How To Survive Living In a Dorm For the First Time

BeeNee a
How To Survive Living In a Dorm For the First Time

Woooo! You've got your dorm and roommate assignment and you're ready and on your way to moving in and starting your Freshman year of college. Most people will have never lived away from home or without their parents, so just about everything will be a new experience especially having to start really taking care of yourself and getting yourself to class on time, but here are a few tips to help you in your transition to your first real foray into adulthood.

First Contact

Contact your roommate if possible. This is a good idea because of course you're going to be curious who the heck you're going to be spending at least one semester living with, and also because you don't want to get into your tiny room and have two of everything. There just isn't space, so talk to them and get to know them and decide what you're both bringing and possibly agree to a time when you both want to move in. Also try not to judge them until you meet them.

How To Survive Living In a Dorm For the First Time

Moving Day

When it comes to packing, I KNOW the voices in your head are telling you to pack all your high school trophies, your teddy bears, your baby teeth you lost when you were in the second grade, but avoid that instinct and pack only things you will definitely need like clothes, stuff for your classes, some workout gear, and a few things to entertain you, but not your entire wall unit! For help with a packing list see:

When I moved in, for me I used just 3 large plastic tubs to pack all my stuff minus the tv/fridge/microwae--and here is why---on 3 of my 8 move in and move out dates over the four years, it rained like hell. You do NOT want some cardboard boxes when it is pouring down rain. Save yourself the hassle by using the tubs. Also bring your own cart to expedite the process and/or entourage who can help carry stuff for you. Campuses usually offer carts but it's first come, first serve and people hoard those things, so just bring your own with you if you have a lot of heavy stuff.

How To Survive Living In a Dorm For the First Time

Keep in mind, moving day is going to be CRAZY with everyone moving in at once. If your dorm has no elevators, prepare yourself by wearing some really comfy clothing and shoes. If it does have elevators, prepare to wait and wait and wait forever for one to arrive as you and everybody else tries to move in at the exact same time.

Oh and if you really want to be that amazing kid, write your parents a nice little card thanking them for helping you get to this point and hand it do them right before they leave if they are helping you move in. It can be hard for them no longer having you at home and it's awesome to show your appreciation for their sacrifice and love over the years...and do call them from time to time!

How To Survive Living In a Dorm For the First Time


I kid you not when I say, when I moved into my room my senior year, the one and only thing I found in there was a previous tenants porno dvd. The cleaning crew doesn't always clean or they don't clean up the dorm rooms other than to make sure they aren't completely trashed at the end of the semester and the bedding isn't ripped, so trust me when I say, get in there with the disinfectant and hit up all surfaces, ESPECIALLY the bed, and counter tops that you will have to touch everyday.

How To Survive Living In a Dorm For the First Time


Nine times out of 10 your room will be tiny and/or vary narrow. It will have cinder block walls or other bland coloring, the beds will be standard issue twin xl, maybe bunk or side by sides or combination, with furniture that looks like it came from an 80's going out of business furniture sale. Decorate. Buy some new curtains, get some colorful bedding, buy a rug to cover up cold tile or ugly carpeting, go to the campus poster sale and rack up, and install those peel and stick hooks which are great for extra hanging storage especially of the two most important things--Campus ID and dorm keys.

Adjusting to dorm life

A lot of people have the fantasy in their heads of the college brochure picture, where you and your roommate(s) will be best of friends skipping through the halls and laughing in your room together, and you may win the roommate lotto in that way, but for everyone else you will get someone so opposite you, your lifestyle, your life, your personality, your cleaning, eating, sleeping habits that it can become pure hell.

First you do need to realize that it's not just your room. You can't always have your say on how things go. You are going to need to learn to compromise. Second, they aren't you and they don't have to be and you are not their mother or father who can just tell them what to do. They are an adult just like you are. You might not like how they live and they may hate the way you live too. Don't take this personally. You could just be two or three or four very different people that nothing can change. If that happens and you can find no common ground, at the very least establish some boundaries with that person. Negotiate times for example that they can have their guests over and when they can't while you're trying to study. Make sure they know the food in the fridge with the label is definitely for sharing or not for sharing. In the long run though, if push comes to shove (sometimes literally), talk to your RA about a room change. Keep in mind that on most campuses there is either a long wait list and/or if you request, you will have to do the actual moving out.

How To Survive Living In a Dorm For the First Time

Roommates aside, get to really know your dorm. Leave your door open from time to time and chat up those on the floor when you run into them or simply invite them over for movie night in your room or to some other campus activities. Take time to really explore. Visit the bathrooms, find out where the laundry, gym, mail room, cafe, grocery store, book store, campus church, etc. all are. Socialize and go to your first college party--usually hosted by the dorms. Be sure and locate your classes so you don't have that deer in headlights look on the first day of class scrambling around asking people where your classes are.

