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Incoming Student Frequently Asked Questions

Q. When do the residence halls open?

A. Please see the Residential Life Calendar for the dates and times incoming first-year students are allowed to arrive. Also make note of the closing dates and times, so that you can plan your travel accordingly.

Q. How do I know where I will be living?

A. You will receive your roommates and room assignments from Residential Life in late July or early August. We know you are anxious to get this information and work diligently to produce it as soon as we can. Please recognize that during the summer there are many items we have to make certain are correct before sending out the first-year room assignments.

Once you know where you are living, you can check the map of residence halls on the Office of Residential Life web site to see where your residence hall is on campus.

Remember that, as well as calling by phone, you can activate your Brown email and try to contact your roommate(s) that way. You can search for your roommate's Brown email address in the directory on the Brown Home Page. This is a good reason to activate your Brown account if you have not already done so - your roommate may be trying to email you, too.

Q. What is my telephone number?

A. Your telephone number will be provided in the mailing with your room and roommates assignments. All student residence hall phone numbers follow the pattern of (401) 867-xxxx. The phone number is linked to the room, not to the person.

For more information concerning Brown's phone service, please see the Residential Life policy page or visit CIS' Telecommunications page.

Q. What is my mailing address?

A. Your mailing address will be your box number at Brown. All actively-enrolled undergraduate students, whether living on campus or off campus, are required to maintain a mailbox at the University mailroom in J. Walter Wilson.

You will receive your campus box number in August. Students will retain the same assigned mailbox for the duration of their undergraduate studies, provided they do not separate from the University (e.g., study away or take a leave of absence).

The policies about and correct formats for postal mail and packages, as well as instructions for sending faxes to students, are located on the Brown University Mail Services site.

Q. How do I get into my room? Where do I get my keys?

A. You will need both your Brown ID Card and a brass key to get into your residence hall at Brown. New students will receive both their Brown I.D. Card and their brass room key when they check in upon arrival on campus. Keys can be picked up from one of the following locations on First-Year Move-in Day.

  • Morriss Lounge on the 1st floor of Morriss Hall (for students living in Morriss-Champlin, Emery-Woolley, East and West Andrews, and New Pembroke #3)
  • Arnold Lounge in Keeney Quad (for students living in Archibald/Bronson, Everett/Poland, Jameson/Mead, North and South Wayland)

Students arriving between 6:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m. on Saturday or students arriving on Sunday between 8:30 a.m. and 10:00 p.m. may pick up their keys and Brown cards at the Office of Residential Life in Graduate Center E (42 Charlesfield Street). If you arrive after 8:00 PM on Saturday the Office of Public Safety (401-863-3322) will admit students to their rooms for the evening, and students can then pick up their keys the following day at Residential Life (42 Charlesfield Street, Grad. Ctr. E).

Your Brown ID Card is an all-purpose card, used mainly for identification and to open secure doors on campus. Your Brown ID Card will be programmed to open the exterior doors on your assigned residence hall only. It will not open doors of other residence halls. There are Sabbath doors on some of the residence halls; students who indicate need are issued a brass key for Sabbath door access.

Do not attach anything to your Brown ID Card, such as stickers or key chains. Attaching foreign objects to the physical card or punching holes in it will cause damage to the campus card readers (i.e., the swipe boxes).

Your brass key will open your bedroom door, it will not open any other bedroom door. Depending on where you live, you may have a second brass key to the bike room or other common areas of the residence hall, or your room key may unlock these other areas as well.

The Brown Bookstore sells a variety of small wallets that will hold your Brown ID and have a ring to accommodate a couple of keys. Experienced students tell us that everyone has one.

Additional Information about Fall Opening

Q. I didn't send a photo in for my Brown ID Card? Now what?

A. A representative from the Brown Card Office will be available at the ID card/room key distribution points. This person will be able to answer questions regarding the ID cards. Every year a few students do not mail in a photograph; those students receive a temporary ID card without the photo. They then have two weeks to go to the Brown Card Office on the ground floor of J. Walter Wilson to add their picture to the ID.

