Are College Dorms Soundproof? The Truth Behind the Noise

Moving into a dorm is an exciting time, but are you going to have to worry about your loud neighbors keeping you up all night? I’m here to tell you all about college dorms and whether or not they’re soundproof.

Are college dorms soundproof? College dorm rooms are typically constructed with materials that are not any more soundproof than a normal room in a house. A student living in a dorm should not expect a dorm room to be completely soundproof, unless aftermarket additions are made, or soundproof mitigation techniques are used.

Here are some further ways you can tell how soundproof your dorm room will be and what you can do if noise becomes a problem.

What Factors Make a Dorm Soundproof?

While you should not expect your college dorm to be completely soundproof, there are some dorm rooms that will be more soundproof than others. This is all dependent on the type of materials used while the dorm room was constructed. Below you can find some of the construction types and features that will make your dorm more or less soundproof.

SoundProofing of College Dorm Walls

The majority of the sound is going to come from your neighbors on each side of the wall. Depending on what the walls are made of, they may provide further aid in soundproofing

College Dorm Wall MaterialSoundproofing Ability
BrickMost Soundproof
ConcreteSome Soundproofing
Wood/DrywallLeast Soundproof
  • Brick: Think of an exposed brick wall, or those giant building block looking things. This reminds me of my high school classrooms. The majority of older, larger dorms will likely feature these types of walls, and thankfully they’re the most soundproof. You’re likely to still hear some noise, but not as much as other wall types.
  • Concrete: Out of all materials, concrete is probably the least prevalent wall type within college dorms. Concrete provides good soundproofing, better than drywall, but just not as good as brick.
  • Studs/Drywall: Unfortunately, drywall is probably most prevalent with newer construction in the last couple decades. Drywall with wooden studs have the ability to be thrown up quickly and provide the least amount of soundproofing. Some colleges may go to the added expense of adding in soundproofing during construction, but highly unlikely.

Additional Dorm Features Aiding in Soundproofing

Outside of the walls, there are a couple other factors that influence how soundproof your dorm will be. Later on in this post, we’ll talk about how you can purchase items for these features to make them more soundproof.

  • Flooring: Nearly all college dorms will either come with concrete or carpeted floors. Carpeted floors will provide significantly more soundproofing than concrete floors. For carpeted floors, they will reduce any sound coming from the neighbor below, and aid in cutting out any noise that you’re making, too.
  • Doors: The thickness of the door and the fit to the dorm frame are going to influence soundproofing. If there’s a distinct gap between the bottom of the door and the floor, you’re going to hear a lot of noise from the hallway.
  • Windows: The majority of windows put in dorms will be on the cheaper side, therefore they’ll be paper thin and you’re going to likely hear noise from outside. Thankfully, unless you live next to a busy street, highway, or bar, this shouldn’t be too terrible.

How do I soundproof my Dorm?

You know how when you walk into an empty room and you can hear every single sound? This is because there’s nothing to absorb the sound being created. When you start putting in furniture and things on the wall, there then becomes an object to absorb the sound being ceated. Here are some of the top tips on soundproofing your dorm:

  • Hang art on the walls: Before you do this, be sure to check with your student housing on what is allowed to be hung up. If you can hang up a canvas, you can get creative and install some acoustic foam (this stuff from Amazon) in the pocket behind the canvas. This will both decorate your room and cut down on noise. Here’s a quick DIY video on how to do this.
  • Hang cork board on the walls: Cork board does a great job in soundproofing. Also, being a college student, it’s a great way to stay organized! Opt for a larger size board in order to cover more space, and have more room for organization. Something like this from Amazon will serve a great purpose.
  • Hang tapestries on the walls: Thick tapestries are excellent because they cover a ton of space and create an additional layer to block sound.
  • Put a headboard on your bed: If the head of your bed is on the same wall as your noisy neighbors, the addition of a thick headboard will help with blocking out any extra noise.
  • Put rugs on the dorm floor: If you already have a carpeted room, this likely won’t be necessarily. However, if you have a concrete floor, putting down large rugs or pieces of carpet will help reduce any noise you hear from below you and vice versa.
  • Arrange furniture appropriately: Placing large pieces of furniture like a dresser, armoire, or futon will help reduce the sound that you’ll hear from neighbors. In this case, the more upholstery, the better. These are barriers that sound have to travel through in order to get into your room, making any unwarranted noise more bearable.
  • Install a door draft stopper: Like we mentioned earlier, if you have a large gap between your actual door and the floor, there’s likely a lot of hallway noise that’s infiltrating your room. A “draft stopper” is a device that will create a barricade in that open area, closing it off to both air and sound. This one sold on Amazon is super cheap and will work like a charm.
  • Hang thick curtains on your windows: For those that have a problem with noise from outdoors. Installing a hanging rod and hanging thick curtains will give another layer between you and your thin, cheap, windows. Also, it will make your dorm look a lot more homey.

Additional Ways to Avoid Unwanted Noise in a Dorm

If you’re not wanting, or not allowed, to go through and make changes to the actual dorm room, there are several additional ways to deal with the next door party that won’t stop.

  • Sleep with more pillows: For those that have their beds next to a shared wall, this will be your best kept secret. As crazy as it sounds, adding some additional layers of pillows between you and the wall will help keep things more quiet.
  • White noise: Also known as a college students best friend. There are plenty of devices out there that create artificial white noise, but you’re best off just buying an inexpensive bedside fan. You can turn a fan to its highest setting, and nearly all exterior noises will be gone. I personally have this fan from Amazon for my apartment, and it’s amazing. Also, after sleeping with a fan, you’ll end up sleeping with one for the rest of your life.
  • Earplugs: Earplugs are my last recommendation because they’re such a touchy subject. Yes, they work well, but at the same time, they can cause other problems. Imagine the fire alarm goes off and you can’t hear it because of earplugs, or you miss your alarm for class in the morning. Be hesitant when resulting to earplugs as the risk may be worse than the reward.
  • Confront the culprit: The majority of noise in a college dorm will likely be from too many people being next door, or music/the TV being turned up too loud. If it’s getting on your nerves, simply go over and ask them if they can turn it down a bit. Don’t be rude; just be a friendly neighbor asking for a favor. If it continues to be problem on a continuous basis, it’s best to approach your RA or housing administration. You’re paying thousands a year to live there, so it’s your right to get good sleep the majority of the time.

With all of this being said, what’s worse: a loud college dorm, or one without AC? Check out our next article on why college dorms don’t have air conditioning.

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