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WashU Dorms: What They’re Like from a Former Student

Washington University in St. Louis, my alma mater, has some of the best dorms in the country. They routinely top Princeton Review’s rankings of best university dorms, and with good reason. If you’re considering WashU, you’ll be pleased to learn that after a hard day of studying, students come back to soft beds, fresh, quiet dorms, and a host of other amenities. 


If you’re interested in help with WashU’s essays, applicant stories, or admissions stats, check out our other resources. If not, keep reading for some immediate dorm envy! 


WashU Dorms: an Overview


WashU has a variety of dorms and apartments for students. I’ll try to break it down simply here:


Overall quality: WashU is famous for its impressive dorms, and I enjoyed my time there while I was still figuring out how to live on my own. The mattresses are really soft (Tempur-pedic), and most dorms had up-to-date air conditioning. There’s only a few old dorms (Lee and Beaumont) that still have common-floor bathroom facilities; most dorms have private suite bathrooms instead. Some of the buildings are older (1960s), but the interiors have all been modernized, and WashU is constantly making improvements. Laundry is easy, with washers and dryers on each floor. Overall, the WashU dorms are great both for students who want to be social and for students who like their privacy. 


Price tag: university housing can be prohibitively expensive if it’s not covered by your financial aid. Rates are brutal, and I got my own place junior year for a fraction of the cost. 


Other cons: WashU constructs a lot, so building and renovation noise can be an inconvenience. Also, the picture-perfect dorms can start to feel a bit Disney-ish – more independent students often feel like they’re too cushy, childlike, and close to campus. And while each dorm has a printer, students may want to bring their own in case of service issues. I can’t count the times my dorm printer failed me. 


The South 40: this is where all of WashU’s underclassmen dorms are located. If you’re a freshman, you have to stay here, and most sophomores end up living here as well. Great things about the South 40 include:


  • A workout center and basketball court
  • Yearly Res College Olympics, a competition between all the dorms
  • Student businesses: the South 40 also houses various student-run businesses, including a candy shop, a bike rental store, and my personal favorite, SWAP, where students can donate old items and take new ones for free. 
  • WUStock, a yearly concert that’s put on in the field on the South 40. 
  • Bear’s Den, the dining center! Certain options are available past midnight. I loved the food here – there are all sorts of options. The side bistro, Cherry Tree, is a Starbucks-style grab-and-go where you can pick up coffee and cookies. You can also buy grocery items with your meal points.
  • Habif Clinic: you can visit the doctor with a short walk, and Habif also has its own pharmacy. WashU students also receive an allotment of free therapy sessions with Habif’s mental health professionals, a resource I used a lot. 


LLCs: WashU offers several living-learning communities, now called LLCs. These LLCs are located in the Village, which is the closest group of dorms to campus. Students can join existing LLCs, such as the Sustainability LLC and Hamsini, the Black diasporic LLC, as well as form their own. 


The Village/Frat Row: You can live in the Village starting mainly in junior year, though there may be some exceptions for sophomores. Fraternity members can opt to live in frat houses here as well.

  • The dorms here are more sophisticated, with kitchenettes and different features. 
  • Right on campus. Like, less than a minute’s walk. 
  • The Village has its own dining center, outdoor pool, and even a theatre. 
  • It’s also right by the athletic center and workout facilities. 
  • One thing you should know is that there are no sorority houses at WashU. While frats have houses on Frat Row, sorority members live scattered in dorms, apartments, etc.


Apartments: Many students opt to live in apartments off-campus. You opt for an independent landlord, as I did, or continue to live in university-owned housing (which is really expensive). WashU offers a wide variety of university-owned locations around the school, and you can continue to use your ID as a swipe card in these apartments. Standout apartments include the Lofts, which are located above the bustling nightlife of the Delmar Loop, five minutes north of campus. 


Freshman Dorms at WashU


All students are required to live on campus for their first year. Also, freshmen aren’t allowed to have a car (sad face). Sorry. You’ll be on the South 40, though, so right near campus. 


