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Kavitha Vijeyavelan
12 Aug 2015 113 4 mins Share

Dorm Sweet American Home!

Here's all you need to know about dorms and life in a dorm explained by our experts.

12 Aug 2015 113 4 mins Share

Scroll Scroll... it’s just another day with you checking your e-mails until - wohoo! Your heart skips a beat as you view that much-awaited acceptance mail from your dream American university. There are not enough words in the English language (or any other for that matter!) to explain how you feel at this moment, are there?

The USA!

Recently, we stumbled upon an interesting article by the Times of India which stated that the academic year 2013-2014 saw 102,673 Indian students flying to the US- a 6 percent increase from over the last 3 years! Just when we thought student numbers were declining- it has risen up once again. And we don’t see why not. From jaw-dropping natural landforms to sky-high man-made monuments, the U.S. of A is one dream destination that never fails to captivate every student’s heart! 

In a few months, you’ll be able to post a selfie by the Statue of Liberty, tour the White House, shop in Times Square, or go hiking in the Grand Canyon - just like you’ve always wanted! Just one second- caught up in all the excitement, don’t decide to put off your accommodation-search for any later. Yes- we realise it may not seem all that important now, but- take our word for it- this will be one of the key factors to your happiness. Do you want to spend half your student life shuffling between trains and buses or live in a convenient location and focus on your studies instead? What a quick response - we see you have no confusion there! So - be the earliest bird to rise and shine and go, get that worm! 

Options Options Options!

It’s not as complicated as it may seem - all you need to do is look online. Before you start though, here is a bit about the major types of accommodation that you will have to choose from.


It is most likely that the School you enrolled in, will have their International Student Office get in touch with you or send a pre-departure orientation packet. This will basically introduce accommodation options available for you there. Numerous American universities offer on-campus accommodation or if not on-campus, then one in close proximity to the uni’s facilities, classrooms, or libraries. 

These dormitories will have numerous rooms- with around two to three persons per room (of the same gender usually). These mostly have large common bathrooms that include showers and toilets. You will find dorms most convenient for both social and academic activities; you can also save up time and money as you minus the need to commute to campus. Plus- as bonus- utilities like the telephone and electricity connections will be taken care of.

Many offer highly flexible “meal-plan programs”- wherein you can opt for breakfast, lunch, and even dinner- by paying in advance. Some will give you the option of depositing an amount come semester time- which you may use for purchasing food from designated places. You can expect to see full-fledged details of such beneficial options in your pre-orientation packet. 

We did a little research and found that on average the cost for on-campus residential halls comes to $5,699 per semester (15-16 weeks). 

Put-Off? Don’t Be!

Quite a bummer that a few U.S. universities don’t offer residential options on-campus for international students. Fret not, for their accommodation office should be able to hook you up with appropriate choices. Many-a-times, they run activities to help students pick roommates who are compatible; offer local information- covering nearby neighbourhoods, public transportation, and even popular shopping areas & restaurants.

Start your off-campus search by asking your local friends there to check out the classifieds, contacting the international student office or just browse online and ask around. You can also turn to a real estate agent but watch out for their service fees- could turn out to be painfully high- OUCH! Can’t say we didn’t warn you.

Before you sign a rental agreement, we suggest you research well about the area to determine if it satisfies your expected levels of security and convenience. Is the campus close by? Are there grocery stores located in walkable distance? Hmmm...take your time to finalise and sign it. Read it thoroughly and understand it well. If you are hazy on what anything means, check with a friend or the landlord- this is no time for assumptions. We also advise you to look into getting renter’s insurance, as you will mostly be held responsible for anything stolen or destroyed within the property.

Be prepared to shell out anywhere from $365 to $825 per month, in case of shared accommodation. If you are planning to rent a place on your own, it could work up to much higher though - watch out!

Make Yourself At Home!

Nervous about leaving home for the first time and don’t know how you’re going to survive by yourself without your family? Homestay could be the right option for you. Not only do you get your own room, timely meals, a family-feel, you will also not need to worry about cleaning or dish-washing- as you settle  in a house with a local family. This option helps keep your schedule wide-open for study and other uni activities.

Your English skills are also going to get boosted up naturally as you interact with native speakers regularly on a daily basis. What better way to adapt and learn about the locals and their culture? And all this- while enjoying the comforts of family life being continents away from yours. This residence will mostly not be more than 20 to 45 minutes away from your campus. The price range varies widely for homestays based on the facilities and number o f meals offered. 

These are the basics you should be aware of to begin your search. So, get ready to drop down your bags- very soon- after a long international flight and say, “I’m home!”  

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