College Dorm Internet: WiFi, Ethernet, Connection, And Speed

Staying connected to the internet is one of the most important parts of a college living experience, so I’m here today to tell you what to expect with the internet in college.

Below you will find a comprehensive look at what to expect for internet, how to increase your speed, and other helpful tips for students dealing with internet issues in their dorm rooms.

College Dorm Internet – What Should you Expect?

All colleges will typically have school provided WiFi, or the ability to hook up your own router in your dorm room to create a WiFi network. If a WiFi network is unavailable, dorm rooms may offer an ethernet plug where you can hardwire your internet connection directly to your computer.

As far as the speed, this will heavily depend. The majority of students across the country will tell you that their school will talk up the speed of their internet, and the actual results just aren’t as quick. During times of high traffic, such as evenings and weekends, things may be a little slower than what you’re used to at your family home. However, you should still have quick enough internet to do things like watch YouTube videos, stream Netflix, and search the web.

In addition there are a couple other important things to take into consideration when looking at your college dorm internet:

  • Connection Restrictions: Some colleges will require you to login with your school issued ID and password before you can connect to the internet. If you have guests over, they may have a guest network, however you may have trouble with getting them connected.
  • Device Limits: Some colleges limit the amount of devices that you can hook up to either your personal network, or the overall dorm network. Through research, we’ve found that around 5 devices is the typical max, if a limit does exist. Be sure to choose carefully on what you’re bringing to college, because a phone and computer are already 2 of the 5!
  • Access: Some of your academic work may require for you to be logged in to the school network. Therefore, be sure to ask around to upperclassman and your professors if this is ever the case. It wouldn’t be cool to go to a coffee shop and then find out that you have to be back on-campus in order to access the requirements for a homework assignment.

If you have already moved in to your dorm, and you’re looking for ways to speed up the connection, check out the next section below.

How to Get a Faster Internet Connection in a College Dorm Room

Chances are that you’re facing slow internet, so you ended up on this article. Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered on some ways to help with your slow internet problem. Check out this list that we’ve compiled from across the web, personal experiences, and tips from all of our good college friends.

1. Wire your Connection

You will undoubtedly have a quicker internet connection if you choose to plug your computer or gaming device into the wall. In order to do this, you’ll need an ethernet cord. The best part about an ethernet cord is that you don’t have to worry about potential outages from a router.

We strongly suggest that you purchase one that is 10′ or longer, so that you can move anywhere in your room, and still have the internet connectivity that you desire. Do not go to a local store like Walmart or Bestbuy to buy these, you’ll get charged way more than necessary. Check out this 15 foot cord on Amazon for less than $10.

Do college dorm rooms have ethernet ports? Usually college dorms do have ethernet ports. However, you may find that it’s turned off when you move in, or try to access it for the first time. You will need to submit a work order to your ITS department of the college in order to get it turned on. However, if you are just moving in, be aware that 100’s or 1000’s of other students are also just moving in, so expect the wait to be anywhere from a couple days to a couple weeks.

Also, if you’re planning on wiring multiple connections (e.g. a gaming console and a computer), be sure to buy an ethernet network switch and multiple ethernet cords in order to run all of your devices. We recommend this ethernet switch from Amazon because it’s cheap, and will allow you to hook up 5 devices at the same time.

2. Download, Stream, and Game When Others Aren’t

The reason why you likely have slow internet is because everyone else in your building is trying to do the exact same thing as you, and stealing all of the bandwidth. When you are doing things that require a good internet connection like downloading large files, streaming Netflix, or playing a computer game online, you either need to have fast internet, or do it when others aren’t.

You will likely find that weekday evenings and weekend afternoons/evenings are the most popular times for everyone to use the internet. Try to do activities requiring intenret, if at all possible, during the day when you’re not in class and others are, on weekend mornings, or if you’re a night owl, in the middle of the night when others are sleeping.

3. Be Efficient With your Internet Usage

Unless you go to a college where you have a fiber optic connection, and everyone has lightning fast internet, you’re not going to be able to watch Netflix, YouTube, stream Spotify, and download files all at the same time. When you want a faster connection, be aware of what else may be using the internet and do one thing at a time. When downloading files, only download them one at a time and try not to download multiple things at the same time. If you’re playing a game on the computer, make sure that all other programs are turned off that may be stealing your bandwidth.

4. Purchase a High Gain Wireless Network Adapter

If you’re depending on school provided WiFi, and your dorm room is very far away from the router that’s outputting the signal, getting a high gain adapter will vastly help with your problem. While these look a little funny, they will help extend the range of your natural laptop or computer connection. Simply plug it in to your computers USB port, go through the steps of setup, and you will be golden! We highly recommend this one from Amazon which is very affordable.

Remember, this will only help if you’re having trouble getting the signal in your room. If the actual signal or speed coming out of the primary router isn’t good to begin with, this product likely won’t help. Just ask a couple of your neighbors what their normal internet speed is. If your neighbor two doors down the hall never has an issue, but you can’t stream one of your favorite Netflix shows, this product is likely for you.

