College Dorm Life

By Kelly Burch

Have you ever visited a friend’s house and wondered about the way their family serves dinner or the scratchy blankets they have on the bed? Being dropped into someone else’s living environment can be jarring, but that’s pretty much what happens when you move into a dorm. Except now, you live there too. 

If you’re living on campus, chances are you’ll need to adjust to life in the dorms. Here are a few things that may help. 

Reach out to Your Roommate Before School

Whether your school offers roommate matching or only gives random roommate assignments, you will likely learn who your roommate is before the semester begins. Consider reaching out to them in advance to discuss lifestyle preferences or share decorating ideas. Try to be open and honest about your preferences, and prioritize what’s most important to you. 

Some things you may want to talk about and consider:

  • Are you an early riser or a night owl?
  • Do you prefer a clean space or are you more lax about keeping a tidy room?
  • How do you feel about having guests in your room?
  • Do you like to use a noise machine to fall asleep at night?

Make It Feel Like Home

You want your room to feel like a space that’s really yours. Put up some decorations—maybe pictures of your friends and family—and bring your favorite pillow, blanket, and other meaningful things from home. Making your dorm truly yours doesn’t have to be expensive. A few personal touches can go a long way toward making it a space to feel at home.

Respect the Rules

Just like a home—or any community—dorms have rules and expectations. Before you go to school, familiarize yourself with what to expect in the dorms, and start planning for how you’ll adjust to any rules that are new to you or may be challenging. 

Dorms may have rules, for example, about pets, guests, alcohol, smoking or vaping, quiet hours, and fire hazards such as candles, hot plates, and coffee makers. 

Be Realistic About Your Roommate

Living with a roommate is one of the more challenging parts of college, especially if you’re not used to sharing a space. Go into the relationship with realistic expectations: Your roommate may become a close friend, or they could be someone you don’t love living with. Most likely, they’ll fall somewhere in the middle. 

Aim to create a respectful environment with open communication. These roommate communication tips may help you set boundaries and be open-minded with each other. It’s great if your relationship buds into a friendship, but learning to live together peacefully is a realistic starting point. 

Use Your RA As a Resource

Resident advisors, or RAs, are more senior students—sophomores, juniors, or seniors—who live in a dorm and act as resources and mentors for newer students and help dorm residents adjust to rules and norms. 

RAs may also plan social events to help folks in the dorm get to know each other, and they can connect you with resources on campus, help settle disputes with your roommate, and create a feeling of community on the floor. You don’t need to become best friends with your RA, but strive for a friendly relationship. Say hello when you see them in the dorm, and make an effort to attend any events they plan.

Live Outside the Dorm Too

Your dorm is your home base on campus. Hopefully, it will be so comfortable that you’ll enjoy spending time there with your roommate and neighbors. It’s important to create connections outside your dorm too. Meeting a diverse group of people on campus can add to your college experience, so join an intramural team, try out a club, or get dinner with classmates who don’t live with you. 

Expect Some Hiccups

Just like you may have had some spats with siblings or family members you’ve lived with, you may encounter some difficult or frustrating situations with your roommate. You may also find dorm life to be loud or overwhelming from time to time.

These bumps in the road, although irritating, are normal. Give yourself time to adjust and do your best to focus on solutions rather than the problems at hand. Have a noisy neighbor? It may be time to look into earplugs. Things feel a little tense with your roommate? Take a deep breath and start a conversation about how you help make each other feel a little more comfortable and at home.

Know When to Ask for Help

Despite your best attempts to work things out, sometimes you may still find it difficult to settle disagreements or make compromises with your roommate. Don’t be afraid to lean on the people and resources available to you, such as your RA, other members of residential services, or conflict-resolution materials or services your school may offer. 

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