if you haven’t gone to boarding school, chances are you aren’t quite sure how to live in a dorm (i definitely had no idea), and the thought might be a little intimidating, but it doesn’t have to be! here are some useful tips i wish someone had told me four years ago.
1. talk to your roommate - chances are you’ve been given your roommate’s name by now. look them up on facebook (if they aren’t easily found, check your class group on FB for their last name- they might go by a nickname, as both my roommate and i did freshman year). negotiate who’s bringing what, or you’re going to end up with two of everything and an overly crowded room. this also helps with the ‘moving in with a stranger’ thing, because you are now less of a stranger to each other. congratulations!
2. plan ahead - it’s really easy to go to target and leave with everything you see. after you’ve talked to your roommate, make a list of what you need and get only that list. that being said, do leave yourself some room to expand- getting a cool poster to hang up won’t throw off your plan entirely, but you know where to draw the line.
3. figure out what you need - dorm rooms are small, poorly-lit spaces. most will provide you with a bed, a desk, and a dresser or closet. you and your roommate can rearrange this however you like (my roommate and i bunked our beds second semester and had a ridiculous amount of space after- i definitely recommend that), but chances are you’ll need more storage and more light. christmas lights are an easy way to add both color and personality to your room, and stacking milk crates are great for textbooks and snacks. some desks have built-in lights, but if yours don’t, a desk lamp or standing lamp next to your desk might be really helpful. if your room has a bare floor a brightly colored throw rug might be nice too, especially in winter.
4. living with a roommate - now is an excellent time to work on your negotiation skills. see if you can set certain rules for your room on move-in day (no music without headphones after midnight or earlier if one of you has an early class, no bringing people back without asking, what snacks are up for sharing), things like that. a whiteboard for your room is also great because it gives you an easy way to remind each other of things! also exchange numbers asap, because one of you will be locked out in the first week and it is not fun to be locked out and miss a class because you can’t text your roommate.
5. have snacks - snacking can be a bad habit, yes, but you also will be hungry at midnight when you’re studying or trying to finish your homework. have granola bars or a big jug of pretzels in your room and never be sadly hungry at night again.
6. communal bathrooms are not that bad - they really aren’t, i promise. you do need some kind of bucket or basket to carry your shower stuff in though, so check target for a shower caddy thing. also maybe a giant towel.
7. make friends on your hall - you’re all living in the same area, you might as well get along. you probably even have some classes together, so it’s like an instant study group! or you’ll have someone who’s really good at a subject you struggle in who can help you, or someone who’ll help you edit your term paper, or someone who can let you use their printer…you can’t go wrong with befriending your hallmates.
8. BE NICE TO YOUR RA - this is HUGE this is so important. an RA who likes you might unlock your room for free, won’t write you up for coming back drunk, can give you advice on what professors you should avoid…an RA who does not like you will do none of these things. be nice to your RA.
9. go to dorm events - sometimes your dorm will have professors in to talk or have dinner, or offer an activity like tie dye, or have free coffee and donuts during finals. go to these things. it’s a great way to network in your dorm, meet new people, talk to professors outside of class, and also you generally get free things.
10. do things with your roommates - my roommate and i used to go to parties together freshman year, and my suitemate from last year and i go to concerts together. you live with these people! treat them like they aren’t strangers and you will get along better! even if it’s just a weekly dinner or lunch thing (my freshman roommate and i still meet up for chai whenever we can, three years after we lived together), this can make it much easier to live together and will also give you a solid friend (or friendly acquaintance) on campus.