5. Use your Phone’s Hotspot Capability

The speed of cell phone networks have become crazy over the last decade. Not only can you stream music without an issue, you can almost always stream Netflix without any buffering! Turning your phone into your own personal router, and using it as a hotspot is a great way to get internet access if you’re having troubles with the dorm provided internet.

However, it’s important to understand what your cell provider allows as far as hotspot availability or charges. If you have unlimited data, you may not have unlimited data for hotspot usage. On the other hand, you may have a cap on hotspot data, and will have to pay for every MB or GB used over a certain cap. Be very careful here, as your charges can rack up really quick if you’re not aware of what your cell phone plan allows.

6. Restart your Devices

While restarting your devices won’t actually make the speed quicker, it will restore them to their normal speed. If you’ve had a computer on for a week straight and haven’t turned it off, there’s a chance that the WiFi is slower than it was a week prior. Restarting your devices frequently, even daily, can help with keeping a strong signal.

If you have a router in your room, we strongly recommend restarting it once a week. From personal experience, I’ve left a router on for months without restarting it, and noticed a huge increase in speed when I took a couple minutes to turn it off and turn it back on.

7. Update the Software on your Devices

In addition to restarting your devices, it’s important to also keep them up to date with the latest software. Web developers and software/hardware engineers are always trying to improve on the connectivity of their products, therefore make sure that all of your devices are always upgraded to the latest version available.

8. Avoid Objects That Can Obstruct Your Signal

As funny as it sounds, some items such as microwaves will interfere with the WiFi signal. On this list are also radios, cell phones, and any kind of large appliance. If you have your router sitting behind your microwave, or a microwave sits between you and your router, just take the precautionary measures to move stuff around. You’d be surprised at how much a small object will cut out your signal!

9. Purchase Your Own Router

Purchasing your own router can be extremely helpful as you’re then able to bypass all the other students trying to use the exact same WiFi connection. However, sometimes this may not be allowed. Next on this article we’ll talk about whether or not you can use your own router in a dorm room, but if you already know you can, go for it. We highly recommend this one on Amazon as it’s affordable, and works great in a dorm room setting.

Can you Use your Own Router in a Dorm Room?

This is a complicated topic to discuss. Some dorms don’t allow WiFi because they may claim it will cause a problem with their school network. Having numerous routers can disrupt the school owned WiFi signals. Also, when every student in a dorm has their own router or network, all of the various signals can really disrupt your connection. In this case, we recommend changing the WiFi channel so that your router isn’t competing with other routers nearby, such as your friendly neighbor. Check out this article on how to change your WiFi channel.

Before purchasing a router, be sure to gain permission from your ITS or Student Housing department. Getting caught with a router probably isn’t a huge offense, but if you were told prior to move-in that you can’t have it, you could end up with a fine or infraction. If you already know you can use your own, check out our top router recommendation on Amazon.

Also, we’ve found that some colleges have a restriction on how many devices can be connected to a personal router, so just because you hook it up, doesn’t mean all of your 10 gadgets can connect. Be sure to check with your ITS department on this topic, assuming you can bring your own router.

Do you Have To Pay for Internet In College Dorms?

You typically do not need to pay for internet in college dorms, as it’s already included within the semester or yearly cost of your housing agreement. In some cases, there may be a premium charge for internet, or even an upgraded internet package. Through research, we most commonly found that internet is just bundled in with the big price tag you pay when moving into a dorm.

Other Helpful Tips About Internet in College Dorms

1. Pay Attention to Planned Outages

Be sure to be on the lookout for planned outages within your college network, and work around them. If they are planned, they will usually let students know via your student provided email. It wouldn’t be good to plan to work on a project, requiring internet, and then you don’t have internet!

2. Be Aware of Firewalls/Filtered Content

It is not uncommon for college internet to block things such as illegal or adult content, but you may find that things that shouldn’t be blocked, like Youtube or Netflix, may also be on the banned list. The way to get around this is via a VPN. We highly recommend Nord VPN. If a VPN doesn’t work, then you’re probably out of luck.

Note that if your college is blocking it, it’s important that you figure out why they are. Unless you go to a very strict school that is focused on academic 24/7, they probably have those things blocked for good reasons (e.g. chance of viruses or malware, etc.).

3. Don’t Torrent On School Networks

For those that are advanced with their computer skills, don’t try to torrent items in college. Not only will torrenting be slow, but unless you’re a computer ninja, every movement you make over a college network is tracked carefully. Downloading the latest version of a photo editing software (without paying for it) will likely be caught and handled in a not so great way.

4. Utilize Other On-Campus or Off-Campus Internet

Just because you’re living in a dorm doesn’t mean that you have to use the internet in the dorm. Many colleges and universities offer on-campus libraries that usually have less students using them, and therefore a faster internet connection. If you want to get away and work off-campus, go to a nearby coffee shop that offers free WiFi. Just be sure that you don’t need to be connected to an on-campus network in order to get any of your school work done.

5. Get ITS Support When All Else Fails

Check with your college Information Technology Services (ITS) or Student Housing if you can’t figure it out. While internet may not be lightning quick, it should be reasonable enough to surf the web and get academic work done. If you find that yours isn’t, check to see if there are other problems

Moving off to college soon, or already in college? Check out our top 10 dorm room essentials!

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