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Do Students Do Better in Dorms?

by Dr. Kelly S. Meier

Living away from home is the first step for college students to understanding what it will mean to be independent. Many colleges offer on-campus living options to ease this transition. Dorms or residence halls have built-in resources and activities that enhance the university experience. The opportunity to live in a controlled environment filled with special resources provides optimum conditions for academic success.

Academic Achievement

Studies show that students who live on campus during their first year outperform students who choose to live off campus. For example, a study conducted at Indiana University-Purdue showed an increased grade-point average of three-tenths to nine-tenths over those students who lived off campus. Similarly, a study at Kent State found that first-year students living on campus had a three-tenths increase in GPA. Dorms provide a living environment that complements classroom learning. Students are encouraged to participate in learning communities and have more informal dialogue with faculty. Study groups and computer labs are also readily accessible.

Special Support

It is not uncommon for first-year students to feel homesick or be in need of special support. A dorm is more than just a facility. Dorms have live-in staff and peer mentors that plan programs to enhance learning. Dorm staff is responsible for ensuring the safety of residents and connecting students with campus resources when needed. For example, if a student became ill, a staff member would know how to help the student seek medical attention. Students who live off campus must learn about resources on their own and navigate the college experience without dedicated support from live-in staff.

Out-of-Class Learning

Cocurricular learning is a benefit for students living on campus. Residential advisers provide regular educational programs that help students learn about campus resources, study skills and time management. Residential living also helps students meet new people and become more in tune with multiculturalism. Learning to communicate with people who are diverse provides better understanding of differences and a global perspective that will be beneficial in the work world. Learning outside of the classroom contributes to overall academic success.

Retention and Graduation

First-year students who live on campus are more likely to return to campus for a second year. They are also more likely to graduate. For example, 88.96 percent of first year students at University of Central Florida who lived in dorms were retained. The number jumped to 91.66 percent for students who lived in special learning communities. The combination of specially trained staff, a social community and academic resources contribute to an environment that encourages success and persistence.

About the Author

Dr. Kelly S. Meier is a professor and college administrator for a large public institution in Minnesota. She received her undergraduate degree from Western Illinois University and her master's degree and doctorate from Minnesota State University, Mankato. She has published more than 15 books on education, group development and diversity.

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