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Part 1: From Dorm to Apartment Living by Ivana

In part 1 of our series by Ivana Gatica, we discuss the impact student housing has on the multifamily market, especially apartments, through the eyes of people who are doing it.

For a college freshman, building security is probably last on the list of things to worry about. Between getting used to living away from your parents, cooking your own meals, making new friends, and taking on a full course load, it can be easy to overlook the security measures dorm buildings implement to keep you safe. In fact, in the beginning, it can seem excessive having to constantly register guests and scan your ID when entering the building.

First, let’s talk about the benefits of living in a college dorm:

  1. Lots of Security - To the point where it’s a bit of a nuisance. When you live in a dorm you have to scan in your student ID every time you enter the building. Guests also have to provide a form of ID to sign in and can’t wander around the building on their own. Many students know the struggle of getting a write-up from their RA for breaking these rules.
  2. RA’s Look Out For You - Resident assistants are posted on every floor to periodically check in on the residents and ensure no suspicious guests are roaming the halls. Even though RA’s are commonly known for making sure there is no underage drinking going on, they are also there to help students deal with roommate problems and provide support.
  3. Secure Mail - Mail security is easy to take for granted. College dorms have mailrooms and a system that notifies you every time you receive a package. No one but you can sign for the package so you rarely have to worry about your mail getting lost.

So what is it like when you forego these seemingly small luxuries?

I got together with my friend Sarah to talk about the things she wished she had paid more attention to when moving into her first apartment. Sarah is twenty-three years old and lives alone in Chicago. She recalls that when she moved into her first apartment during her Junior year of college, “everything that was in place in the dorms to keep us safe was almost the exact opposite” in apartment living.  

Here are a few of her pros and cons of transitioning from college dorm to apartment living:


  1. More Independence - Living in a building with no front desk security means you control who you let in and of your apartment. By buzzing in or simply calling your phone, your friends and family can come in and out of your building as they please with no one to limit their access.
  2. Freedom to Personalize Your Own Space - Dorms all have the same bland furniture and blank walls. You are limited in the decor you can use because you don’t want to risk damaging the walls and have to pay pricey fines on move out day. Buying your own furniture and having the freedom to personalize your space is one of the best things about getting an apartment.


  1. Mail Theft - With no one to safely guard your mail before you pick it up, it is very easy for packages to get stolen. Sarah has had hundreds of dollars worth of mail stolen since moving into a building with no front desk security.
  2. Unwanted Guests - Just like you have the freedom to invite any guests, so do your neighbors. Strangers can walk freely in and out of the building without any restrictions, which can sometimes lead to uncomfortable encounters.
  3. Rowdy Neighbors - Without RA’s to keep track of complaints, you’re at the mercy of your landlord to ensure neighbors are mindful of their noise levels. Sarah mentioned that being a young woman living on her own, she would not feel comfortable approaching her neighbors to ask them to keep the noise down.
  4. Sketchy Keys - Moving from student ID card scanning to a regular lock and key system can be jarring. Sarah noticed right away how easy it could be for strangers to make copies of the keys to her apartment building.

These experiences have made my friend more conscious about the criteria she thinks is important in an apartment. She is looking forward to finding a place in the future that has front desk security, a regulated mail delivery system, and a more secure access system in her building.

Feeling safe where you live can help you avoid unnecessary stressors in an already stressful world of 9-5 work. As students, it’s easy to take the ease of dorm living for granted. However, for young adults living alone in large cities, paying a little extra in rent can be worth the increased peace of mind.

Ivana Gatica graduated from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago with a degree in Fine Arts and Writing. For the past year, she has been working as a copywriter in the marketing and fintech spaces helping businesses find their unique voice. She also likes to take on freelance writing opportunities in her free time and loves to write fiction and poetry.