Sarah Fudin currently works in community relations for the University of Southern California's online Masters in teaching program, which provides the opportunity to earn a Master’s degree and learn how to become a teacher. Outside of work Sarah enjoys running, reading and Pinkberry frozen yogurt.
Going off to college presents many new challenges students may have never faced before, but one of the most daunting is living on your own, away from home and, for most freshmen, in a college dorm. Coming from a tight-knit east coast family I was both excited and anxious when I received my roommate information via mail – she was from Beverly Hills, CA and yes, her zip code was 90210! These tips will help make living in a dorm a positive experience.
1. Explore your dorm early
When you get to campus, take some time in the first few days to familiarize yourself with your dorm. Find out where the laundry machines are, where the lounges and study spaces are and what they offer, and of course, where the closest bathroom to your room is. Knowing what’s available near you will be important when you feel like you need to...
2. Get out!
Living in a small dorm room can make anyone feel claustrophobic pretty quickly. It pays to get out of your room and go study or hang out elsewhere. It’s more than just a change of scene, you will meet more people this way.
3. Organize your room early
It can be tempting to put off setting up your room at the beginning of the year when it seems like so much is going on, but it only gets busier. Take the time to set up your room, making it organized and clean so at least you know it can be. Consider bunking or lofting your beds to make create more space, and find ways to pack away winter clothes and other things you don’t need under your bed or in a closet.
4. Give your room some personality
Just because your one room double is only slightly larger than some closets doesn’t mean it has to be depressing. Get creative with decorations. Put up posters and pictures of friends, hang your track medals from high school or put up Christmas lights. The sooner you make your room your own with fun decorations, the more you will enjoy living there.
5. Prop open your door
When you’re in your room hanging out or setting up, prop open your door so people can stop by. It’s a great way to invite people to come say hello and you can meet your neighbors easily this way. Don’t be afraid to go knock on their doors and say hello, too!
6. Set expectations from the start
Many freshmen live with one or more roommates for the first time in their lives. It is important to set expectations and rules early to ensure a smooth relationship. Explain your sleep and study habits, and set guidelines like, “No guests after 11 on school nights.” Decide on a schedule to clean your room and bathroom (if you have your own), and stick to it. Don’t be shy about broaching more uncomfortable subjects, like alcohol use and sex. Trust us: It’s better to talk about these things ahead of time.
7. Communicate with your roommates
Setting expectations is extremely important, but frequent and ongoing communication is also essential. Message your roommates before you shop for school and find out if anyone is bringing a mini-fridge, microwave or TV. Exchange cell phone numbers with your roommate(s) when you get to campus, and ask before throwing a party in your room or bringing back friends late at night to work on a group project. You never know, your roommate might have gone to bed early in preparation for a big exam the next day.
8. Get to know your R.A.
Most colleges have upperclassmen residential advisors (R.A.s) who will live in your dorm, organize study breaks and events, and serve as excellent sources of advice and help. Chances are they will reach out during the first week of school, but if not, find out where they live and get their phone numbers. If you’re having a dispute with your roommate or something isn’t going well, your R.A. can serve as a mediator to help you work it out. Plus, as upperclassmen, they know their fair share about living in a dorm.
9. Follow the Golden Rule
Always remember to “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” It may sound old fashioned, but when you’re living with so many other people around you all the time, it pays to be considerate. Keep in mind that just because you don’t have any class until 2 P.M. the next day and you want to blast music, doesn’t mean the people living next door don’t have a midterm in the morning.
All said and done, your freshman year is a learning experience. You’ll learn a lot about yourself and even if times get tough, I guarantee you’ll look back and smile.