Dorms range in academic culture, students say

Oct. 30, 2017, 11:45 p.m.

Months before hearing their RAs chant their names as they lug their suitcases to their new residences, incoming freshmen rank dorm preferences as a part of their Approaching Stanford Forms. One factor in the decision, according to current freshmen: stereotypes of the social and academic tendencies in each of the dorms.

The Daily asked current freshmen about these stereotypes and how they compare with their Stanford experiences so far. 

Students living on west campus said Freshman Sophomore College (FroSoCo) has a reputation for attracting students focused primarily on academics. FroSoCo is often stereotyped as being a “nerdy” dorm, according to Goli Emami ’21, a current FroSoCo resident.

“Before coming to FroSoCo, I thought there would be super nerdy people just coding and doing their stuff,” Emami said.

Her lived experience, however, has been different.  

“People here are studious, but they are sociable and really easygoing,” she said.

Emami said she appreciates the balance of doing work with limited distractions and speaking with dorm-mates on a variety of subjects, from academics to social movements and campus climate.

“Although there’s more of an academic culture, we have still have fun,” said Kiara Harding ’21, another FroSoCo resident.

Harding observed that the residents of FroSoCo tend to take on heavier course loads, leading to a focus on academics. She also said that doing homework in an environment where everyone else is also trying to get homework done can serve as a source of motivation.

Querida De La Stukes ’18, a FroSoCo Resident Assistant (RA), observed that the rigorous academic culture at FroSoCo encourages students to push themselves.

“A lot of our residents like to challenge themselves — they like to take more units,” De La Stukes said. “I think there’s a great desire to learn and to take challenging classes to reflect that.”

Despite the academic focus, she said, students participate in fun activities as well. Just recently, residents made s’mores and had a costume competition.

The academic stereotype differs on East Campus where all-freshman dorms are housed, according to current freshmen. Eghosa Amadin ’21 and Vrinda Suresh ’21, both current residents in Wilbur, agreed that the atmosphere of the Wilbur dorms can be described as a party culture.

“I know if I’m in my dorm, I’m usually not going to get much done, because if someone knocks on my door and wants to hang out, I’m definitely going to want to hang out, so I go to the library to study,” said Amadin, a current resident in Arroyo. “I have to separate my academic life from my social life.”

Suresh described her dorm as having different types of environments on different floors. She pointed out that although she has no trouble studying on her floor, which is quieter, students on other floors have to sometimes leave their dorms to find quiet study areas, especially in the evenings.

“There will always be a few people studying in the lounge or in the computer cluster, but you can always find somewhere to have a party [at],” Suresh said.

Amadin also believes there is no pressure within her dorm to take on a heavy course load.

“No one really talks about how many units they’re doing,” Amadin said. “It’s more like do whatever you want.”

Nathan Fotedar ’19, an Arroyo RA, emphasized that while many residents in all-freshman dorms are more engaged in the social aspects of college life, a supportive academic community still exists. He said that residents care deeply about their schoolwork.

“It’s easy to find people collaborating with and supporting each other,” he said. “Kids who prefer to study on their own end up in their rooms, and you’ll also see people hanging out in rooms and doing work together. It seems pretty easy for people to find what suits them best.”  

Other dorms, such as four-class dorms, have a reputation for occupying more of a middle ground between the energy of an all-freshman atmosphere and the “geeky” culture of FroSoCo.

For freshmen Ghawayne Calvin ’21 and Jeff Brown ’21, both residents of four-class dorm Ujamaa in Lagunita Court, the word that best describes their residence’s academic culture is “chill.”

“I wouldn’t say that there’s this ‘nerdiness’ in our dorm because everyone’s super chill,” Calvin said.

He said that although the atmosphere is relaxed, Ujamaa’s environment is conducive to getting assignments done.

“There’s definitely a strong balance,” Calvin said. “People study in the lounge late at night, early morning. I think for our dorm specifically, people do respect that if people are working, they quiet down.”

“There’s a chill vibe, but also a ‘let’s get work done’ kind of vibe,’” Brown added.

Brown also believes that some new students try to ease the transition into life at Stanford and tend not to take heavy course loads. He added that freshmen recognize other students base course loads on their individual academic backgrounds and avoid yielding to the pressure to match their peers.

Ujamaa RA Devon Cash ’18 shares the same view. Noting Ujamaa’s balance between academics and social life, he also observed that there tends to be a great deal of academic discussion and collaboration in the dorm and that there is a strong sense of community.

“In general, Ujamaa is a very active dorm— it’s not the quietest place,” Cash said. “If you are the type that likes to study alone in a quieter atmosphere, you have to make space to do that. The dorm is always active, and it’s always buzzing, so people typically do work together.”

Regardless of the differences in dorm culture that students perceived, each freshman interviewed was content with the academic and social atmosphere of their dorm.

Jade Lintott ’21, another FroSoCo resident, said she particularly values her dorm’s friendliness.

”Everybody I’ve met here is super nice and willing to be patient with people and also to be generous,” she said. “Random people I’ve never spoken to before will just start talking to me and asking me about my life, which is super sweet.”


Email Ruth Anna at ruthanna ‘at’

Ruth-Ann Armstrong '21 is the News Delegate for the Daily’s Community Life and Inclusion Program, and a staff writer for the Academics beat. She is a sophomore from Spanish Town, Jamaica pursuing a major in computer science and a minor in economics. Between her classes and mid-afternoon naps, she enjoys learning about graphic design, laughing at SNL clips and getting to know the delightful people on Stanford’s campus. Contact her at ruthanna ‘at’

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