Every spring, Clarkson University hosts Parent-to-Parent panels during accepted students events so that the parents of prospective and incoming Clarkson students can ask questions of current Clarkson parents. The following is a combination of the questions that were asked and answered during these events in Spring 2023. Along with a panel of several current Clarkson parents, Brian Grant, vice president of student affairs, served as moderator and was also on hand to answer questions.
This series of questions and answers is all about housing and residence life at Clarkson! We’ve created another edition focused on transitioning to college and campus life here.
Q: What is the housing situation like at Clarkson?
Clarkson Parent: I really appreciate that Clarkson seems to have enough housing for all of its students, and I found in looking at various colleges that that was often not the case. And I love that our students mostly live on campus for all four years. There seems to be ample housing for all of the students. They’re not scrambling to find something off campus. It takes a lot of the stress out of the whole housing process and they can just concentrate on their studies and having a well, a nice balance in their lives without having to worry about what the housing is going to be and if there will be enough housing for them next year. I think that’s a really big plus.
Brian Grant: We are a four year residential campus, so we have the housing, and it’s more than suitable. We have apartments on campus for the upperclassmen so they have that independence or can be off the meal plan. They can cook if they want, but they are still a parking lot away from their classes. We’re very strict about what constitutes an exemption to live off campus. It’s mainly local students. Otherwise, we have housing for everybody on campus. Plus, in the freshmen residence hall, we do tutoring sessions for physics, calculus, chemistry.
Q: I’ve heard a bit about these Living Learning Communities (LLCs) that I’m not quite sure what they are?
Brian Grant: The living learning communities are in the first year experience and we’ve expanded the offerings so there’s 18 of those now. Incoming students pick their top three from options like women in STEM, outdoor enthusiasts, sports fans, gamers, you name it. What it really does is it puts students with a similar interest from different backgrounds to help in that transition in the same living environment. But why the communities? We went from about three of these six years ago to 18 now. And the results and the engagement and the happiness of our students has gone through the roof. The communities have worked beautifully for students. But at the end of the day, we have all of our first year students in “The Quad” (Ross-Brooks and Cubley-Reynolds residence halls).
Q: How do the roommate matches work and are they successful?
Clarkson Parent 1: My son didn’t know his roommate, you know, coming here blind. He didn’t really know anybody in Clarkson. They now consider their pairing a match made in heaven. I don’t know how the school got this right, but you guys nailed it. They have their own space. They’re not the same major. His roommate is a computer engineer, so they have different sorts of classes, but they really get along well. I think any child that comes into this situation, you kind of have to be respectful, you’re always going to be a little tentative. You know, like, “here’s my new roommate. I wonder what it’s like.” It just seemed like it was so easy. I don’t think we’re the exception to the rule on that one either.
Clarkson Parent 2: I’d say I’d say for our son, he was placed with the student who was coming to America for the first time and that they connected beforehand, and had a nice sort of back and forth. And they’ve done very well together. They were planning on living together again this year if they have opportunities for some things. I always think with roommates, you sometimes have the roommate who you’re the best friend with and sometimes you have that roommate where you’re just you’re happy to be together. You don’t spend all your time together, but you do go to some meals together. I think that’s where they probably fall, but they look out for each other. My son was sick, and his roommate made sure he had what he needed and vice versa. So it’s been a nice relationship.
Brian Grant: I think it’s absolutely worth mentioning if we have an unbelievably well-trained group of RAs in our base of resident advisors and resident directors who are on each building floor for the first year students. Their responsibilities make sure that those roommate matches are working. If the students are having issues kind of, they’re the behind the scenes to watch over the students.
Q: When will incoming students find out about their roommate matches?
Brian Grant: Usually the roommate matches will go out around the first week of July. So they have time to connect before move in weekend and figure out who’s bringing the fridge versus the TV or whatever the case may be.
Q: How are the RAs and RDs set up?
