A friend who just entered the Class of 2018 recently shared with me that upon letting a few mentors know about her acceptance, one of them called her immediately and said — I have only one piece of advice for you: live on campus.

My thoughts on this advice? Absolutely true. 

HBS was designed as a residential campus, with the idea that living, studying, and socializing together only increases the opportunities for learning. About 80% of the student body chooses to live on campus, and it really contributes to the close-knit feel of the community here.

I lived in Morris Hall, an on campus dorm, for all of the first year and the first semester of the second year before moving off campus to live with my partner in Back Bay (about a 10 minute drive from campus, a 50+ minute public transportation ride door to door). 

First, if you’re worried that dorms are not much larger than your previous walk in closet (this wasn’t me, but I’ve heard some classmates joke about this), know that there are many on campus housing options — everything from three bedroom apartments with kitchens, to dorms designed with the executive education population in mind. You can find something, don’t worry.

Speaking on behalf of the dorms — I felt the experience was designed to remove worry about some of the minutiae and spend more time enjoying the experience. For instance, you get trash picked up daily and a full cleaning weekly. Any maintenance issues I had were often addressed in under 24 hours, usually the next time I was in class. You get to store five boxes over the summer for free.

The second fear I had about living on campus is the lottery system. Frankly, I did not pay enough attention to the rules of the lottery system when entering it and left it as oblivious to how it worked as I was entering it. I didn’t lottery into anything, but ended up chancing upon my Morris room after hitting refresh obsessively during the HBS residence equivalent of add-drop for classes. The conclusion I take from that process is that if you want to live on campus, you can make it happen.

There’s also a big social life impact when living on campus. It isn’t quite like a college undergrad experience where the dorm is a hub for social activity. In fact, oftentimes, I found the dorms to be very quiet (and conducive to studying…?). That said, living on campus gives you the flexibility to join in last minute on late night social activities. 

Sometimes a friend on campus hosts a game night last minute. Sometimes people read cases or watch a movie together. Even if the activity is off campus, you can find a bunch of people willing to share a ride over to the off campus location. Having now experienced living off campus, I know that it’s pretty much impossible to get me back on campus after I’ve left for the day; I’ve heard this is true even if you live within walking distance of campus in Harvard Square.

Add to that last point the number of days of winter here in Boston (in short, a LOT) and the increased inertia not to go outside (or really move…) on cold days. The tunnels on campus connect the dorms to the classrooms and other buildings, and you will learn to love them through the winter.

In short, I think it’s worth returning to a more juvenile - in some ways - time of your life in exchange for a more immersive experience during your two years here. There’s a naive kind of bliss to allowing work and play to fully intertwine again.

I completely understand the desire to live off campus if a partner needs to (there are many options on the HBS campus for couples to live together, but sometimes a partner needs to be closer to work and Allston simply isn’t). If this is your case, my view is that life goes on after HBS and it’s worth it to make this concession. I think, though, you can make some smart decisions to shape your experience despite living off campus:

  • First, I found it helpful to find friends with rooms on campus that I could crash in for a quick nap or just to relax.

  • Second, I used the Shad showers and facilities shamelessly. Sometimes I would go in just for a quick shower because I left home that morning in a rush.

  • And finally, I would speak up in my section about being inclusive of those who live off campus — encourage the social chairs to schedule more activities for during the day or on weekends instead of just weekday afternoons.