There are many rites of passage every college freshman goes through – one of the most famous being living in the dorms. Most (very close to all) universities require freshmen to live in dorms; but even if they don’t, it is strongly advised that you do so anyway. Although R.A.’s watching over you in extremely close-quarters may seem unappealing and freedom-killing at first, there are many other factors to dorm life that really do make it the ideal living situation for your first year away at school. It’s a great environment to sky-rocket your social life and also gives you the perks of living on your own while still sheltering you from certain real-world responsibilities (paying bills, cleaning bathrooms, etc.).
Successfully adapting to dorm life is a big adjustment that cannot be underestimated, however. After all, it is extremely different from any other living situation you’ve ever had and probably ever will have. So, here are some important tips to take note of before moving into your new residence.
Understand Your Roommate: Dorm roommates honestly require an entirely different discussion of their own, but to put it in basic terms – give your roommate a chance. Whether you’ve set things up to live with your best friend from high school, selected a random roommate, or met this person through your college’s Facebook group, this is probably your first experience living with somebody other than your family and therefore is completely new territory. Even if you really like the person beforehand, living with them can be a different experience. With that being said, it is crucial that you adequately get to know your roommate initially and have an open mind about them. Try to push any preconceived judgments out of your mind, and allow yourself time to discover what this person is really like. Do they stay up late into the night? Are they morning people? Are they extremely private or do they like to be in your face all the time? Are they messy or clean? There are endless aspects of a person’s living habits that you need to recognize in order to co-exist with them contently. Also, communicate with them; they deserve to learn about you as well. You may be lucky and not be bothered be each others habits, you may differ in habits but find easy mediums to work with, or you might find these differences intolerable and need to take further action. Whatever the outcome, it is just important that you figure it out as quickly as possible so you can spend your school year living comfortably.
Adjust to the minimal space: One of the hardest things to adjust to regarding dorm life is certainly the lack of wide-open space. In essence, you will be sharing an abnormally small room that feels even too small for just yourself, with another person. This will seem inevitably frustrating, but you will surprisingly get used to it. You will make things a lot easier on yourself, however, if you organize. This means making sure that your furniture and other various items are placed in ways that give you more leg room rather than limiting it further. Also, decorating can do wonders for improving the overall feel. A cozy rug or bright lamp can make the place a lot more homey and distract you from its less than favorable space constraints. Overall, if you make the room a comfortable place that you enjoy the atmosphere of, you will appreciate its collegiate feel and find yourself thinking/worrying less about its size. More importantly, don’t be a hermit. Remember to get out and experience life outside those walls all over campus. The more time you spend away from your room, the more you’ll appreciate its reassuring vibe when you return to it.
Get to Know Your Floor: This ties back to the social aspect of dorm life. You will be living on a floor with several other students, all of whom are living in cracker box-sized rooms as well and have the same concerns, fears, and excitement about college. One of the biggest mistakes you could make is cutting yourself off from these people. When in you’re in your room, leave your door open occasionally. This is an extremely common tactic in dorms to show you are open to neighbors stopping by to hang out. It’s an open invitation that says “I’d love to meet and get to know you guys” without actually having to put yourself out there and say it. Your floormates will inevitably be doing this as well, so make sure you take a stroll down the hall every now and then as well to say hello. Plus, your R.A. will typically plan various floor activities, meetings, outings, etc. These are even better ways to meet your neighbors, especially if you’re too shy to practice the literal open-door policy. Even if you’re best friends with your roommate or have gone Greek and created a social circle already, you should still get to know your floormates. This is one of the easiest opportunities you’ll ever have to make friends, and you’ll be happy to have friends in such close proximity when you’re out of Easy Mac at 1 A.M. or lonely with no plans one weekend. There will always be someone down the hall to help you out; embrace that.
Don’t Write Off Your R.A.: That older student living on your floor with the sign “Resident Advisor” on their door is a fantastic resource that you should not overlook. R.A.’s are specifically there to offer you guidance, be a mentor, talk you through whatever issues you may be having. Although you may want to act tough and claim you’re never homesick, have no academic struggles, and got the college social life nailed down – you're bound to have weak points; everybody does. Every student has those moments when they’re emotionally worn down from the stress college induces, and it’s okay to consult your R.A. Don’t be shy about it or hesitant just because it may not seem like the cool thing to do. R.A.’s wouldn’t have a job if students didn’t truly need them at times, so at least stop by in the beginning of the year to personally say hello and get to know them a little bit. Your R.A. will typically begin the year with a big “get-to-know-you” meeting with the entire floor to get this done - do not skip that, by the way – but you should still visit them on your own at some point. If anything, you’ve made another connection.