Location: Southwest is a mini-city that is located in its own corner of campus. It is known as a mini-city because with 5,500 students in five high-rise towers and eleven low-rise residential halls, it is the largest residential area at UMass.
Room-set up: There are singles, shared-doubles, and shared-triple rooms. All buildings are co-ed, however some offer single-sex floors. The shared-doubles are either conventional rectangular-shaped or Z-shaped. Z-rooms are awesome and only found in Southwest (you can refer to my “What to Expect when Living in a Southwest Tower” post for more info on these rooms). Can you tell I love Southwest? Each room is fully furnished with a bed, desk, chair, set of drawers, and either a closet or wardrobe.
Pros: This is easily the most social area on campus, in my opinion. There is a strong sense of camaraderie amongst "Swesties" that make the transition into a new school way less intimidating. Southwest is also home to Hampshire and Berkshire, which are the two newest dining commons on campus.
Cons: Location-wise, Southwest is a bit of a hike to the center of campus. However, campus seemingly shrinks the longer you live here. At New Students Orientation (the summer before I entered freshman year), walking to the Campus Pond from Southwest felt like literal ages. Now, its a 10-minute walk that feels like nothing. Plus, its a great feeling to look at your step counter at the end of the day and realize you’ve walked more than six miles.
Overall: Probably the thing that holds people back from Southwest is the stigma that it is "party central," an impossible environment for productivity. This is not true. At all. Like with any living situation, it is what you make of it. I realized I was most productive when I was working on campus, in between classes, so I rarely worked in my room anyways. When I did work in Southwest, I used the common rooms (located on each residential floor) or the workroom on a common-floor (an entire floor with tables, chalkboards, TVs and couches — each tower has three). The rest of the time, I was socializing with my neighbors and friends and making UMass my home.