Q. What furniture comes with my room?

A. Each student is provided the following:

  • A single bed frame, a mattress and one pillow. The mattress is "twin, extra long" (36 x 80 inches) and about six inches thick
  • Bookcase or built-in bookshelves
  • Bureau/chest of drawers
  • Closet - some rooms have built in closets, some have moveable wardrobes
  • Desk and desk chair
  • Lighting - rooms have general room lighting, but desk and floor lamps are not provided
  • Wastepaper basket (1 per resident) and recycle bucket (1 per room)
  • Individual memo boards for personal messages are provided on the corridor door to each room. Please do not remove them. A pen is provided; when you need to replace it, please do so with a pen meant for memo boards so writing will wipe off
  • All windows have pull shades, horizontal or vertical shades, and/or curtains (which are fire retardant)
  • From a telecommunications standpoint, each room is equipped as follows:
    • Telephone jack - one jack and phone number per room
    • Voice mail for each student separately
    • Ethernet connection to the Brown computing network - one tap per resident; student computers need an Ethernet (10baseT or 100baseT) card
    • IPTV
    • More information about telephone, computing and cable television is available from Computing and Information Services

Q. How much room is there under the bed?

A. There is eleven-and-a-half inches of clearance under all beds. Some of the beds frames are metal with round feet. Some of the bed frames are wooden with big square feet. If you are thinking about putting risers under the feet, check that they could accommodate the large legs - or wait until you get here and know what your bed looks like.

The Brown Bookstore and other vendors sell bed risers that will elevate the bed frame about five or six inches while still providing a solid and safe footing on the floor (these commercial products are made of plastic and are less likely to scar the floor).

Q. What about linens and bedding?

A.You will need to bring sheets, pillowcases, blankets, a bedspread or comforter, and towels. Mattresses are "twin, extra-long" (36 by 80 inches, about 6 inches thick). Extra-long fitted sheets or twin flat sheets will accommodate the mattress, but regular twin fitted sheets often will not fit. You may also wish to bring a mattress cover or pad.

Residence halls do get cold at night, particularly in early October before the heat is turned on. Many people use comforters instead of bedspreads for extra warmth. If you are having trouble finding twin, extra-long sheets try Brown Student Agencies; there is a link from the BSA web site to Residence Hall Linens - a linen vendor with extra-long sheets, comforters, and other college necessities.

Q. May I have a loft bed?

A. Lofted bed frames may be permitted only provided commercially-available products (e.g. a kit) are used. This means you may not build a loft yourself from scratch.

Before putting a loft in your room, contact staff in the Office of Residential Life (863-3502) to discuss requirements and restrictions. The main requirements have to do with safety (e.g., material and method of construction) and fire prevention (i.e., treatment of construction materials with fire retardant) and interfering with fire and life safety equipment.

Also, placing bed frames on top of dressers does not meet Rhode Island Fire Code and is not allowed.

Q. Is smoking allowed in the residence halls?

A. No. All residence halls and dining facilities at Brown are smoke-free; smoking is permitted in outdoor spaces only.

Q. Where can I do laundry?

A. Laundry machines are available in the residence halls for student use. You may use the vending stripe on your Brown ID Card to pay for the washers and dryers. You may add money to your Brown ID through the Bear Bucks website.

More information about using the vending stripe is available from the Brown Card Office (401-863-2273). You will need to bring detergent and softener. Brown Student Agencies offers laundry service. There is a dry cleaner on Thayer Street and also one on Brook Street at Power.

Q. If we arrive at Brown by car, where do we park to unload?

A. Unfortunately, finding parking is often difficult in Providence, even when it's not moving in time.

College Hill is full of narrow New England streets, which are not especially conducive to parking large numbers of cars, vans or U-Hauls. Some streets around Brown are permanently one way only. The police designate others as one-way for the duration of Brown's moving in time - this allows enough room for a car to travel through the middle while students and families park on both sides of the street to unload. When people end up having to park both sides of a two-way street, vehicles squeeze through -- and back up when necessary.

Patience is the order of the day.

When time comes to unload your belongings, the best game plan is to find a temporary street parking spot adjacent to or near your residence hall; unload and then move the car. When unloading, please do not leave your belongings unattended, stacked on the sidewalk, or the car unlocked with belongings inside.

Students on the Orientation and Welcoming Committee (OWC) will be stationed by each residence hall in colorful T-shirts to help direct you to key-pick up.

