Student Perspective: Dorm Life at Columbia

Dorms didn’t always have the amenities that they have today. Let me take you back to the early 1900s when women were required to live in on-campus residences. Rooms were furnished with a bed, curtains, pillows, a bureau, and a study table with chair. Today, Columbia’s dorms are equipped with things like flat screen TVs, rooftop gardens, art studios, lounges, swimming pools, and fitness, multimedia, game, laundry, and music rooms.


The women were required to bring a neutral-colored rug, bed sheets, towels, a wastebasket, six cloth napkins, and a napkin ring. Today, there is a long list of suggested items, but only three things are required for moving in: a move-in sheet, proof of health insurance, and a photo ID. Whatever else you decide to bring is your choice. If you don’t want to bring napkins, no problem!


Dinner was served promptly at 6:15 in the dining room, where the women were encouraged to socialize and acquire proper manners. Today, students have a multitude of places to eat, and you were probably supposed to have acquired what manners you have from your parents before being out on your own.

Residents could go out twice a week, however, only one evening could be spent in the company of a man. Men were only allowed to visit on Saturdays but had to remain on the first floor. They had to leave the premises by 10pm because bed time was at 10:30. It was called lights out, but since there were no cell phones, computers, TVs, etc., what choice did you have but to go to sleep? Many classes today don’t end until 10pm or after and then we go home, eat, do homework, and unwind. Imagine having a bedtime, only being able to go out twice a week and only being able to have a man over on Saturdays.

Alcohol was forbidden on campus back then, as Columbia was endorsed by the Women’s Christian Temperance Union. In fact, founder Mary Blood was an active member of the Union. WCTU workers received a fifty percent discount on tuition. Today, alcohol isn’t allowed in the dorms, but students over the age of 21 typically live off-campus and come and go to the bars as they please. Would you abstain from drinking if it meant saving a large sum of money?

In 1916, the dorms cost $60 – $140 per academic year. For 2013-2014, Columbia’s dorms run between $7,680 and $15,948 per academic year. But hey, you’re living in Downtown Chicago with tons of amenities, with or without a neutral-colored rug!

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2 Responses to Student Perspective: Dorm Life at Columbia

  1. Miranda Howard says:

    Do you have the address of this dorm building?

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