comfortable and enjoyable living arrangement. In order to maintain a serene living environment you should set clear expectations for cleaning, guests, quiet hours, and safety (locking doors and setting alarms). If there are differences in living expectations between roommates, they will eventually surface. It is best to discuss these differences right away. Roommates are encouraged to fill out a Roommate Agreement that is intended to set up basic ground rules and boundaries for sharing space and personal items.
Conflict is common between students living in the same space. Students need to communicate their concerns clearly and offer suggestions for resolving the issue and at the same time be willing to compromise. If residents are unable to resolve their differences on their own, they should involve a staff member to assist in mediating the situation. In the event that the conflict does not get resolved, students often have the ability to change their location to another room, residence hall, or apartment.
Tips for Getting Along with Your Roommate
- Try to get to know each other.
- Don’t expect too much; you don’t have to be best friends.
- Ask, listen, and discuss. Filling out a Roommate Agreement early on sets ground rules and boundaries for sharing personal items and space.
- Be sensitive to each other’s moods. Everybody has good and bad days, so try to be understanding.
- When things go wrong, discuss them. If things can’t be worked out between the two of you, seek assistance from someone else, such as a Resident Assistant.
What would be important to you to include in a Roommate Agreement?
Relationships in the Greater Community
Maintaining positive relationships within the community as a whole is equally as important as maintaining positive roommate relations. In order for the community to promote academic and personal success, residents living within the community must engage respectfully with one another. Expectations and policies are developed to guide the behavior of the students living together in the residential environment. Blimling (2003) states that “Policies regulating quiet hours, conduct in the hallways, noise, and similar environmental concerns are designed to enable all students to benefit from the environment without infringing on the rights of other students” (p. 153). Each resident is expected to know and to understand what behavior is expected in order to ensure the success and safety of all residents.
Being respectful to others in the community also requires residents to understand diversity. “Cultural biases exist when people have limited experience with people of other cultural heritages. The residence hall environment helps break down cultural stereotypes by allowing students to experience cultural diversity” (Blimling, 2003, p. 65). Living in a residential community provides excellent opportunities to learn about others who come from different backgrounds. The successful residential student is open and willing to learn about all types of individuals regardless of their ability, race, ethnicity, and background.
Living in a community on campus is more than just a place to sleep. Students feel more connected to their community by meeting others, participating in activities, and learning the community history and traditions. By living in a residence hall or on-campus apartment, students have easy and convenient access to campus resources and events. Getting involved is an integral part of the college and university experience. “Involvement is essential to advancing the growth and development of students because it requires them to invest something of themselves in the process” (Blimling, 2003, p. 70).
- What leadership opportunities are available for residential students?
- What are three benefits of living on campus?