Q. What do I need to know about computing at Brown?

A. Brown's IT @ Brown web site contains a Welcome New Students section that has a checklist for computing at Brown that describes:

What you can do before you arrive:

  • Activate your electronic services, after which you can
    • Use your email
    • Vaccinate your computer with an antivirus program - Brown has a site license for Symantec Antivirus which you will be able to access as a Brown student
    • Become familiar with Brown's policy on Using Computing Resources - you would do well to read through the policy if only to know what's allowed and what is not (e.g., University resources may not be used for personal financial gain, partisan political activity or candidate campaigning, or to perpetrate harassment)

What to do after you arrive:

  • Check your telephone line
  • Install CIS software, including Brown's licensed antivirus software
  • Check out the public computing kiosks located throughout campus

Q. What should I bring?

A. Brown does not have storage for student belongings outside of the student room. Please think about what will work best for you: renting storage locally, contracting with a pack-and-store vendor, or taking your belongings home at year's end.

Brown is committed to reducing its impact on the environment, both on and off campus. Environmentally friendly alternatives for most of the items referenced below and more can be purchased locally. We encourage you to choose these or similar products for your room.

Alarm Clock - A must in order to make those morning classes.

Backpack or Book Bag - Probably the most useful thing you'll own.

Back Rest - For a variety of reasons, you may find yourself studying on your bed or in other unconventional places; in these cases, a back rest is a handy thing to own. It's also good for parking on the floor and lounging against during late-night music/tv/gab sessions.

Bicycle - Some students say yes, others say no. A bike is fun to have, but it isn't a necessity since the campus is relatively self-contained. If you bring a bike, you should register it with Public Safety. A solid steel, horseshoe-type lock (not a cable) is a must to prevent theft. There is a Brown University shuttle that runs throughout campus nightly from approximately 5pm to 3am. There are public transportation trolleys and buses to get around the city of Providence, as well as most of Rhode Island (see for more information).

Broom or Small Vacuum - You might want to sweep or vacuum the tile floor or carpet in your room. Custodial Services cleans and maintains the common areas in the residence halls, but does not enter students' individual rooms to clean.

Desk Lamp or Floor Lamp - Lighting for your desk and for more general room light is a good idea. Please choose energy-saving Compact Florescent Light bulbs (CFL), when purchasing bulbs for your lamps.  Halogen torchière floor lamps and halogen desk lamps, however, are not allowed under fire safety rules.

Fan - For the window or the floor. There are some days in September and May that are hot and sticky; a fan will keep you comfortable. Residence halls are not air-conditioned during the academic year.

Hangers - To go in your clothes closet; hangers are not provided with the room. If you bring a surplus, don't give them away too quickly, or by the middle of the year you may find suddenly that you no longer have enough.

Iron and Ironing Board - These are not provided, so if you want to iron, bring an iron and a mini board that you can set up in your room when you need it.

Laundry Supplies - Bring a laundry hamper or basket, detergent, softener. Consider purchasing cold water laundry detergent, which will clean your clothes safely and save energy. You can use the vending stripe on your Brown ID - more info about this use of your Brown ID is available from the Brown Card Office, use the Bear Bucks site to add funds to your ID. Brown Student Agencies offers a laundry service. There is a dry cleaner on Thayer Street and one on Brook Street near East Campus.

Linens -Mattresses are 36 x 80 inches (sometimes called "twin extra-long"). Bring sheets, pillowcases, blankets, comforter, towels, etc. Residence halls do get cold at night, particularly in early October before the heat is turned on. Many people use comforters instead of bedspreads for extra warmth. If you are having trouble finding twin, extra-long sheets and bedding items, try Brown Student Agencies; there is a link from the BSA web site to Residence Hall Linens - a linen vendor with extra-long sheets, comforters, and other college necessities.

Posters, Pictures and Memorabilia - Please use "fun tac," the squishy gum-like stuff - not tape, double-sided tape, tacks or nails - to hang stuff on the painted walls and doors of your room. The advantage of Fun Tac is that it comes off the wall without damaging the paint, whereas screws and double-stick foam tape are likely to pull paint when removed (and thus incur a damage charge for repair). All first-year residence hall rooms have picture molding at the top of the walls - some have four walls with molding, some have two. Use molding hooks and picture wire to hang your pictures, bulletin board, mirror, etc. from the moldings rather than attaching them to the walls. It is also a good idea to put rubber picture bumpers on the back of the bulletin board, mirror, etc. Picture wire can be purchased at the Brown Book Store or other local stores. Molding hooks are available during Arrival at the key pick up points, and from the Office of Residential Life throughout the year.

