College as a whole is a wild ride, but life in the dorms is an adventure all its own. Once you move in this could very well be your first time living in a new place, taking care of yourself, or sharing a space with roommates — it’s all pretty exciting, but admittedly also A LOT to take on.
We know you’re amped to start making college life happen, but before you settle in read these six key tips to surviving freshman year in the dorms.
1). Expect noise
When you’re living in a building filled with dozens of fellow freshmen, each just as eager as you are to experience the college life, you’re going to have to expect some noise along the way.
We’re not saying there will be people blaring music out of their rooms 24/7, especially since most schools have rules about noise levels and disrupting fellow students, but there will be some degree of background bustle within earshot.
Some people trudge down the hallway. Maybe your roommate snores. Heck, the walls between rooms could just be thin. Whichever the reason, you should get used to the idea of complete peace and quiet being reserved for special occasions.
SURVIVAL TIP: Consider buying earplugs to help block out the clatter when you’re trying to sleep.
2). Privacy can be hard to come by
To echo the point above, it’s time to face a reality that many incoming freshmen find especially jarring – it’s hard to find privacy living in the dorms.
What do we mean? Well, not only are you and your roommate(s) sharing close living quarters, but you’re also sharing shower, eating, and studying areas. Keeping that in mind, moving to a dorm will require you to adjust in two different ways.
In a literal sense you’ll have to adapt to a communal style of living, which can be a tough transition for those used to their own room and bath back home. In a more conceptual sense, most everywhere you go on campus you’re likely to run into somebody you know from the dorms. While that can be a good or bad thing depending on your relationships, if you’re after a little anonymity it’ll be a tough find on school grounds.
SURVIVAL TIP: Find a place outside of the dorms where you can have your personal space. It can be a nearby café, public library, or even a spot in the park. Most important is that you’re able to focus on yourself and not those around you.
3). Shower essentials are ESSENTIAL
Ain’t nobody got time for bubble baths – if you need to cleanup in college that means hittin’ the showers, and although that’s where things are supposed get squeaky clean, a closer look might prove otherwise.
Avoid the likelihood of picking up any bacteria (or any chemicals used during cleanup) on the bottom of your feet by investing in a solid pair of flips-flops, ideally some that are made of a sturdier plastic; the soft, “foamy” types are porous and can absorb dirty water.
A shower caddy will also prove to be a valuable addition when you’re trekking back and forth from the showers. Keeping your shampoo, conditioners, and body washes in one handy unit is a lot easier than attempting to carry them under one arm and, infinitely better looking than lugging them in a plastic bag.
SURVIVAL TIP: If it’s more than a quick walk back to your dorm room, think about buying a bathrobe. Nothing could be more embarrassing than the slip of a towel!
4). Prepare for all kinds of personalities
College is a place to meet new people, and while it’s always nice to hope for the best, the clashing of personalities is inevitable.
There are tons of reasons why two individuals may not see eye to eye, but it’s important to keep in mind that when it comes to freshman year tensions can stem from all kinds of sources. When somebody is away from their support system, living on their own for the first time, or trying to live up to a set of expectations, it’s understandable that even the most mild-tempered person could be on edge.
Now, yes – there will be some people that you’ll find plain ol’ difficult to mesh with. It could be your roommate, a kid down the hall, or somebody you randomly bumped into on campus. In those cases, try to figure out the root of the issue and a possible solution, that way if you need to confront the individual you will have resolution in mind instead of just a list of grievances to air.
SURVIVAL TIP: Give thought to all considerations before drawing your line in the sand. Remember, if you’re living in the dorms you’ll most likely have to see that person on a semi-regular basis, and you’ll have to weigh the importance of “keeping the peace.”
5). Put your noms in order
Second to having a roof over your head, food will be your next biggest need. Since mom and dad won’t be able to whip you up a quick meal, you’ll need to be prepared.
Find out what foods are available through your school’s meal plans. Most universities offer special menu items for those with certain eating habits (vegetarian, vegan, etc.) but you might miss out on them if you don’t check.
When keeping goodies on hand in your room, head to your nearest outlet store to buy your snacks in bulk. It’s a lot cheaper in the long run to buy an economy-sized box of granola bars than buying them for a dollar a piece at the student store.
SURVIVAL TIP: A big point of contention amongst roommates is eating each others’ food. If you and your roommate plan on storing your own food items, think about having a “shared pile” of snacks for the both of you. These items would be bought by both of you and up for grabs by whomever.
6). Get to know the RA
Your Residential Advisor (RA) is the closest thing to “parental supervision” that you’ll have in the dorms – doing right by them is in your best interest.
RA’s are usually upperclassmen that work with the school to oversee a certain set of rooms or floors in a dorm. While in this sense they do have some authority over freshmen, remember that they are students too! Just like you they are trying to juggle school, work, and friends, so making life any more difficult for them will not make life any easier for you.
You don’t need to be BFF with your RA, but do introduce yourself and get a feel for their personality. Build a rapport to let them know you’re on the level, and most importantly avoid situations that could land you on their “ruckus radar.”
SURVIVAL TIP: Introduce yourself on move-in day and have a follow up chat later in the week. Putting yourself out there early is a strong way to make an impression, and your RA will appreciate knowing at least one new member of the incoming class.
You’re going to find yourself dealing with all sorts of situations while living in the dorms – that’s just part of the college experience. But the important thing to take away is a basic understanding of the ins-and-outs of the system. When you have a grasp of what to expect that will make the transition much smoother. Stay focused, work hard, and be social…everything else will fall into place.
By Sean Castillo