By Kimya Kavehkar
College dorm rooms don’t necessarily have the best reputations. There are horror stories about mice, dirty and broken furniture, and cold windowless rooms that are only good for sleeping (if that). But home should be where your heart is, right? So shouldn’t your dorm room be awesome and beautiful? Well, some dorms really are, and feature everything from old-school fireplaces to the latest green technology. From the coast to coast and around the world, these are the coolest dorms around.
Harvard is known for its hallowed halls and famous alumni like John F. Kennedy, Al Gore and Mark Zuckerberg. The Cambridge campus is very old (we’re talking 1636), and the historic dorms have classic touches like fireplaces and a dark, Victorian edge. The cool part of being a freshman is that you get to live in Harvard Yard during your first year, while the next three years you’re assigned to a “House." “The best part of these Houses is the community. Each house has its own dining hall, common rooms, computer room, mini gym, library, etc. You get to know everyone in your House really well over the three years,” says Julia, a student at Harvard. One of the freshman dorms, Hollis Hall, once housed George Washington's troops during the Revolutionary War, Henry David Thoreau, and Ralph Waldo Emerson.
The urban campus of NYU gives it a cool, Gossip Girl-esque vibe. The dorms are all a couple of blocks away from Union Square and have amazing views of Manhattan, making moving in a magical experience for those who’ve always dreamed of living in the big city. Founder’s Hall, one of the dorms, is a dizzying 26 stories high, and soon-to-be NYU freshman and Her Campus Pre-Collegiette Editor Hannah Orenstein is totally psyched to be living there: “I'll be living on the 23rd floor, so I'll have an incredible view of the city. The rooms are in pristine condition, too.”
The second Ivy League on our list is just as old as the Harvard campus, which makes it just as majestic and historic. Some freshmen get the regular dorm rooms, while others get the luck of the draw. “Some freshmen get put in what's called a ‘princess suite’ -- they are unbelievable,” says a Yale student and Her Campus Contributing Writer. “They're only for girls and they have two floors with huge common areas and really spacious bedrooms.” The upperclassman dorms are also breathtaking, with gorgeous courtyards and amenities like a game room, a late night snack bar, a movie room, a kitchen and a gym. Why would you need to go anywhere else?
Usen Castle, which is quite literally a castle on the inside, was built in 1928 and is the oldest building on the Brandeis campus. The inside has been gutted and completely renovated. Inside the castle, they have a popular coffee shop/hangout spot called “Chums.” It’s the site of the band Genesis’s first U.S. performance, and some students even claim that Chums was the inspiration for Central Perk in "Friends." Unfortunately, "Friends" creator Marta Kauffman dismissed the rumor in 2009. It’s still a pretty cool claim to fame!
Few Hall and Evans Hall are known as the nicest building on campus, more like hotels than dorms. “They tower over a recreational field called McDonough where we have outdoor concerts, so they have a great view, too,” says Marni, an Emory student. “Few has offices, a ballroom, classrooms, study rooms, and even a kitchen/demonstration room where you can take cooking classes.” Imagine learning how to roll sushi or bake a cake without getting out of your pajamas! Plus every room has a sink, so no need to crowd around the communal bathroom sinks for your morning makeup routine. They’re green, too -- each building contains an energy monitor where students can view how much water and electricity is being used in the building and compare it with other buildings and times on the web.
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Wellesley College (Wellesley, MA)
Be very, very careful if you mention Hillary Clinton’s name to a Wellesley woman. As one of the school’s most famous alumnae and the object of their not-so-secret infatuation, Hillary continues to be a role model for the college’s undergrads—often eliciting a shriek of delight when her name drops. Located in a suburb of Boston, Wellesley women enjoy high power academics plus all of Boston’s opportunities (boys included!). Click here to read one girl’s experience at Wellesley! Rebecca, a junior at Wellesley and a proud owner of a “What would Hillary do?” coffee mug, says, “Wellesley is empowering because of the classroom experience and the community itself. It’s also empowering looking at the Wellesley women before you who have made history. Wellesley really helps you understand what it means to be a feminist and how it means that women and men are equal. There’s a broad spectrum of feminism at Wellesley.” Other awesome alumnae? Madeleine Albright and Nora Ephron were also Wellesley girls.
Mount Holyoke College (South Hadley, MA)
Although nestled in a small town in the middle of Massachusetts, Mount Holyoke women have big city dreams. As one of the oldest colleges for women in the country, Mount Holyoke puts women’s leadership at the forefront of their liberal arts curriculum. “We all come to MHC learning [that] our job as MHC students is to make history in our field and eventually become influential women,” Libby, a junior at Mount Holyoke, says. From a women’s leadership center to their feminist a cappella group Nice Shoes, whose repertoire includes female empowerment songs, MHC breeds strong, activist women. “After going to [an all-girls high school] I needed a feminist institution. I needed a college that supported women and their power,” Libby says. MHC boasts alumnae like Emily Dickinson and the first female cabinet member Frances Perkins. Talk about girl power!
Chatham University (Pittsbugh, PA)
Chatham women don’t just support women’s rights—they actually make them happen. “Though students represent both liberal and conservative views, everyone takes women's rights extremely seriously,” says Mara, a Chatham sophomore. “The student organization, F.A.C.E. (Feminist Activists Creating Equality), has a major presence on campus, organizing everything from petition signings to a Walk for Congo Women. Other groups work to incorporate the same themes into their work and their events.” This Pittsburgh school requires all students to take women’s studies classes (a perennial favorite is Eco-feminist Literature, says Mara), but all classes are infused with a nice dose of feminism. “'Women's issues’ are a focus of Chatham's mission, and that approach is strongly reflected in academics. Nearly every course incorporates readings, lectures and discussions that examine women's rights in the context of the subject,” Mara says. Notable alumnae include biologist Rachel Carson and Judy Bachrach, a Vanity Fair editor.
Smith College (Northampton, MA)
There’s no doubt about it: “I think the overall, prevailing feeling is that if you go to Smith, you are a feminist,” freshman Claire says. “The school drills it into our heads that we should be strong, independent women or we don't belong [here].” And speaking of strong, independent women, Smith’s famous alumnae list reads like a Who’s Who in American Feminism: writer Sylvia Plath, Betty Friedan, Gloria Steinem and chef Julia Child (just to name a few!). And here are a few slogans that can be seen on official Smith College apparel: “Smith College: a century of women on top." (innuendo intended, Claire jokes) and “It's not a girl's school without men; it's a women's college without boys.” Awesome!