“Which Dorm is the Best One?” aka University Housing: The Basics

“Which dorm is the best one?” 

This is probably the most frequent question I get asked on tours, and it’s a question I can’t exactly answer in one word. There are nineteen residence halls aka “dorms” on the UW-Madison campus. They may all be unique, but there is certainly no clear winner.


You will read all sorts of things about which residence hall is the best and what type of students live in them. I’m here to tell you to take those hall stereotypes with a grain of salt. No specific building is going to be able to give you the “Wisconsin Experience” or help you meet friends. What will make your first year memorable is the people you meet and the things you do.

From my experience, freshman have the best experiences in halls that have mostly freshman living in them. Everyone has their doors open, are taking the same classes, and are as eager to meet and fit in as you are. Upperclassmen (sophomores, juniors, and seniors) tend to have things more figured out and are less likely to be ready to make a whole new group of friends.

With my spiel out of the way, here’s the low down for those of you who are as clueless as I was.

A Tale of Two Neighborhoods

There are two “neighborhoods” on campus, Lakeshore and Southeast. As the names suggest, Lakeshore is located by Lake Mendota and Southeast is on the southeast part of campus. Both have about the same number of students. Lakeshore has more residence halls packed close together with less students in each building, and Southeast has less residence halls farther apart with more students in each building.


I know there is a huge stereotype that if you want any kind of social life you should life in Southeast. Guess what? The housing assignment process is random, which means that there are going to be as many students in the Southeast that want to go out on weekends as there are in Lakeshore and as many students in Southeast that want to stay in as there are in Lakeshore.

Of course, there is nothing wrong with liking one neighborhood over the other. Just rest easy knowing your Wisconsin Experience will remain intact either way. That’s what I love about UW-Madison the most. There are so many students here you are bound to find exactly where you fit into our large community, no matter where you live.

Learning Communities

A learning community is a tight-nit group of students within the residence halls. A learning community can make up a floor within a hall, a couple of floors, or even the whole building. The students that live in the learning community are all there to explore the topic/theme of the community with each other and other experts on campus.

What’s nice is that you don’t have to be majoring in the topic to live there! A lot of students use learning communities as a chance to learn about something new or keep active in a hobby or interest they have but don’t want to major in.

There are ten learning communities within the residence halls. Find the right one for you!

Psst… Students that rank a learning community as their #1 preference get to select a room online from within that learning community rather than go through the random assignment process. It’s a lot like picking a seat on an airplane.

Res. Hall Insights

Every week I will dedicate a post to explaining the nooks and crannies of one of the nineteen residence halls. What the bathrooms look like, how the rooms are set up, what percentage of freshman live there, and what makes it unique.

This week I’ll be giving you the insight on Chadbourne Hall so stay tuned!

Reader Questions

What stereotypes have you heard about certain residence halls? What is the thing you look for most in a residence hall? If you live(d) in the residence halls what was your favorite thing about them? Leave a comment or tweet at me, @SierraLivesey. I want to know what you think!


5 Comments on ““Which Dorm is the Best One?” aka University Housing: The Basics”

  1. […] “Which Dorm is the Best One?” aka University Housing: The Basics → […]


  2. Hey Sierra! I have been keeping up with the on going blog you’ve been keeping and I was curious if you could do the GreenHouse LC of Leopold next 🙂



  3. Elle says:

    Hi Sierra! I really enjoy reading your posts on each dorms so far and would love if you could keep updated! I’m especially interested in some of the popular dorms freshmen seem to be interested in such as…Smith, Liz waters, Dejope and especially the reputable sellery and witte (also the difference between those two)


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