Brian Grant: So there are RAs (resident advisors) and RDs (resident directors) at every residence hall. They go through a very long training and, as you can imagine, we work hard in selecting the right people. It is a highly sought after position. If they become an RA/RD, we give them a free room on campus. So they’re there for the fun activities, but they’re also there for the students who are not coming out of their residence hall, or having a mental health issue, or need support.
Q: Can you loft beds in the residence halls? How can the beds be manipulated? Can you put a desk underneath?
Clarkson Parent: The kids were going to put their beds lifted up with bunk beds on top. They didn’t end up doing that. What they did was you can get risers and stack your bed up above and still get under your bed to store your refrigerator. You’ll find other people that have posted some of them are decorated nicely, some of them are kind of messy. But you can lift it up without buying any special supplies because it’ll go up on its own to sort it out so you can get your really cute fridge underneath.
Brian Grant: From a housing perspective, we don’t supply bunk beds. But if they choose to do it themselves or raise their beds on tall risers, just know that we won’t take it down.
Q: Will we get a list of what is allowed and not allowed in the residence halls?
Brian Grant: Yes. We send a list prior to students arriving on campus. It is part of the initial orientation that they’ll do on campus too. Their RAs and RDs always can provide the do’s and don’ts. The website also has a list of common sense things we eliminate early on, but then the RAs do their checks to make sure that everyone is following the best practices.
Q: What are the options for single residence hall rooms?
Brian Grant: We do have some singles. We certainly do not encourage it in the freshman year. If it gets to a situation where the roommate match is not working, we do have some singles that are out there that are available just in case we try. And honestly we don’t need to use it a lot thanks to the matching that we do behind the scenes. There are some students, you know, whether it’s specific allergies or certain academic or other accommodations, that they would get a single room. But very, very limited because we just value that friendship and that interaction that happens with sharing a room.
Q: What are our storage options for any items over breaks or the summer?
Clarkson Parent: I live in New Hampshire, so it wasn’t practical to be bringing everything up and back frequently. So we rented a local storage space. I think they’re affordable. Just rent it for this kind of time if you only need it in the summertime, and you provide your own lock. It’s all done online, electronically. No one ever has to think of anything. So it’s very easy. You pay for the space and they give you the number and you can just start putting your things in.
Brian Grant: And there is a local storage company owned by an alum. This group will come to campus and bring everything away. So they try to make that as simple as possible.
Q: I notice there’s lots of different dining options and meal plans. Is there an advantage to getting the full three meals a day plan? How much of it did your students actually use?
Clarkson Parent 1: So when you’re looking at freshmen coming in and there’s different choices that you want to touch on, that basically it all comes out to be the same thing. You can get 21 swipes, which is three meals a day for seven days a week, and there’s also money put on a declining balance.
The meal plans can change. You’ll get less swipes, but put up more on declining balance, which means you can use that at different places. For example, our son hardly eats breakfast. I mean, he’ll just get up and go to class and he might be eating at noon and that’s his first meal of the day. You know, it was a big breakfast/lunch. We figured that that was most economical the first year anyway. Give them a chance to get a regular schedule. But he was never a big breakfast either. So that’s okay.
Clarkson Parent 2: Breakfast for college students is really based on their schedules, so I would plan appropriately for that situation. Both of my daughters did their first two years of the typical dormitory setting. And then they moved to Woodstock Apartments, where you have your own bedroom, kitchen area, living space in your group. I think for six or eight kids in those areas, being responsible for cooking and cleaning helps to develop them as people and adults. Eventually they’re going to be in that situation after college so it’s good practice.
The food is actually excellent here. I try to eat on campus every time I come up here. I know they’ve expanded and they’re bringing in other different national and international foods.
Brian Grant: Students in the residence halls can have a microwave but nothing that’s going to cause a fire (hot plates, etc.). And in the freshman quad this is RoBro dining facilities are right there, steps away, so it’s very convenient to eat at the main, all-you-care-to-eat dining hall in the first year.