Washington University tops Princeton Review’s “Best College Dorms” ranking list

Christina Wang

Washington University has earned high scores on various college rankings in past years, but this year the University is number one on the Princeton Review’s “Best College Dorms” list.

The Princeton Review compiled the rankings by asking 122,000 students from 377 colleges, “How do you rate the comfort of your campus dorms?” in an online survey in 2011 and 2012.

This dorms ranking, along with 61 other lists, was published in the 2013 edition of “The Best 377 Colleges” and on the Princeton Review’s website at the end of August.

The 2013 edition also ranks the University as fourth on the “These Students Love These Colleges” list, fifth on “Best Campus Food,” fifth on “Best Run Colleges,” and seventh on “Best Value Private Colleges.”

Jill Stratton, associate dean of students and director of Residential Academic Programs, said that the quality of residential life at the University is a combination of both the physical attributes of the facilities and the community dynamics within the residential colleges.

“You spend a lot of time where you live, so we wanted to make it about the community—make it residential and make it fun,” Stratton said. “That is really created by the residential advisors, the RCDs [Residential College Directors], the faculty.”

Stratton mentioned that the late James McLeod, vice chancellor for students, saw the importance of a living-learning community and understood that the two components are not separate.

Justin Carroll, associate vice chancellor for students and dean of students, worked with McLeod to plan many of the changes in University housing in recent years.

“Our ranking as No. 1 with Princeton Review is really the vision of James McLeod. Dean Carroll and I carry on [McLeod’s] vision along with our colleagues,” Stratton said.

Nicole Williamson, a freshman living in a double room in Koenig House, is pleased with her housing arrangement.

“I have a really big room. It’s wide and long, so there’s a lot of space between me and my roommate and a lot of space in the middle to do things,” she said.

Williamson did not know about the University’s high ranking on last year’s best college dorms list when she applied, but when she visited Washington University she saw that the dorms were much better than those of another school she visited in the Northeast. Williamson said that the quality of the dorms was a big factor in her decision to attend this school.

“I think people choose their university based on both the academics and the quality of life there, and I think having great dorms definitely adds to Wash. U.’s status as a top university,” Williamson said.

Students like Kahan Chavda, a freshman in Lee House, are also content with their living arrangements in the remaining traditional dorms.

“My dorm is actually kind of nice, even though it’s definitely a lot smaller than my room at home,” Chavda said. “You’re always running into people no matter where you are. You can be brushing your teeth while catching up with one friend, and you can be leaving and find another. Everyone’s really close that way.”

Both Williamson and Chavda said that the comfort level and social atmosphere have helped them feel more at home at the University.

“Our dorms are very easy to live in—I do like that. It makes the transition from home to college a lot easier,” Chavda said. “I’m definitely happier here than I would be at any other college.”

The buildings themselves are likely not the only factor contributing to the number of positive submissions made by Washington University students last year. Services provided by the Residential Life Office, like cable, Ethernet, dorm access cards, recycling bins and housekeeping for all bathrooms, also aim to enhance the quality of life for students.

Recent dorm renovations, as well as special services like computer labs with printers, multipurpose rooms, kitchens, music rooms, furnished common spaces and Tempur-Pedic mattresses, also likely contributed to the ranking.

A decade ago, the University made plans to gradually demolish all traditional dorms and build new modern-style housing in order to enhance the residential life experience.

Since 2004, dorms like Eliot, Liggett, Koenig, Mudd, Park, Shepley and Umrath Houses have been replaced or renovated.

Rubelmann House is now scheduled to be demolished in 2014 to complete the new Rubelmann/Umrath/South 40 Residential College.

Residential Life is also currently designing a 600-person apartment building in the University City Loop area to continue improving the accommodations for upperclassmen.

When planning these new buildings and renovations, staff in the Residential Life Office made sure to keep community in mind.

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