Blessings and Pitfalls of Dorm Life

“You never open the door when there’s a shirt tied around the doorknob!”

So I learned when I went back to my dorm room one morning, in my freshman year at a Catholic college. Evidently sexual activity was so common that it had its own perverse sort of etiquette that every student was expected to know. I appeared the odd man out.

Many a recent graduate or current student of Catholic universities can tell similar stories.

Students deserve better—they deserve to be expected to be better.

Of course, stories like this have always been and will always be told. But it’s something to keep in mind as you choose a college, because there are better options available to Catholic families. The campus needn’t be monastic—and it shouldn’t be, this is college after all.

A Catholic campus should have single-sex dorms! (Or (at least!) single-sex wings.)

And do not overlook the importance of “visitation policies.” These are the hours when members of the opposite sex are officially permitted to be in others’ dorm rooms—their bedrooms. At many Catholic colleges, the time ranges from early morning until very late at night. What message does this send? The reality of Catholic campus life can be told by touring dorms on weekends. Before you choose a college, visit and then visit again, paying close attention to the atmosphere in the residence halls. You will learn a lot.

Choosing a college is an exciting and challenging process. An authentic Catholic education is a rich gift for students.

And while potential majors are frequently intensely deliberated during the decision-making, the moral environment of the whole campus is what may make the most lasting impact on the life of the college student. Most of a student’s college life will be spent in and around his dorm. And so, in choosing a college, you deserve an answer to this question:

Does the residence life at the college you will attend encourage virtue and chastity and help you grow in faith, or is it likely to be a four-year temptation to be a part of the same hook-up culture that has been the cause of so much heartache?


This article was originally published in 2015.

Kathryn Jean Lopez is a senior fellow at the National Review Institute and an editor-at-large of National Review.

Copyright © 2024 The Cardinal Newman Society. Permission to reprint without modification to text, with attribution to author and to The Cardinal Newman Society, and (if published online) hyperlinked to the article on the Newman Society’s website. The views expressed herein are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Cardinal Newman Society.