Is Staying in Hall Worth It?

By Sharyl Chin • LinkedIn

Many coming-of-age movies made me believe that staying on campus was essential to the university experience. After all, if you’re smitten with the academic aesthetic like me, then living in hall as a university student seems like a no brainer.  

I mean, if you aren’t experiencing “dorm life”, then are you really in university? At least, that’s what I thought initially. But as someone who has lived in hall and has since moved out, I’ve found that the notion of hall life being vital to your tertiary life simply isn’t true. 

Many first-year students – myself included – experienced living in hall for the first time. I must admit that there’s certainly an allure to it. Living independently and being able to make your own rules – that’s arguably the dream for most of us.  

With that said, I’ve narrowed down the key factors to consider when deciding whether hall is worth it for those in need of some advice! 

Primary Motivation…Need or Want? 

Truth be told, I had skyhigh expectations not just for university life, but hall life as well. While some friends applied for hall for convenience’s sake, I applied to realise my idealised university dream 

Undoubtedly, this singular driving force didn’t last and I still regret making my decision to apply for hall based on it. My hopes of replicating picturesque dorm life scenes by finding friends in hall was quickly snuffed out; I prioritised my academic goals and was too consumed with that. And sadly, socialising in hall took the back seat, and wasn’t as exciting as what the media portrays. The tough reality of university – mugging for midterms and finals – is rarely accurately represented in movies. 

What you choose to prioritise, whether it be studying or co-curricular activities, will impact how much time you get to spend in hall. That’s not to say that you won’t live out your coming-of-age dreams, but chances are that you’ll be holed up in your dorm room studying instead of partying it up when finals week arrives.  

On a lighter note, the convenience of living on campus was a major plus point. I’ll totally miss the luxury of leaving my room at 10.15 AM and reaching on time for a 10.30 AM class at The Arc as compared to my current commuting time from the outside to Pulau NTU. 

As such, it’s important to evaluate what you hope to get out of university; you’ll be spending 3 to 4 years here anyway, so why not make the best out of it? Some people desire to socialise and build connections, others may choose to focus on academics. If you can see yourself better off without hall, then maybe think twice before submitting your hall application!  

Living on a Budget  

Image Credit: Unsplash I Josh Appel

While we may be excited to start an independent life outside of home, it’s important to ensure that staying in hall doesn’t burn a hole in your pocket.  

Staying in hall can go from affordable to pricey real quick based on what room and hall you get. Besides room rental fees, the miscellaneous costs of staying in one are another headache. Laundry bags, hangers, eating out? While these don’t cost much individually, but they’ll quickly snowball if you don’t keep track of your spending. Depending on how much you want to decorate your room, that can also burn a hole in your pocket. 

Need some tips on stretching your dollar? One surefire way to reduce your expenditure is to cook your own meals. Since every hall comes equipped with pantries, what better time to live out your Gordon Ramsay dreams? For those who aren’t as skilled in whipping up meals, delivery service Cates is here to save the day. With Cates, you can order food from various NTU canteens and have it delivered to your hall for a $0.30 platform fee –– perfect for hectic school days when you’re too tired to even step out of your room! 

Mixing and Mingling with Others 

When living in proximity with other students, socialising is an unavoidable part of the experience. Whether it be night-time supper runs or heart to heart talks, these are valuable opportunities to befriend fellow residents!  

Staying in hall is an outlet for you to bond with people from different faculties, but is that crucial for your end goal in NTU? Maybe, maybe not. As for me, I placed more emphasis on studying as a first-year student and still managed to cultivate a vibrant social group even after moving out. You may ask: “How did you do it?” The secret lies in making the first move, which I actively did in tutorials. Something as simple as saying hi to your seatmates and sharing essay ideas can do wonders! You never know whether the people next to you will become your future lifelong friends. 

Do also spend time pondering whether you’re comfortable sharing personal space if you’re allocated a roommate! While there’s a chance they could become your new best friend, some people prefer to have ample personal space. In these cases, hall may not be ideal, especially since single rooms are popular and there is no guarantee you will be allocated one. 

It’s easy to get distracted in the whirlwind of things while living in hall, but one shouldn’t forgo the importance of time management. I’ve been using Notion to keep track of my daily activities and ensure that I strike a good balance between social, academic and personal time. If digital planners aren’t your thing, Muji’s planners are a great alternative. Trust me, noting down a routine you can follow will go a long way when deadlines, meetups and other obligations start piling up. 

Is Your Personality a Good Fit? 

Image Credit: Unsplash I Brooke Cagle

I would describe hall culture as being vibrant and bustling with activities; there’ll never be a dull moment. Does this lively culture match my personality? Not exactly. 

I made efforts to befriend fellow residents through get-togethers but in the end, alone time and studying took precedence. The drinking and late-night supper scene wasn’t up my alley as well, so I always felt more out of place whenever I joined. 

While the hall culture wasn’t suited for an introvert like me, there are many others who have taken its liveliness in stride. Citing the welcoming environment of her hall as a reason, Rui En, a first-year student from NTU’s School of Humanities and Social Sciences is one of many who have embraced the energy of hall in her tertiary life. 

I have no regrets being in hall as all the memories that I have here are good ones,” she shared. As Hall 5’s 34th Hall Council Residential Affairs Secretary, Rui En is actively involved in the planning and execution of hall events. Such experiences helped her gain strong friendships and memories with the rest of the council. 

Ultimately, if you can’t picture yourself partaking in activities mentioned above at least once or twice, it may be tough to feel like you belong in hall especially if you want to befriend your neighbours. You know yourself and your boundaries best, don’t pressure yourself to overstep them. 

Conclusion 

Hall can be a home away from home, but if it’s not adding value to your university life then it’s best to pack it up. I can say that staying in hall was not worth it for me. I’m thankful that I got to live my idealised university dreams based on the university vlogs I binge, but ultimately it wasn’t a place where I felt happy or thrived in. I made the decision to move out after realizing that it would not be mentally or emotionally beneficial for me to continue staying. 

Once again, this is not me saying living in hall is not worth it for everyone. If you wish to experience it for yourself, go for it!However, your decision should be rationally made based on your circumstances, not due to the fear of losing out on what university has to offer. Remember that you’re the one with the power to shape your university experience, and whether you stay on campus or not doesn’t change that!