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Serving the GW Community since 1904

The GW Hatchet

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Wine bar on 2200 Penn opens doors
By Ella Mitchell, Contributing News Editor • June 14, 2024

Dorm sweet dorm: Survival guide for freshmen dorms

If you’ve been assigned to Potomac, you can relax knowing the building established itself among the student body as the top freshman residence hall.

Whether you’re ecstatic about your new residence hall home or running straight to Room Swap, take some time to familiarize yourself with the pros and cons of the 11 different freshman housing options.

Thurston Hall
As GW’s largest freshman residence hall, Thurston Hall – with an occupancy of 1,100 students – has earned itself the nickname “Thurston Zoo” for the constant activity and loudness. This might make it a little difficult to get your homework done in your dorm, but it also means you’ll never have to look hard for a party.

There are a variety of setups in the building – dorms range from two-person to six-person units, with everything in between. Thurston Hall was built in 1929 and while the building has received small renovations over the years, it could still use a facelift. Don’t expect fancy living quarters if you’ll be calling Thurston home.

People in Thurston are typically very friendly – especially early in the year. Every floor has more than 100 residents, and almost everyone is looking to make friends. Keep your door open and don’t be afraid to pop in to get to know your neighbors.

Potomac House
If you’ve been assigned to Potomac, you can relax knowing that the building has established itself among the student body as the top freshman residence hall. It holds fewer than 400 students in doubles with a bathroom shared between two rooms. Rooms in Potomac are more modern, but they’re also narrow and don’t offer much storage space, so bring a couple extra bins for under the bed.

Potomac is connected to a small restaurant called Carvings, where you can fill up on mozzarella sticks, onion rings, a variety of sub sandwiches and packaged snacks. Carvings tends to be a popular late night stop for freshman after a night out, so you’ll be glad you live just above it.

Having one of the best living arrangements will be great, but get used to hearing everyone complain that you got the “better residence hall.” You can take some time to gloat, but then spread your good fortune by offering to let your friend who lives on the Mount Vernon Campus crash for the night if it gets late, or letting your fellow freshman from Thurston come over when they get sexiled.

Madison Hall
Madison is one of the smaller residence halls in Foggy Bottom, holding about 8 percent of the freshman class. Rooms, which are generally pretty small with a narrow entryway, range from doubles and quads to even six-person rooms.

One of the best features of living here is the location. It’s just one block from Whole Foods, across the street from Starbucks, a minute from Kogan Plaza and a quick walk to most academic buildings. It doesn’t get more convenient than that.

Although the building has gone through multiple renovations and received new furniture last year, it was built in 1945 and some of that age shows. If you come across a leaky ceiling or any facility issue, make sure to submit a FixIt report.

Mitchell Hall
If you were dreading the idea of a roommate, hopefully the housing gods placed you in Mitchell Hall. Mitchell is the only Foggy Bottom residence hall comprised entirely of single rooms. Freshmen make up the majority of the 350 residents, but Mitchell also houses some upperclassmen seeking singles. The rooms are small but you’ll enjoy a space all to yourself, which is near-impossible to find elsewhere on campus.

Almost every residence hall offers a private bathroom, but Mitchell is the rare exception. If you’re in Mitchell for the year, you’ll definitely want a shower caddy to bring your toiletries back to your room and probably a pair of shower shoes.

Like Thurston, Mitchell is located on the southeastern edge of campus. It’s only three blocks from the White House, which is a solid bragging point to your high school friends, but it’s also a trek to the rest of campus so make sure to leave extra time when you head to class.

Lafayette Hall
Lafayette took a two-year hiatus from housing freshmen, but it will now hold about 75 first-year students, in addition to second- and third-year students, in double rooms with a connecting bathroom.

Lafayette is located right next to the Marvin Center, so you’ll be close to all the student organization meetings, as well as a great study spot. But you may not want to leave Lafayette that often because the rooms are spacious and airy following the building’s 2011 renovation.

The Mount Vernon Campus (The Vern)
The Vern is a fairly contentious topic on campus. Some people love that it’s a green space just about 15 minutes from the hustle and bustle of downtown D.C., while others detest the thought of being placed somewhere that requires a shuttle bus – called the Mount Vernon Express – to get to Foggy Bottom. Regardless of where you come down on it, approximately 700 students, the vast majority of them freshmen, live on the Vern each year.

If you’re placed in West Hall, you’ve got a dining hall, gym and recording studio all in your basement. Rooms are four-person units but each student gets their own bedroom. West is an ideal way to have roommates while still having your own space. The only inconvenience is the long uphill walk to the Vex, but it’s worth it for the facilities.

The other large residence hall on the Vern is Somers Hall, which accommodates just under 250 freshmen in mostly double rooms.

The other four housing options are Merriweather, Clark, Hensley and Cole halls – referred to collectively as the Hillsides. These buildings are small, with around 40 students in each, so residents often form close friendships that last until graduation.

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