How To Survive Living In a Dorm For the First Time

When classes start

You're on your own. You have to wake up, feed yourself, get to class, do your own homework, get into those showers, do your own laundry, the works. Your roommate is not your keeper, so though you may live together, it's up to you to do all this stuff and get it done by yourself. If you've not yet moved in yet, and have never for example done a load of laundry, practice while you're still at home. When you do have free time on campus, take full advantage of living on campus and taking in the whole atmosphere, going to parties, relaxing in the lounges, doing on campus activities like going to games, and using every discount you can as a student.

How To Survive Living In a Dorm For the First Time
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Most Helpful Guy

  • mwin2030
    For me personally, it was because of these issues that I decided to live off campus, in my own place, when I went off to college. I didn't come from a wealthy family or anything like that, I worked hard, got very little sleep, and studied what hours I could.

    I didn't party or stay out late, but kept myself focused on obtaining my degree and being done as quickly as possible. I realize that many see college as their way to finally be away from home and on their own and they go crazy or feel this is a time in their life to party and experiment with things they've never felt they could before.

    And in my opinion, it should just be about getting your education and then moving on and really getting out in the real world and being in the realities of life and not just the small pond that surrounds your college campus or dorm. Soon as I finished my degree I traveled even more. Working and gaining experience in my field more and more while expanding my horizons of the country I lived in at the time and abroad.
    Is this still revelant?
    • BeeNee

      Life isn't just about school or work for that matter. Trust me when I say I agree with you that your education should ultimately be the most important reason for you being in college (heck, I didn't graduate with honors by NOT studying hard and going to class) , but to suggest that the only thing you can ever do is do classwork is not really how life works. You have weekends and you have free time where you should be able to relax and enjoy all that campus life has to offer in the same way an adult with a full time job enjoys their free time and vacations with family and friends. It's about finding the appropriate balance whether you're a working adult or a working college student, or just attending class. You have to know when you have to say no to partying and when you can say yes to campus life activities.

    • mwin2030

      Balance should be reached in life in whatever you do, not just in college or in your after years. I agree with your sentiment. For me though I wanted to finish as quickly as possible, because I wanted to move away from gaining the education part and move on to actually gaining the real experience of my field, which I did already while in college, but really swung into it once I'd earned my degree. Plus, I wanted to travel and didn't feel the need to go to parties or outside activities on the weekend, not to mention I was working when I wasn't in school, so there went my weekends, because again I didn't want to live on campus and deal with the whole dorm scene. This just was my own personal preferences.

    • BeeNee

      And that's an important distinction to make--these are each of our own personal observations and experiences. I went to school full time, and worked a part time job half the week and on the weekends, yet I still went to games, parties, hung out with friends and had a social life while managing to graduate with honors. Some people can't or shouldn't do it all. They don't know how to or can't achieve that balance without some aspect suffering. I like its fair to say it is up to each student to determine what all they can and can't handle. If studying 24/7 and working is your thing, then do that, but if you want to do more and can handle it, and want to, do that too.

Most Helpful Girl

  • Blonde401
    This is a great take! Although I we don't share dorms here in the UK, you get your own room, it's still a really good list of things to do, great job!
    Is this still revelant?

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What Girls & Guys Said

  • BruceJender
    My tip to meet your room mates is to leave your door open. That way they won't be too afraid to knock on the door.

    I did this on my first day and I made friends with everyone in my block.
    • BeeNee

      I totally agree. We would even leave our door open from time to time which helped us meet a lot of people on our floor.

  • garyhill7447
    When you get to campus, take some time in the first few days to explore your dorm.
    Don’t get settled in your room and go study or hang out elsewhere. It’s more than just a change of scene, and you will meet more people and make more friends this way.
    Take the time to organize your room.
    Give your some decoration and personalize it.
    Develop good communication with your roommates.
  • Reflexy
    I find it weird how Americans share dorms. In the uk nearly everyone gets their own room
    • BeeNee

      I can only guess it's a matter of space vs. the number of students. My school added 4 more dorms in the past 2 years, and there is still a waiting list for on campus housing.

  • Dred1614returns
    Good tip for meeting folks: leave your door open.
  • Anonymous
    Where is the part of dealing with your roommate backbreaking people to fuck and having to hear them moan the entire night thus making you suffer from sleep deprivation?
  • Anonymous
    I'm glad I didn't live in the dorms during college. Living on campus is considerably more expensive than living off-campus with your parents.
    • iCroissant

      But it's hard when you're going to California and your parents live in New York.

  • Anonymous
    I'm moving in to my dorm room next week and this is helpful. Thank you :)
    • BeeNee

      Congrats! Glad it helped. Enjoy your freshman year and living on campus :o)