So you're living in the dormitory/residence hall? Or maybe in an apartment off-campus? Now that move-in is approaching, let's talk dorm life. Your room in the residence hall will be your home for the next 9 months and there are plenty of things for you to know and do, especially if you’re sharing that space with another person.
There are two aspects to preparing for life in the residence hall, but we don’t always give equal attention to both. One aspect of dorm life is the logistics and list of supplies you’ll need to make it. The other is how you mentally prepare yourself to live in a space with someone not related to you for almost a year. Sharing a 12’ x 15’ room with another person, even if they are a friend, can be trying at times, but not impossible. Being aware before you dive in can be helpful.
From a practical perspective, we’ll start with the logistics. Confirm your housing assignment if you haven’t done that already. You may be able to check the student portal or may have to call housing. Find the list of basic supplies you will need and you can probably Google it if there's nothing on your school's housing webpage. Check with your roommate to determine who is bringing what in terms of electronics and small appliances (TV, gaming system, microwave and fridge). If you are the type to go above and beyond, you’re thinking about things like a shower caddy, organization, and closet items. Also, you may need to bring cleaning supplies depending on what type of living arrangement you have. Larger residence halls will have communal bathrooms and university housekeeping will clean those, but residents clean up after themselves in most suite-style dorms. Be ready.
Also, resist the urge to spend all your summer job money at Bed Bath and Beyond to outfit your dorm. While you will "live there", it doesn't have to look like an apartment. You want to be comfortable, but only to a point. Having all the comforts of home in your room, combined with the convenience of tech, can prevent you from venturing out to spend time in campus buildings, meeting (and networking) with others, and getting familiar with campus culture. Sure, there are things you need, but dial back on the IG-worthy layout.
The second part of living in the residence hall is sharing your living space with another person. You've probably been on overnight trips and camp, but living with someone in college, even if you share a room at home, hits a little different. Your first residence hall experience is an exercise in compromise, compatibility, and self-awareness. You will learn a lot about yourself and the person who becomes your roommate. This applies to folks in off-campus housing, too. Unless your roomie is a sibling, you are still sharing your living space with one or more residential strangers. Trust me when I tell you sharing space can bring out the best and worst in people.
When you are being stretched to (and beyond) your breaking point is when it's time for you to show up. Your approach can determine whether it's an adult conversation or a shouting match/temper tantrum. Discuss everything you can think of with your future roomie - from your definition of neat and cleaning habits to noise levels and how you feel about visitors (platonic and romantic). Discuss how's brining what in terms of electronics and how you feel about someone else using them. Having the conversations up front, and as things bother you – instead of letting it build up – any tension can be smoothed over.
Many students meet and make lifelong friends in college. For some of them, it starts with their freshman roommate. Whether or not y'all become BFFs, you want to have a pleasant experience. The first step in making that happen is being honest about how you live, your dealbreakers, having honest conversations, and outfitting your space.
You got this!
This is evergreen content. Variations of this post have been published each year.