Refrigerator and/or Microwave - These items are allowed but must bear the UL approved seal. Refrigerators may not exceed 4 cubic feet, 1.5 amps, and 100 watts. One option is to check with Brown Student Agencies for information about rental. Consider getting an Energy Star qualified refrigerator.  Products with the Energy Star seal are 20% more energy efficient than the minimum federal standard.

Rug - An area rug for the room or a small rug for next to your bed is nice. Keep in mind that architectural variations room to room may make your room the same basic shape and size as the one next door, but a radiator that sticks out six inches from one wall or a closet built in a different place could make the floor area different. Think "area rug", not wall to wall carpeting. If you bring a rug or order one ahead of time, leave enough room all the way around to allow for architectural variation. You could also wait until you see your actual room before deciding whether you need a rug.

Shower Caddy - Most of the residence halls have multiple-user bathrooms (toilets, showers, sinks) on the hallway, and students need to carry their toiletries and towels between bedroom and bathroom daily. Flip flops to wear in the shower are an all-time favorite among students.

Surge Protectors - By fire safety regulation, grounded, 15-ampere rated surge protectors are the only type of extension cord allowed in the residence halls. This is a very important fire safety rule - overloaded extension cords can cause fires! We will confiscate extension cords that do not fit the approved ratings, and will confiscate plug expanders (e.g., octopus plugs, splitters).

Telephone - Bring a touch-tone phone and cord. There is one phone jack (and thus one phone number) in every first-year room. Residence hall rooms are wired for telephone transmission, but we do not provide telephones or cords. Voice mail for each student is provided free of charge. Long distance calling requires a Personal Security Code (a personal code is issued to each student). More information is available from Computing and Information Services.

Q. What should I not bring?

A. Certain items are prohibited in the residence halls due to fire and safety codes.

Air Conditioner - Individual air conditioners (window or floor units) are not allowed in residence halls because of the electrical load. You are certainly welcome to bring a fan, which should be sufficient to keep your room pleasantly cool through most of the academic year.

Candles - Candles of all kinds (including birthday cake candles) are a fire hazard and are prohibited in residence halls by Rhode Island fire safety regulations. Candles will be confiscated when found, and the fine is $100 per candle. Please leave candles at home.

Canopies, Tapestries, Large Combustible Wall Covering - While there are many things you can do to personalize your room, there are also some things you cannot do because of the fire and safety hazard they pose to you and to the other students living in your building. Large pieces of cloth on the ceiling or walls fall into the "no can do" category. Ceiling canopies, tapestries and large combustible, unframed wall coverings over 1600 square inches are prohibited in any room or sleeping quarters because of their potential to ignite and burn rapidly. Likewise, do not cover or hide your ceiling light with fabric. Under no condition is any tapestry or cloth covering to be within 12 inches of an electrical outlet.

Car - Due to the significant shortage of parking for faculty, staff and students at Brown, first-year students are not allowed to park in University lots. Overnight parking is not allowed on Providence city streets.

Cooking Equipment - Toasters, toaster ovens, hot plates or burners, electric coils, immersion heaters, and other instruments with an exposed heating element are not allowed and will be confiscated. Items such as rice cookers and table top grills (e.g., George Foreman) are not allowed to be used in resident rooms; their use is allowed in the community kitchen as long as they are never left unattended while cooking or while hot. Residential-style coffee makers are allowed in student rooms - no restaurant-style or commercial coffee makers, or those that keep water perpetually hot and ready for instant use. An "automatic shut off" function is a desirable safety option, so that the coffee maker turns itself off if you forget to do so.

Extension Cords - Home-style electrical extension cords and plug expanders (e.g., octopus plugs and other splitters) are not allowed for residence hall use. Bring a "surge protector" instead (see "surge protectors" in "What to Bring", above).

Halogen Torchière Lamps - These are prohibited from use in college residence halls by fire safety regulations in Rhode Island and will be confiscated.

Pets - Pets are absolutely not allowed in the residence halls. The one exception is aquarium fish; tanks and aquariums may be no larger than 10 gallons. This restriction on pets is strictly enforced for public health and safety reasons. Stuffed animals only, please.

