Freshman 101: Choosing The Right Dorm

As we begin to slowly break out of the winter season, decision day is right around the corner. High school seniors across the globe are lying awake at night debating what college will be their home for the next four years.

While some students are waiting until the last moment, others have already chosen their schools. For incoming freshmen who have already chosen Penn State, welcome to Happy Valley, Class of 2025! You’ve found your home for the next four years. Now, you need to find the dorm room that will see you through the good, the bad, and the ugly.

First off, you need to pick which part of campus you are thinking about. You can choose to live in North, South, East, West, or Pollock Halls. Luckily for you, we broke down the experiences of each residence hall, so you don’t have to worry about that.

Now, what style of dorm is going to work best for you? Traditional unrenovated? Suite-style? As an incoming freshman, this can be a confusing and stressful you out, don’t worry! Check out the breakdown below.

Traditional Unrenovated

Traditional unrenovated dorms include the types of rooms your parents may reminisce about and what you imagine a stereotypical dorm to look like. This style of dorm means you’ll be sharing a room with one roommate. Say goodbye to your comfy bed at home and get ready for some nice twin XL beds with wooden furniture.

While this style is far from the nicest place to live, these dorms build character, and that’s what matters at the end of the day. I say this as someone who has personal experience from living in traditional unrenovated.

Almost every residence hall besides North Halls includes traditional unrenovated dorms, and living in this scenario is very common. While it’s the cheapest of options, you’ll be sharing a communal bathroom as well as living without air conditioning during the warm months. However, if you want the real college experience, this is for you.

Also, don’t accidentally conflate “traditional” with “double.” Many dorms offer traditional rooms that are singles! They’re especially common in South halls like McElwain and Simmons. Although a little stuffy, a traditional single (as pictured above) can be pretty freeing.


Renovated dorms in East Halls are what most freshmen shoot for, but there are renovated dorms at South Halls, too. It can be a tight squeeze to get in there, but many will say it’s worth it. Unlike traditional unrenovated dorms, you’ll have an elevated version of dorm life.

Not only will you have a much nicer dorm compared to your friends living in traditional-style dorms, but you’ll also have air conditioning. In addition to that, you’ll also have modern-looking TV and study lounges. What more could you ask for?

As for the bathroom situation, you’ll still need to share with people on your floor, but the bathrooms are private. Needless to say, you’ll be living the good life in a renovated dorm.


The majority of suite-style dorms are located in North Halls. This set-up feels like almost an apartment. The suites are set up with two bedrooms that have two people per room.

The rooms are connected by a common area and bathroom. The bathroom is shared between you and your three roommates. The rooms also include a thermostat, so you can control your own temperature. Furniture-wise, you will be stuck with wooden furniture. This setup sounds great. While living the “suite” life has its perks, some may find it too quiet.

Eastview Terrace

OK, NOW we’re talking about living the suite life.

Eastview Terrace is Penn State’s premier single-dorm living complex. Available to only upperclassmen, Eastview provides countless amenities, albeit for a steep price. Its rooms are air conditioned and come with their own bathrooms, but you’ll need to clean your own!

Life at Eastview is very quiet. It’s a great place to live if you’ve already got friends to hang with, but if you’re looking to meet new folks, it might make more sense to opt for a more collaborative living environment. But hey, at least the rooms are spacious!


OK, I know it sounds bad, but it really isn’t. Supplemental housing can be found in both renovated and unrenovated areas. It is basically a huge room with furniture that can house anywhere from four to eight people. It sounds terrible, but everyone that has lived within supplemental housing has survived, and you will, too. Plus, housing usually has people moved out from supplemental within two months. If you are still nervous, check out this article about why it isn’t so bad.

Special Living Options (SLOs)

Special Living Options can be found in all dorm-types in every housing area on campus. This style includes living on the same floor of a dorm with a group of people who have similar interests to you. They can include anything from major-specific housing to gender-neutral housing. A full list of options can be found on the Penn State Housing Department’s website.

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About the Author

Dana June Nunemacher

Dana is a senior, who is studying public relations. She is from the 570 and yes, she has watched The Office. Her passions in life include drinking unsweetened iced tea and spreading her love for agriculture (yee haw)!

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