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Living at UMass: What Residential Area is the best fit for me?

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Six images of the different residential areas here at UMass Amherst with the title, Living at UMass: What Residential Area is the best fit for me?

One of the best parts about living on campus here at the University of Massachusetts Amherst is how extensive the residential choices are. Freshman can currently choose to live in one of six different residential halls: CentralCommonwealth Honors College Residential CommunityNortheastOrchard HillSouthwest, and Sylvan. Each residence hall are has different advantages in the atmosphere, proximity to classes, recreation, and research facilities. Here at UMass Amherst, many students fondly view these various living areas as having their own distinct characteristics and charm that make living in these areas a highly unique experience. 

As a freshman, I remember being a little lost about what residential area would be the best fit for me. I knew I was going to spend a full year in whatever residential hall I chose, so I did not want to make the wrong decision. To help ease your worry about what is the best residential area for you, I spoke with six different UMass students about what they enjoyed about living in the various residential areas. 

Central: Emma ’21

"I lived in Central my freshman and sophomore year, first in Van Meter and then in Butterfield. I lived in Van Meter because I was in a performance and visual arts Residential Academic Program (RAP). I am an architecture major, so living and learning with others interested in visual and performing arts was rather appealing to me since I wanted to explore the other disciplines of the Humanities and Fine Arts.

"I continued to live in Central during my sophomore year due to its close proximity to the Design Building and the Fine Arts center, which was very convenient since I spent a lot of time in these areas. What I liked most about living in this area was the people, because I had a lot in common with them being a part of the HFA majors. We all had some aspect of creativity in our majors, and it made it easier to bond with each other. Due to this, I think those who are HFA majors or interested in the arts would love this area a lot. There are a lot of creative minds in Central, and it also is in close proximity to all the art buildings where students have classes."

Commonwealth Honors College Residential Community: Jenny ’21

"I lived in the Honors College during my freshman and sophomore years. Since I am a part of the college I thought it would be fun to take advantage of the honors dorms during my time on campus. I really loved the suite-style living provided in these dorms. It is really cool to live with a group of friends in a set up that is pretty similar to a traditional apartment, especially during my start of college. Additionally, being a psychology major, the honors dorms are in close proximity to my classes and the center of campus in general, which is super convenient. The Honors College is also home to Roots Café, which is a great stop for a variety of food at any time of the day. They even offer breakfast grab and go! Overall, if you are admitted to the Honors College I would highly suggest considering living in this area, especially if you like the idea of suite-style living."

Northeast: Laura ’21

"I currently live in Northeast as a Peer Mentor for one of the freshman halls. Being a part of the College of Engineering, living in Northeast is extremely convenient. Since Northeast is located on the far side of campus, it is very close to many of the STEM classes. For people like myself, especially if you have an early class, it is really convenient to be close to your classes rather than being on the other side of campus and having to make the hike over.

"With that in mind, I think students who are involved in any of the STEM majors would really benefit from living in Northeast. Additionally, Northeast is known to be quiet but can be rather lively when you find your close group of friends. Students who also want a bit of peace and quiet now and then would likely really enjoy living in this area."

Orchard Hill: Shannon ’20

"I wanted to live in Orchard Hill because I wanted something quiet, and I liked the idea of the nicer rooms because it was the old Honors College and has a unique set up. I liked living there because the rooms were great, it had nice scenery, I was a part of an anthropology Residential Academic Program (RAP) class and got to make friends that way, and it was not loud all the time in the hall.

"I think people that are laid back and want a quieter living situation but do not want to be completely isolated would really enjoy living here. Orchard Hill is also home to Sweets & More, a student-run business that sells really great junk food, which is a really great perk if you are in the mood for some good milkshakes. The hill is also a great alternative to the Recreation Center and I can promise that you will have great legs after living near the hill."

Southwest: Kolby ’21

"I lived in Southwest during my freshman and junior year. As a freshman, it was suggested to me that I join a Residential Academic Program (RAP), so I decided to look into one applicable to my major at the time, which was biology on the pre-med track. I ended up enrolling in the medical ethics RAP, which was located in Southwest in Emerson Hall at the time. As for my junior year, I became a Residential Assistant in Coolidge hall in Southwest, so I once again lived in the area.

"What I like the most about living here in Southwest is not only is it close to all my psychology classes, it is located right next to Berk and Hamp dining commons, so the food is always great, and it is within walking distance from the Recreation Center.  With this in mind, I think those that enjoy sports and are in the business school or any of the sciences, since the academic buildings are close by, would really enjoy living here in Southwest. Overall, I think every type of student can find their niche in Southwest since the area is so large and similar to a small city."

Sylvan: Myles ’21

"I am currently living in Sylvan as a junior. I decided to live here because I wanted to live with a group of friends in a suite. What I like the most about living here is that in a suite, you have more freedom than a traditional dorm set up. Since you have your own space and common area for you and your suitemates, it just feels more private than traditional dorm life is.

"I think people who like the idea of living with a group of friends and want that private space should really consider living in Sylvan. Sylvan is the only place that provides suite living to freshman besides the honors dorm, which you have to be in the Honors College to even live there, so Sylvan provides a very unique living experience for those that decide to live there." 

Other Posts by this Author

Meet the Major: English

A photo of South College with the text, Meet the Major: English

I applied to the University of Massachusetts Amherst as an English major back in 2017. Throughout the entirety of my schooling, I have always been fascinated by literature. I was a textbook book worm. I always had my nose in a book and I was constantly on the hunt for the next piece of literature I could get my hands on. When I was in high school, my love for English flourished. I took Advanced Placement Literature and the course challenged me to explore the depth of the discipline, and left me hungry for more. Back in high school I also had the most compassionate and vibrant English teacher, and her passion for the subject led in part to my decision to pursue a career in English. Despite adding a secondary major in communication, my love for English is still as strong as ever. 

Things I learned at UMass outside of class

A photo of the UMass campus with the text, Things I learned at UMass outside of class.

College is a pivotal time of learning in a student’s life. While you will without a doubt be learning in the classroom, I think a lot of people underestimate how much students grow outside of it as well. Looking back at who I was in high school, I cannot believe how different I am and how much I have grown. My time in college has taught me crucial skills and has given me experiences that I will hold with me for the rest of my life. So, what have I learned outside of the classroom? Let’s take a look at three of the things that I have learned at the University of Massachusetts Amherst outside of the classroom.