Not everyone has the same on-campus living experience, but there are a few things you can do to make the most of dorm living.
Here’s what to expect your first year living on campus and what you can do to have the best experience possible according to our college counselors.
You’ll have some rules to learn.
Every college dorm has rules. Some buildings don’t allow microwaves, refrigerators, electric kettles, etc. because of fire hazards. Some dictate quiet hours to make sure everyone is getting enough sleep. Reading the handbook of your college, or reaching out to your future resident advisor, can help give you an idea of what to expect when you arrive on campus. It will also save you the trouble of bringing items that you are not allowed to have, and maybe save you from fines later on.
Most dorms have RAs. Get to know yours!
Getting to know your resident advisor can be a big help when you first move in. RAs are typically older students who have been through the process of adjusting to college. If you are homesick, or having roommate issues, they’re the first people to help.
If you don’t need help adjusting to college life, they may have advice on which professors are good, or which café has the best mozzarella sticks on campus. RA’s great allies to have, and they want to help; that’s why they took the job. So don’t be afraid to ask! If nothing else, getting to know your RA will help if you happen lose your key in the middle of the night and need someone to let you back in.
You will get lost. Get to know your building.
Yes, it will be quite obvious that you are a freshman when you’re carrying around a map, but getting lost in your own building is far worse. Some buildings are very old and don’t have elevators, while others might have 30 floors that look exactly the same. It takes a couple weeks for everyone to figure out their way around, but taking some time to walk around can help you get to know your surroundings. Maybe you’ll find a hidden gem, like a piano in the basement, or a great study nook so you don’t have to trek to the library in the rain and the snow. Getting to know your surroundings will make everything feel more familiar, and it make life easier as classes start.
Everyone has roommates. Work to get along with yours.
Roommates can be your best friends, or your worst enemies. Worse than that, they can be your best friends that turn into your worst enemies. Living with another person in a small space is not easy, especially if you’re used to having your own room. It’s important to set ground rules at the beginning of the term, to be sure you don’t have more issues later.
Don’t be afraid to ask for what you need, while you’re trying to be nice because you just met your roommate. If your roommate says they like to stay up to 3 in the morning, and you’re zonked out by 10, tell them. If you ever have a problem and can’t find a good compromise, that’s where you’re great relationship with the RA comes in handy!
Chances are, your roommate will be great, and so will your friends, but if they’re not, that’s ok too! Most important, don’t judge your roommate before you get to know him or her, give every situation a chance. Heading to college for the first time is about meeting new people, and opening up your mind to new things. Maybe they will turn out to be a lot different than you expected.
Dorm rooms can be bland. Personalize your space.
At first glance, dorm rooms can be pretty sad looking, so make the space your own. Bring pictures of your family and friends, hang posters of your favorite sports teams, and be sure to pack your favorite blanket. Make it look like you live there, and you will feel so much more comfortable. However, leave a little space for the future. Leave room for pictures of your new friends, and the free foam finger they give away at homecoming. Having things that remind you of home, and things that remind you of the great life you will have at college, will make the adjustment little easier.
It’s easy to get frustrated with dorm living. Remember that it’s just one year.
If you have any difficulty, remember that you’re only in that spot for a short time, and you can probably change your roommate, your room, or your building at the end of the school year. At the same time, remember that you’re only there one year, so enjoy it while it lasts and make every moment count!