While it may feel as though the outside world is crumbling around us, for many students Freshman year hurtles closer and closer, seemingly unimpeded. Despite the pandemic, Frosh have received no extension of the June 5th deadline for ranking their living options for next year.
There is, unfortunately, a dearth of information about the freshman housing options, save what is passed down from older siblings, or Stanford’s often saccharine promotional materials. It’s important to remember that where you live won’t make or break your social life: plenty of people, for example, will live in one dorm but socialize with another. That said, the perceived social difference between housing options is quite large, and knowing what students think can aid informed decision-making.
The All-Frosh Experience
The conventional wisdom is to rank all-Frosh co-ed dorms first. Many students describe these communities as the defining element of their freshman year, and maintain friendships from these dorms throughout their time at Stanford.
All-frosh dorms are the social centers for Stanford’s freshmen, and the hub of the freshman party scene. These dorms are known for being large and friendly, and provide a great way to meet the freshman class. People tend to keep their doors open, so it’s easy to walk down the hall, knock on a door, and hang out in someone’s room for a few hours. Many freshmen underestimate how social they’ll want to be in college, and may be a better fit for outgoing all-Frosh dorms than they expect. If you think you might want an all-Frosh dorm you should definitely rank it first: you won’t be placed there otherwise.
For students who are religious or conservative, ranking all-Frosh single-sex is a good option. Very few students select this option, but those who do tend to be religious. As a result, there is usually only one dorm or part of a dorm which is single sex, and culturally it tends to be less party-heavy than the other all-Frosh dorms, while preserving the advantage of being located near main campus and the rest of the freshman class.
The Four Class Dorms
The all-Frosh dorms are part of the ‘signature’ freshman experience, so there tends to be a sense of pity towards people who don’t get placed in them. But in many cases this pity is unmerited. The conventional wisdom isn’t for everyone, and plenty of people in other living situations have an equally fulfilling freshman year.
For one thing, the four-class amenities are (on average) much nicer than the all-Frosh ones. Lagunita or Meier are some of the most beautiful buildings on campus, whereas after moving out of Wilbur you won’t believe that you managed to endure a decrepit 1-room double for a year. In terms of location, the 4-class dorms are close to the engineering quad, whereas the all-Frosh dorms are more central to main campus.
The atmosphere in 4-class dorms tends to be more intellectual and less focused on drinking. Both introverts and students who want to live further away from the social scene for peace-of-mind might prefer a 4-class dorm, and the ability to interact with older students. On the other hand, it can be much harder to insert yourself into the freshman social scene when you live all the way across campus.
Living in a 4-class dorm can also help avoid the infamous “sophomore slump.” After freshman year, students must transition from living on the same hall as all of their best friends to living in 4-class environments, often across campus from much of their old friend group. All Frosh should be warned that the best way to avoid this situation is to invest in friend groups beyond the people who happen to live near you. Students who invest in communities with close connections to upperclassmen, be it a dorm, a team, Greek life, or a religious organization, often find themselves with the longest-lasting and most stable friend groups.
For the true nerds: FroSoCo and SLE
FroSoCo is the butt of many a joke due to its geeky clientele and remote location (e.g. “He lived in FroSoCo and I didn’t want to do long-distance”). FroSoCo kids are mostly extremely introverted. However, despite their less-than-cool reputation, they tend to have a very tight community, and are known for taking all the advanced math classes together. If you apply to FroSoCo, you’re almost guaranteed to get in, so rank with caution (the rumor is that if you rank FroSoCo anything but last you will be placed there). FroSoCo isn’t a great fit for most kids on campus, but the people who like it really like it.
SLE has a similar reputation, but for humanities rather than math nerds. Without getting into the details of the program itself, which we will cover in an upcoming article, the SLE kids often grow very close, though it varies year to year. SLE does make it hard to interact with kids outside of the program, though its location is a little more central than FroSoCo’s. That said, the merits of the program itself and the close friendships within SLE often make the program worth it.
It’s hard to predict what exactly any of our living experiences will be like next year, most of all the Frosh. This only serves to further the point that the key variable to your freshman year is not your dorm, but you. No matter where you live, you’ll have the ability to insert or remove yourself from Stanford’s social scene (or whatever passes for one during COVID). Your freshman year is in your hands, and you shouldn’t despair if you don’t get your top choice. The Review wishes all of you a fantastic freshman year!