For many students, leaving the comforts of home and moving in to college for the first time can be a difficult transition. Thoughts of leaving family, friends, and high school behind can conjure feelings of fear and discomfort, but at some schools, students can bring a piece of home along to ease the process.
While bringing a pet from home can ease the transition to college life, there are many other advantages to housing a pet, says Wendy Toth, editor of pet resource site Petside.com. "A lot of students take in a lot of different factors when deciding where they want to go to school, but I know of lot of [them] worry about the feeling of fitting in," Toth says. "A huge advantage is that pets provide social support."
For students who are beginning college with no established friendships there, the prospect of meeting new people can be nerve wracking. With a pet by your side, a student has a ready-made topic of conversation, says John Sullivan, dean of admission and financial aid at Eckerd College in Florida.
"Students can bond over their pets, and I think that can be a way to meet some additional people on campus," Sullivan notes. "It adds friendliness to a campus."
While pets can bring a social element to the university, students who care for an animal in college have increased responsibilities, Sullivan acknowledges. "For a lot of students, it adds even more structure and organization to their day because they have another being that they're responsible for."
Taking on this extra responsibility can be a time-consuming endeavor, especially for a college student trying to balance an academic and social life. Megan Goldner, a recent Texas State University—San Marcos graduate, cared for a cat during her college years and found the experience to be trying at times.
"Any time I wanted to leave my apartment for more than a night, [my cat] had to come with me as I couldn't afford to board her," Goldner says.
Along with the time that is spent catering to a pet, unwanted expenses can be incurred, Goldner notes. "I ran up my electric bill to unnecessary levels by leaving the balcony door cracked for [my cat] to access her litter box outside," she says. "And to add insult to injury, she wreaked havoc on the carpet in my old bedroom. [That totaled] hundreds of dollars down on new carpeting."
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Although balancing a full college schedule while caring for an animal can bring stress to a student's life, pets can provide a much-needed perspective, says Petside.com's Toth.
"That's important for students that are wrapped up in their studies," she says. "I think [pets] have a great knack for not letting us forget what's really important in life."
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Many colleges and universities have created housing policies that let students live with certain pets, though it's important to consult your school's policies before packing your pooch, as these regulations differ by campus. These 10 colleges and universities, listed in alphabetical order, are among those with pet-friendly policies on campus:
1. Case Western Reserve University: The Cleveland-based university approves of small, caged animals, such as bunnies or hamsters. Students in Greek life can even apply for a house "mascot," such as a cat or dog, to live in fraternity and sorority homes.
2. Eckerd College: Students at this Florida school are permitted to have cats and dogs under 40 pounds, as well as fish and snakes, in three student complexes. Dogs are a frequent sight on campus and have even been spotted at graduation ceremonies, notes Sullivan, dean of admission and financial aid at Eckerd. "A couple of years ago, we had one young lady whose dog actually walked across stage with her at commencement."
3. Lehigh University: Although students are only permitted to have 10-gallon fish tanks in the residence halls on this Pennsylvania campus, students that live in a fraternity or sorority home are allowed to have one dog or cat per house.
4. Massachusetts Institute of Technology: There are four cat-friendly dormitories on campus for students who can't leave home without their favorite feline. Students are limited to one cat in the residence halls and must contain them to cat-friendly areas.
5. Principia College: The Illinois institution allows pets that can be kept in cages or aquariums, such as fish, birds, snakes, lizards, and more.
6. Stephens College: Searcy Hall—or Pet Central, as students call it—on this Missouri campus allows for a variety of pets, ranging from dogs and cats to lizards and birds. In this complex, there is not a weight limit for animals, and there is even Doggie Daycare—for times when students aren't around to care for their pets.
7. Stetson University: This Florida campus reserves one complex—Nemec Hall—for students with pets. The residence hall is open to dogs weighing less than 30 pounds, cats, hamsters, gerbils, and more. There is also a dog park on campus that allows dogs—and students—to socialize and interact with one another.
8. Sweet Briar College: While some schools allow cats and dogs, this Virginia college permits students to bring their horses from home. "You have to be part of [the Sweet Briar Riding Program] to bring your horse, but if you [are], your personal horse can be boarded right there with you," says Petside.com's Toth.
9. University of Notre Dame: While the Indiana school does not allow dogs or cats in the residence halls, it grants permission for students to house non-carnivorous, freshwater fish in aquariums, as long as the tank does not exceed 30 gallons.
10. Washington and Jefferson College: Monroe Hall, or the "Pet House," as it is known on this Pennsylvania campus, permits cats, dogs that weigh less than 40 pounds, small birds, hamsters, gerbils, guinea pigs, turtles, and fish. The college allows only one pet per room, so the school advises students to discuss the living situation with their potential roommates before applying for housing.
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