I live on campus as most freshmen at UT do. Specifically, I live in Blanton Dormitory, which is one of the three honors dorms at UT.
When you apply for housing, you get to choose your top dorm picks. My first choice was the honors quad and my second was Jester. (You don’t get to pick which dorm within the quad you want to live in.) Foremost amongst my concerns was the cost. I really didn’t care about having a private bathroom or living in one of the larger dorms such as Duren or San Jacinto. I’ve found that I can fit right in wherever I live, so I knew it wouldn’t be a problem adjusting to whichever dorm I was placed in. Since I didn’t want any of the premium features, I opted to go for the basic dorm setup: one roommate and community bath. It ended up costing about $8200 for the year, which is the least expensive route. The honors dorms and Jester cost the same, so I chose them over Jester. The quad was where a bunch of my friends were going to live, so it was an easy choice.
As for choice of roommate, I picked the random option. I could have lived with a friend if I had chosen to, but I thought it would be better not to risk getting into fights with him and ruin the friendship. In retrospect, that was a ridiculous reason. I don’t think that would ever happen; I know my friends enough to be able to resolve problems in a courteous manner. However, the random roommate choice worked out well; he’s a pretty cool guy.
Blanton has the smallest rooms out of the dorms in the honors quad, and I think the smallest out of all of the dorms I’ve visited at UT. Andrews has larger dorms and Carothers has even larger dorms. You get an adjustable-height bed and movable furniture, including a desk, and two storage pieces. I chose to arrange my side to give me the most desk space. The bed is up high, about six feet up in the air. Below the bed, I have the desk and the storage; they create what is referred to as a “megadesk”. Since I spend most of the time in my room doing things on my desk, it makes sense to have a large desk space at the expense of making the bed less accessible. However, since the bed is above the desk, the desk is not illuminated very well at night due to the shadow created by the ceiling light. This was a problem until I bought a desk lamp. Light during the day is lovely and perfectly adequate. Climbing up to the bed takes some getting used to; the rungs aren’t shaped in a way that makes it easy to do so.
As I’ve said, the bed’s height is adjustable. My roommate brought his bed down to the height of the storage underneath so the bed is more easily accessible. As a result, his desk gets a small area next to the bed. It’s nice that everything is configurable since everyone’s needs are different. At first, I felt that the dorm was too small, but in time I got used to it. I only wish I was able to seat many people in my dorm. It can’t really ever be a hangout place. They give us an adequate wooden chair, but I got a nice rolly chair off Craigslist, which made studying much nicer. That wooden chair is the only place guests can sit, which is sad. The bathrooms are well-maintained and take like little time to get used to. Community is no problem. Also, Blanton is the only dorm in the quad without a sink, which is a good thing. I don’t want it to get all dirty, which it will naturally. Walking an extra ten feet to get to the bathroom to brush my teeth is barely an inconvenience.
My dad kept asking why this little half-room cost us more than $8000, and I had no answer. (One impetus for moving into an apartment is that a shared room can be a bit more than $400, which is half the cost of an on-campus dorm.) But, the dining is also put into the cost of the housing. Your $8000 includes $1400 dine-in-dollars, which can be used in the dining halls, and $300 Bevo-bucks, which can be used at most nearby restaurants. You don’t really have a choice in the matter. Everyone is put into the same plan. You can always add more if you need to, but you can’t opt to get less. I heard that you get enough dine-in-dollars for lunch and dinner every day and breakfast once a week. This may seem like it isn’t enough, but don’t worry. Everyone I know agrees that it’s more than enough. I still have more than $800 of my dine-in-dollars left at the end of the semester though I eat breakfast at the dining halls far more often than most other people. Most people either skip breakfast or eat cereal in their rooms. I had a friend that had so many dine-in-dollars left over last year that he bought a big UT rug for his dorm. (You can use dine-in-dollars to buy random stuff at some of the campus stores.) Bevo-bucks are accepted at pretty much all of the eateries close to campus; they provide a convenient way of getting good food when you feel like a change.
The closest dining hall is located in the ground floor of the Kinsolving girls dorm. It serves that whole northern end of campus that the quad lies in. It’s about a five minute walk from Blanton, which hasn’t been a big problem. (I found out the hard way that umbrellas and sweaters are essential.) I have to say I do like the food there most days. You swipe your card and it’s all-you-can-eat. It’s around four dine-in-dollars per swipe, which is a pretty good deal if you ask me. There is a core selection that stays the same every day: pasta, pizza, salad, wraps, fried stuff, chicken, sides, juice, soda, fruit, waffles. On top of that they have different specials every day. Breakfast usually includes made-to-order omelets and tacos plus eggs, biscuits, sausage, and the same drink choices. I find the selection more than adequate on most days. (J2 is the equivalent for students staying near Jester. The food is pretty much the same, but some people say Kins has a better atmosphere.)
Right next to Blanton is the convenient Littlefield Café. I get food there if I miss meals at Kins for some reason. I frequently get delicious breakfast burritos there. Kinsolving also has Kins Market, where you can buy snacks and supplies. So far, I’ve only bought an umbrella there.
I love living on campus. In college, the line between school and home is nonexistent. I think I like it that way. You get to see you friends all the time: you eat with them, you study with them, and you relax with them. Seeking solitude is equally easy. You can live however you feel like. You can be with whomever, eat whatever, go wherever, and do anything you please. Only as long as you keep your wits about you, of course.
It isn’t required, but I highly recommend that you live on campus at least for the first year. It’s much easier to meet people and get used to college life.