When you think about law school, you might be dreaming about classes, research with faculty, and student journals. But at some point, you’re going to think about the practicalities of the law school experience. Enter our On and Off Campus blog, bringing you some of the best places to eat, play, read, and study here in Cambridge and Somerville.
Over the coming weeks, we’re going to feature some of the places you can live while you are at Harvard Law School. First up: the on-campus dorms. HLS dorm options include Hastings Hall (one- and two-bedrooms), North Hall (singles), the “Woodframes” houses, or the Gropius Complex (singles).
Mark, Abe, Jenny, Catherine, and Daniel are all 1Ls at HLS and residents of Story Hall and Holmes Hall in the Gropius Complex. They took a few minutes to sit down with Dean Jobson in the HLS Pub and share their thoughts on living in the dorms.
Alright, set the stage for our readers. When we walk into your dorm, what would we see?
Mark: A giant window.
Abe: The windows are pretty nice, actually.
Catherine: When I FaceTime with friends, they tell me that the background looks like a sleeper car on a train – there’s a big shelf above the beds in Gropius, and I have my suitcases up there.
Jenny: There’s tons of storage in the Gropius dorms, between the shelves in the closet, huge bookcases, the shelf above the bed, and the drawers under the bed.
Catherine: It was a pleasant surprise, actually.
Daniel: Plants. I have a few huge plants in my room.
What about the Gropius common areas?
Catherine: You should ask Daniel! He’s the master of the kitchen in Holmes Hall.
Daniel: It’s a shared kitchen for the dorm, but I feel like I have it to myself. No one ever uses the oven.
Catherine: False! Someone was just making a peach pie yesterday.
Abe: I have a friend who cooks full four-course meals in the Holmes kitchen.
Jenny: There’s a big shared spice rack in the kitchen, and a shared food area.
Daniel: I was surprised at the amount of fridge space in the kitchen. Everyone has essentially half a drawer.
Jenny: I think that’s because most everyone has a mini-fridge in their room, which I definitely recommend.
Abe: My mini-fridge is kind of sad. Just a couple of yogurts and water.
Jenny: In addition to the kitchens, there’s a lounge on every floor in the dorms, and easy access to the other Gropius dorms, since they’re attached.
Mark: The common areas have a TV with cable, sofa, couches, table and chairs. We have a balcony on our floor.
What made you choose Gropius?
Daniel: The cost, plain and simple. It’s the cheapest of the on-campus options.
Abe: And definitely less expensive than living off-campus. Getting a single was really ideal for me and the price couldn’t be beat.
Catherine: I actually planned to live off-campus originally, but my housing fell through at the last minute. There was one room left in Holmes, and I got it four days before Orientation began.
Jenny: For me, Gropius was all about the convenience, since it’s right next door to the WCC [note from KJ: that’s Wasserstein Hall and the Caspersen Student Center], where we have all our 1L classes.
How long would you say it takes you to get to class?
Jenny: Less than two minutes.
Catherine: Ninety seconds. But I walk really fast.
Jenny: You basically take ten steps outside Story and you’re in the WCC.
Abe: Being so close to class has saved me so many times.
Students often say that they like Gropius because of the social feel, with twenty residents per floor. How do you meet people in the dorms?
Mark: Honestly, I just introduced myself to my next-door neighbors on the first day.
Abe: Mark was one of the first people I met.
Jenny: My floor did a dinner out with our Resident Adviser at the start of the year. We’ve also done a bowling night mixer with another floor, and an ice cream night.
Mark: We did cupcake decorating as a floor.
Abe: Yeah, our floor did shawarma.
Jenny: People study in the floor lounge, which means that you see each other a lot.
Daniel: Living in Gropius is a really nice way to meet people outside your section, and LL.M. students as well.
Abe: I don’t think I would have met any LL.M. students this fall if I hadn’t lived in the dorms.
Catherine: And dorm living is a nice way to get to know people who are in your section, too. My best friend from my section lives two doors down from me in the dorms.
What do you see as the pros of living in Gropius?
Daniel: I’ve honestly just saved hours of my life this semester from not having to commute. Living in Gropius has also made me more likely to join extracurricular activities, because it’s so easy to get back and forth from home to meetings. And the gym is right here on campus.
Mark: The dorms are generally more affordable, less of a hassle than finding an apartment, and you’re not stuck with finding a subletter for a year-long lease if you don’t plan to stay in Boston for the summer.
Jenny: Really easy to get back home to grab something you forgot for class.
Catherine: You don’t have to lug around your case books during the day.
Jenny: My laptop lives in my room. I never have to bring it around with me during the day.
Abe: The naps. Going back home for a nap between class is prime.
Jenny: And being next door to the WCC kind of expands your home base. I’ve gone back to the student lounge in my pajamas late at night to read by the fireplace.
Mark: Yeah, the WCC is open at all hours, if you want to study late and get out of the dorms.
Daniel: The ability to meet people outside my section.
Catherine: Some people who live off-campus actually wish they had chosen on-campus because of the social life.
And how about the cons? What are the drawbacks to living in Gropius?
Jenny: The shared bathroom. It takes some getting used to again after having your own apartment. And the shared kitchen. For people who like to cook, I wouldn’t recommend Gropius.
Daniel: I disagree. It’s pretty solid. I cook two times a day in the shared kitchen, and I don’t mind it at all.
Catherine: He eats about seven meals a day. On Saturdays, he makes pancakes for everyone.
Jenny: I tend to bring Tupperware to the lunch talks during the week and save leftovers. I never cook during the week.
Mark: The biggest drawback to living in Gropius is that sometimes it feels like I never escape the law school. You have to make sure you take time away from campus, because it’s easy to stay here all day.
So how do you make sure you get out of the HLS bubble?
Abe: Go over to a friend’s house off-campus. Explore Boston. I’m from the West Coast, and I’d never been here. I’ve been surprised at how the T makes everyone accessible here.
Daniel: I plan to do a few trips. The airport is super close with the T.
Jenny: You can book cheap flights from Boston to a lot of places, and there’s free public transit from the airport back to campus.
Daniel: There’s definitely some LL.M. students in Holmes who are taking advantage of the opportunity to go on vacation during grad school.
Over 40% of 1Ls live in the dorms, but less than 20% of 2Ls. Do you think you will continue to live in the dorms after 1L year?
Daniel: Nope. I’m going to get a dog next year, and my plants are already crowding me for space.
Mark: I recommend the dorms, at least for the first year. But now that I have a better sense of the Cambridge/Somerville area, it will be easier to find a place off-campus.
Jenny: I think I’ll continue to live in the dorms. I like the convenience factor. I might move from Gropius to Hastings next year.
Abe: I think I’ll probably stay. The price is right, and it’s convenient to be right here. Plus, I lived in the dorms throughout undergrad, so I’ve got my dorm décor all set.
The Harvard Law School dorms are run by HLS On-Campus Housing, part of the Dean of Students Office. Want to figure out what living experience makes the best sense for you at HLS? Take the Harvard Law School Housing quiz.