Student Voices

UVA: All You Need to Know About Housing

Worried about choosing the right housing option at the University of Virginia? Then this article is just for you.

The Rotunda and the Lawn at the University of Virginia. Credit: Science Policy Initiative at UVA 

To My Future Hoos – One of the hardest things about going off to college is learning to live on your own. A new atmosphere, new people, and many other factors can make the transition from high school to college feel all the more daunting. But what really makes or breaks a student’s university experience (and potentially their grades) is where they live while there. 

As a current third-year student at the University of Virginia (UVA), I have had my fair share of both good and bad housing experiences. I hope that this article will help ease any concerns and provide you with a better idea of the options UVA offers. 


At UVA, there are several dorms available for first-years to choose from. Each one requires your UVA ID card, which you’ll receive before you start your semester, and has your photo on it, to enter. Most of the dorm doors (if not all) have a card swipe and a key code option. UVA provides a mobile app that allows you to unlock your door if you misplaced your key or forgot the code. That same app can be used to call for maintenance if needed.

A laundry room at UVA. Credit: the University of Virginia

Your ID card also gives you access to the laundry room(s) and what’s called Cavalier Advantage, a money system tied to your card. The balance is rechargeable and similar to a debit card. Cavalier Advantage can be used for laundry and in on-campus eateries, convenience stores, and vending machines. The convenience stores are my go-to places when I run out of snacks and cereal; they even have dinner, lunch, and breakfast options, many of which are microwavable. 

Another thing to note is that UVA’s laundry and mailing systems will send a message to your student email account when your laundry is close to being done, is done, or you have mail.

Examples of student and staff University ID Cards. Credit: the University of Virginia 
First-Year Housing Options

Similar to most big-name universities, first-years cannot live off campus or have cars, but they are provided with some of UVA’s best and most modern residences. All first-year housing has amenities (which factor into your housing fees) such as air conditioning, laundry, public bathrooms with showers, and standard room furnishings.  

First-years can choose who they wish to room with; otherwise, your roommate(s) are selected randomly. The application process itself is random as well. You may express your residential preferences when you fill out your housing application, but there is no guarantee you will get the place you want. However, your preferences have more weight after you complete your first year. 

UVA also has an open housing roommate option inclusive of those who wish to request roommates regardless of gender. Other accommodations are offered along with individual support services to help students with their housing selection process.

There are three housing options to choose from as a first-year, but for Echols or Rodman Scholars, your housing is self-selective and in the Scholars Community around the Alderman Road Area.

Here are the three residential colleges for first-years:

Brown Residential College: 

The Brown Residential College is one of the oldest buildings on campus, but you wouldn’t know by its appearance inside or out. Brown College has a two shared-bedroom setup where students are connected to their roommate by a shared bathroom. There is a bed, a desk with a chair, and a dresser layout with ample space, with a hard tiled floor. I highly recommend that you bring a rug. 

A single room in Brown Residential College. Credit: the University of Virginia 

One of the advantages of this residential college is its proximity to the main grounds and meal hall. You are less than five minutes from those two places and about a 10-minute walk to most halls where your classes are located. There is also air conditioning, Wifi, and access to study lounges, and a kitchen area. Brown is a living-learning community, meaning that students will be living and working closely with staff and faculty. Use this link to learn more about the residence: Brown Residential College

Hereford Residential College: 

Hereford is a hall-type residence known for its active community and events centered around diversity and sustainability. The area surrounding the building has benches, tables, hammocks, and a playing field. Many students have pick-up games of any kind going on throughout every semester. 

Most first-years are assigned double rooms with 28 students living on each floor. Hereford provides the same desk-chair, dresser, and bed setup as Brown and is right next to the Runk Dining Hall. Nearby is also the Hereford Hub—a community get-together area that usually hosts events. And yes, there is air-conditioning. 

A double room in Hereford College Malone. Credit: the University of Virginia

A downside of this residence is its location. Hereford is one of the farthest dormitories from the Rotunda and the Lawn. Many students bring bicycles with them. If you choose to do so, I strongly recommend buying a good lock for your bike. When I was living at Lambeth Field Houses (a different residence hall that’s far from campus), my bike was stolen once because of a faulty lock. Use this link to learn more about the residence: Hereford Residential College

International Residential College: 

Despite its name, the International Residence College doesn’t just take students from outside the United States; there are plenty of students from around the country. This residence hall has single and double options, with air conditioning and the standard layout like Hereford and Brown. There are many study rooms and a central area with tables, televisions, games, and a piano for residents. Outside are beach chairs, tables, and a few fields.

A single room in the International Residential College. Credit: the University of Virginia 

The location isn’t the best, as it’s found right next to the intersection between Ivy Road and Emmet Street. Both streets are busy during the day and have a few drivers at night. However, traffic and pedestrians’ sounds are not noticeable and the entrance is facing away from the roads. Regarding campus access, this college isn’t as far as Hereford, but not as close as Brown. Use this link to learn more about the residence: International Residential College

Something to be aware of is that some housing selections will not be available to first-years and are usually application or grade-based, but well known among the student population. Here’s a list for future reference:

The Shea House:

An application-based language immersion house where students live and eat only using the language you are learning; your fellow roommates are based on that language. Living here is an excellent opportunity to strengthen your language skills. 

Maison Française (French House):

Similar to The Shea House, but Maison Française is only for French-language students.

Casa Bolívar

The Spanish-language version of the Shea House and Maison Française.

The Lawn:

The most prestigious place to live, it is considered an honor to live here located right next to the Rotunda and, of course, the Lawn. These rooms do not have air conditioning and are some of the oldest on campus, but they have wireless and wifi! The Lawn rooms are furnished with wood floors, a usable fireplace, rocking chair, and loft bed.

One of the prestigious rooms on the Lawn. Credit: the University of Virginia

This housing option is only available to undergraduates in their final year at UVA. The application process is considerably more competitive but the symbolism and prestige of living right next to the Rotunda, and also where Edgar Allen Poe was rumored to live when he was a student, make it one of the most sought-after places to live on campus.  

If you have any further questions or wish to learn more check out UVA’s website: Housing & Residence at the University of Virginia

A bird’s eye view of the University of Virginia with the Rotunda left of center. Credit: the University of Virginia

For most first-year students you will find out where you live in July before your first semester. I hope that this article helped you to better understand housing at UVA and that you have an amazing first year wherever you choose to go. 

Go Hoos Go!!!

By Joseph Gorzka III

Third-year at the University of Virginia who is majoring in English and East Asian Studies.