Getting Ready for Dorm Life
If you are one of the many recent high school grads heading off to college this summer or fall, you might also be preparing to move out of your parents’ house and into a campus dorm. You’ve seen dorm life in the movies—full of parties and (unnecessary) nudity, bros, weird roommates, and random hookups. Maybe that sounds like a blast to you, or maybe it sounds like a total nightmare, but have no fear—your dorm life experience will be what you make of it, not what Hollywood has prescribed.
I lived in a traditional, co-ed dorm my freshman year of college, and while it had its awful moments, I look back on it fondly now as one of the most fun years of my life. I met a group of people that became some of my best friends, had awful and awesome experiences, and somehow came out of it with my dignity and GPA intact.
Whether you’re moving into a traditional dorm, a suite, or an on-campus apartment, life in campus housing can be a fun, be it sometimes challenging, experience. So, to help you feel a bit more prepared for what’s ahead, I’ve come up with a few tips to get ready for dorm life.
Get in contact with your roommate before move-in.
If you are rooming with a friend or someone you already know, this might not apply, but if you are being placed with a stranger, try to reach out to them before moving in. Most universities will send out roommate information well in advance of your move-in date, so you will have plenty of time to send them a quick email or text. If you find this person is a total mismatch for you, you still have time to switch rooms before moving any of your stuff in. On the more positive side, by reaching out, you might be friends before becoming roommates. Coordinate what you both will be bringing for the dorm to avoid multiples of things like mini-fridges and microwaves.
Print photos for your walls.
If you are moving out of your house for the first time, or even out town, you might already be feeling a bit prematurely homesick. That’s totally normal. I had plenty of floormates whose families lived 20 minutes away from campus, but being out of the house still left them feeling a little blue. Print some photos of your family and friends to hang on your walls. Try making a collage with photos from Instagram on a posterboard. Keep the photos somewhere you can see them easily. Not only will keeping these happy images close give you a little boost in mood, it’s also a great way to decorate your space.
Avoid overcrowding the room with stuff.
From my experience, and probably the experience of most people, dorms are tiny. And, if you’re sharing that tiny space with other people, it will feel even tinier once you’re all moved in. Avoid bringing extra furniture if it’s not absolutely necessary. Stick to things that will fit under your bed or in your closet so the walkways and main floor can stay clear. This will help you feel a little less cramped. So, before you buy that cliche giant bean bag chair that will likely spring a leak of styrofoam beans halfway through the semester, think about how much space you really have for it.
Put on your patient pants.
Living with a bunch of other people your age might sound like a blast—and it totally can be—but more than likely, there will be times when stuff will get on your nerves. Loud music in the middle of the night, floormates and suitemates shouting and roommates playing GTA at 4am with the volume all the way up—you name the annoying activity, and it will probably happen at all hours in your dorm. You’ll be better off if you learn to let certain things start to roll off your shoulders. Invest in a pair of earplugs and an eye mask. If you’re lucky enough to have your own bedroom, get yourself a sleep sound machine to block out noise from outside.
If you were raised on the more conservative side, you might find yourself suffering from a bit of a culture shock when you’re tossed into dorm life. Yes, your roommate might bring her boyfriend back to your room and hook up with him—right in plain sight. Yes, the guys from down the hall might run around naked and pull pranks on each other. Yes, you will encounter people from all walks of life and backgrounds. Regardless of what you’re used to, college life will likely be a lot different. Learn to roll with it! Learn to live and let live. You’ll have a lot more fun that way.
Don’t be a pushover.
So, maybe your roommate is bringing her boyfriend back and having noisy, um, escapades every other night. If it bugs you, don’t just pull your twin XL sheets over your head and try to block it out. Let your roommate know it bugs you. When I moved into my dorm, we had to sign roommate agreements that covered things like the room temperature, quiet hours, and visitors. Bring these things up early on, and stick to it. Talk to your resident assistant if you have problems.
Make yourself at home.
Your dorm will be your home during the school year, so make yourself comfortable. I had floormates who barely had sheets on their beds, much less decorations on the walls or a TV to watch. Even if you know you’ll be moving out after your first year, spend that first year feeling comfortable, rather than living out of a box like a drifter. With that said, I also had floormates who ended up with less-than-great GPAs after their first semester because they packed their rooms full of easy distractions, like their PS4. If you have things you know will be super distracting, try to avoid bringing those, or at least limit your time with them.
More than likely, dorm life will be one of the best, most rewarding experiences of your college career. Enjoy it while you can!