Some cherry-picked, innate benefits to wherever you’re about to call home.

There are only so many ways to romanticize and glorify your first-year dorm, because, honestly, there are only so many things to romanticize and glorify about those dorms. Anyone who has lived in one can tell you that while it is not bad, it is not the same as staying in a nice comfortable house where you have your own bedroom and a shower you can just walk into, no flip-flops needed, and a backyard and a kitchen where you know everything is and… 

Anyways, welcome to college! Living corridor-style will help you appreciate the little things in life. And even if it’s not the most glamorous way to live, there are many little, lovely things about the first-year dorms at Barnard and Columbia to appreciate, romanticize, and glorify. Especially when your roommate is being insufferable—intentionally or not—or your floormates are just a little too colorful of a cast of characters, it’s nice to know that at least a few, unchangeable things about your college home are beautiful in themselves. And they are, in alphabetical order:

Barnard Dormitories


Living in Barnard’s first and oldest dorm truly gives you the best and the worst of, well, living in Barnard’s first and oldest dorm. But we’re here to romanticize things, so stare at this photo of Brooks Hall in the 1910s and think about how you are joining generations of Barnard students in filling this weird building with memories, tears, and chips in the paint. The quirkiness of this Progressive Era building means no two rooms are alike, resulting in surprises such as:

  • Some rooms having a fireplace and mantle, or…
    • Shockingly large walk-in closets
      • Like, large enough to be an office! Or a second bedroom!
    • Those gorgeous bay windows
    • Some rooms actually being two double rooms connected by a common room with desks
  • The ability to remember that, once upon a time, Brooks common rooms looked like this, that, for over a literal century,, students have been making tea and knitting and just being together in these walls…  


Sorry, it gets a lot harder to romanticize from here on out, but Hewitt makes up for the lack of photographic clout in other ways. Being the most recent dorm to be claimed by the first-years (having previously been the domain of upperclassmen as recently as 2019) has its advantages:

  • Singles! The only way you’ll be in one your first year at Barnard.
  • Claremont Ave is a beautiful street, and if you face it, you’ll be able to appreciate the incredible building facades—and maybe even a hint of Riverside Park.
  • You will be literally on top of the dining hall! And John Jay wishes it could be Hewitt Dining (or the other way around… either way, it’ll be convenient for you to find out).


Built in 1961, Reid Hall has a different era of historical charm, if that’s your thing. There are actually photos of Reid from its heyday! Behold the past! Other perks of living in Reid include:

  • Amazing light and views of Columbia if you face Broadway
  • In general, the rooms are larger than other Barnard first-year dorms
    • This includes the size of the built-in closets!
  • The rooms are larger but the building itself is smaller, so there are fewer people to contend with on each floor’s communal bathroom


Air conditioning. Air conditioning. Air conditioning.

  • The newest first-year dorm (again, air conditioning), so you get the nicest (or, at least, most recent) amenities!
    • This includes built-in bulletin boards for all the memories you shall make
  • Lots of natural light to take in the sights
  • And, even though it’s new, photos from its past, too!

In general for Barnard first-year dorms, the whole living-on-top of campus thing is wildly convenient, and you and literally everyone else in your class are all living together. Now, that’s definitely a double-edged sword of a statement, but I choose to romanticize that… like a family, you are all stuck together, and do what it takes to make it work… I think. 

Columbia Dormitories


Oh, Carman. Perhaps the party dorm of the first-years, definitely the nicest dorm in terms of renovations (air conditioning!).

  • Carman windows are huge and basically all have wonderful views (emphasis, however, on basically). Good for gazing, peering, staring, reflecting, etc… 
    • Carman lounges are weird, but they are also excellent for all the window-related activities listed above, as they all overlook campus. 
  • As a non-Carman resident, I almost wept the first time I used a Carman bathroom and was able to dry my hands with an actual hand towel. Carman residents get to appreciate something neither the communal nor single-use bathrooms offer: customizability and accountability. You can buy your own toilet paper! Choose some nice-smelling soap! Leave your toiletries by the sink instead of ferrying them to and fro in a silly little shower caddy!!!


Named in honor of a Columbia student named Royal Furnald, the dorm lives up to the regality of its namesake. Sure, it’s still a corridor-style dorm with communal bathrooms, but various touches contribute to a sense of elegance and wonder:

  • Green accents—green around the doors, along the hallways, etc. Furnald has a defined color scheme, and it commits to the bit.
  • Air conditioning that works perhaps too well, but that’s why you can control it with individual units. 
  • The kitchens (which are part of the floor lounges) have abundant counter and cabinet space, so cooking is actually feasible!


What is up with Hartley? Honestly, it’s unclear. The only suite-style first-year dorm, it’s the easiest one to live in and pretend you have a nice, cozy little family unit—if you and your roommates get along. But beyond that, Hartley also has:

  • A kitchen/living room combo for every suite
    • Not just that, but a kitchen with a dishwasher and gas stoves. Few other dorms can say the same.
  • Two floors per suite! A staircase in your own home!
  • Actual, physical keys so you can feel like a real homeowner (vs. just using your Columbia ID)
  • Hartley Hospitality is right there if you get locked out or anything else

John Jay

The quintessential Columbia first-year dorm (and also the only one I, the author, have never been into, for whatever unknown reason). The luxuries of John Jay include:

  • JJ’s and John Jay Dining will always be there for you (during open hours, that is).
  • A tunnel connecting it to Hartley (and Wallach) so you can avoid the outdoor elements if you lose your ID
  • An incredible lounge with huge portraits, a bust of John Jay, a fireplace, and, in gold letters on the mantle: “LIVE FAST TO THE SPIRIT OF YOUTH LET YEARS TO COME DO WHAT THEY MAY.” Hardcore!


Last but not least, Wallach, which is indeed also a Dorm—don’t let my lack of description belie that.

  • Surprisingly nice lounges with flatscreen TVs, comfortable chairs, and a spacious kitchen area
  • Hallways and single-use bathrooms that somehow work to give off hotel vibes
    • Marriot moment?
  • The walls are relatively soundproof, so when you get into your room and close the door, you can actually be greeted with quiet. Probably. Might as well invest in a fan for the white noise.

No matter which Columbia first-year dorm you’re in, you have a decent chance of having an absolutely beautiful view of campus (or Broadway/Amsterdam), and the other end of the extreme—being shafted—is not really a thing. Appreciate the natural light while it’s a guarantee.


Dorms are dorms, and they’re largely what you make of them. That’s a blessing and a curse, but I promise, even when things get gross—insects, hair in the drain, food in the sink kinds of gross—you’ll love your New House. And if you don’t, well, it’s only a year… or a haggle with Hartley Hospitality for a room reassignment. But seriously, I promise, it is going to be okay, and even if it’s only because your dorm room holds all your Uglydolls or has the chargers for your technology or is the only space you can call your own, it will be, in at least those little ways, your home.

Sunrise (not romanticized, real!) over campus via Bwogger