Portable Space Heaters - Again, this is all about fire safety because residence halls have more restrictive fire codes than individual family homes or apartment buildings.

Weapons: Firearms,ammunition,explosive,knives or other weapons - Posession,use, or distribution of firearms,ammunition, explosives or other weapons at Brown is a violation of the Student Conduct Code (see offense VIII)

Items prohibited at Brown, including in the residence halls, include the following: 

  • Firearms (defined as any projectile-firing device), including conventional guns or firearms (devices using gunpowder);
  • Air rifles (including paint ball rifles), guns using BBs, pellets or darts;
  • Fireworks of all kinds;
  • Incendiary devices, explosives, flare guns, grenades;
  • Any slingshot device,;
  • Knives except those that are designed and used for food preparation -- prohibited knives include but are not limited to hunting/fishing knives, martial arts devices, and ceremonial swords


Q. What kind of clothing should I bring?


Students say that Brown is, in general, a casual place. In the fall and winter, jeans, cargo pants, sneakers, shirts, sweaters and sweatshirts predominate. Spring brings out lots of skirts, shorts and t-shirts. But there is plenty of room for chinos, traditional cultural dress, fashion-plate, punk, etc. The consistent advice from students is:

Don't change how you dress now.

If you like it, it's appropriate.

There is no "uniform" at Brown.

Come as you are.


In Providence, the weather ranges from cool to cold between mid-October and mid-April. Most of your wardrobe should reflect the cool reality of the New England coastal climate. One student from the southern U.S. said she wished she had known "how quickly it got cold here" in the fall. A student from the Midwest expected to see more snow. Students from more northern climes may find the coastal winter mild. It all depends on what you are accustomed to.

The end of August and the beginning of September can be 60 degrees, 70 degrees or 80 degrees (Fahrenheit). It cools down for a week or so, and then gets hot again for a week, before moving truly into fall with all of the beautiful fall colors. October days may be crisp and sunny, cold and nippy, or rainy.

New England can certainly be rainy. Bring an umbrella! When it's windy umbrellas pop inside out all too easily, so ponchos, raincoats or some other sort of wet-weather gear is also necessary. Rain in Providence can be a mist in the air, a steady rain, or a downpour. Think particularly about how to keep your feet dry, because there are likely to be puddles and gatherings of water right where you need to walk or cross the street. Some of us have resorted to rubber boots.

Winter is variable. It can go from snow to rain to cold and clear all in one week. Snow here can be big and fluffy or, because of the warmth of being near the ocean, can be quite wet falling from the sky.

While winter in southern New England is usually mild (meaning 30-40 degrees Fahrenheit in the daytime, 20-30 degrees at night), the most recent winter was colder and snowier than it has been in a long while. We had a number of weeks of 10-degree nights and more than 50 inches of snow from November to March. Students spent some evenings rushing through the cold, but also played Frisbee in and made sculptures out of the snow. The best advice is to be prepared to layer up, and have fun no matter what the weather.

Spring warms slowly. There are many bright and crisp days, occasionally a "last hurrah" snow in March, and lots of flowers in April. The warm days seem to crop up right as reading period and finals begin, just when you need to be indoors studying hard. Even in May, though, Providence nights are cool and fresh.


Warm clothes, waterproof boots: Those of you from warmer climes should make certain to have a warm winter jacket (e.g., ski jacket, parka, wool coat), sweaters, warm mittens, a hat, scarf, and other warm articles of clothing. Winter footwear is important, too, as sneakers and Birkenstocks provide little traction in ice and snow. It doesn't get below 20°F that often, but Providence's cold is typically a wet cold, which can make layering important.

Socks and underwear: Bring a large supply. The washing machines sometimes make them part of their diet, so before long you may find items missing. Also "socking up" enables you to go for long periods without doing laundry.

Dress up: There are a few special occasions when you might want a sport coat and nice pants, or a dressy dress or pants outfit. There are occasional "semi-formal" parties on campus. Once a year, the Key Society hosts The Gala, which is formal and students who choose to attend do so in tuxes and fancy dresses. Again, students emphasize, this all depends on what you like to do, and many people make it through without ever "putting on a tie."

Q. What are the summer business hours of the Office of Residential Life?

A. The Office of Residential Life is open from 8 AM to 4 PM during the summer months.