When you’re admitted, you can either 1) get a roommate via random selection, or 2) try to find a roommate through Facebook groups and inform the university of your decision. All the most successful arrangements I know were through Facebook – going in randomly isn’t something I’d recommend. Freshman year is just too pivotal a time for you to be in social limbo, like I was with my randomly-assigned suitemates. 

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Best and Worst Dorms at WashU


The best dorms at WashU would have to be Umrath and the South 40 House (“SoFoHo”). They filled me with so much envy as a student. Clean, modern, and attached to the workout facility and Bear’s Den. YOU COULD GO TO THE GYM WITHOUT EVER HAVING TO STEP OUTSIDE. Absolutely amazing. Runners Up: Lien and Gregg. These are also state-of-the-art, with the benefit of being the closest to campus. 


Worst dorms: Lee/Beaumont. As I mentioned, these are the most dated dorms, and still have the common-floor bathrooms. They’re also small and cramped, and first-floor dorms have big windows with hardly any privacy. Second place for worst is the Shanedling/Dauten/Rutledge trio of dorms – they’re the oldest on campus, super dark, and stuffy. 


Housing Selection at WashU


For information on seeking freshman roommates, see the previous section on freshman housing.


After that, it’s really complicated! When I was at WashU, the housing selection process was the bane of everyone’s existence, and not even our RAs could give us solid answers. You need to budget a lot of time, and be flexible if things don’t work out. 


Towards the middle of the year, you should get together with your friends and start planning next year’s housing, from suite style to ideal dorm building. Start asking around early, because housing selection tends to be really cliquey, and I often found myself shut out of groups. Because WashU has a variety of room plans, your group can be a double (2 people), a suite (4 to 6 people), or even a single, if you want to fly solo.


In WashU’s student portal, WEBSTAC, you can declare yourselves a group, add members, and pick your preferred dorms and rooms. Setup in WEBSTAC is fairly easy, and the hardest part seems to be wrangling your group members to all sign off and complete the necessary e-forms. 

Being officially registered in WEBSTAC is important, because each party will be assigned a time slot for selection. When I was there, it was by lottery number, and there’s some weird calculus to do between group members’ numbers. Again, leave time. It’s rough. 


My Dorm Experience at WashU


I committed to WashU fairly late, so I ended up having to go with randomly-assigned roommates. This wasn’t a great situation, simply because we ended up being completely different personalities. However, rooming with ambivalent acquaintances had its benefits – there was little drama (if little community), and few distractions (if no conversation). 


My dorm, Park/Mudd, put on a lot of events to make us feel welcome, including “Mudd Pies,” where we made classic chocolate-dirt and gummy worm sundaes. I felt really comfortable with my RAs and WUSAs. WUSAs are underclassmen who are basically RAs in training: our WUSAs made us treats every week and set up study groups. 


My sophomore year, I roomed with a bunch of friends. Again, we weren’t terribly close, so the same pros and cons apply. 


The last two years, I lived off-campus. That roommate pairing ended up being a lot more successful, and I look back on those two years with the most nostalgia of all. (I still was able to keep up my coffee and treats with an off-campus meal plan!) The area around WashU is such a wonderful place, and I was immediately within walking distance of the Loop, my favorite grocer, the Metra tram, and all the museums of Forest Park. In the end, you should always remember that the dorms can often be just the start of your experience. Stay open, and enjoy them however long you stay.


You may also like these posts:

How I Got Into WashU

How to Write the WashU Essays 2020-2021


If you want to know your chances of getting into WashU, check out CollegeVine’s free chancing engine. It’ll let you know how you stack up against other applicants, and it’ll also give you tips for improving your profile. Sign up for your free CollegeVine account to get started!

Short Bio
Maya St. Clair is a freelance writer and Renaissance historian from Illinois. She loves "writing about writing" and helping others achieve the best results with their own prose. She graduated from Washington University in St. Louis.