Moving into your first college or university's dorm is a big a milestone in your life. You're out from under your parents' roof and ready to face your new life as a college student. While your mind might be looking forward to the wild frat parties and having fun with your friends, you'll quickly learn that dorm life isn't all it's cracked up to be.
So, before you head out to the nearest store to stock up on college student goodies, take a few minutes to review these tips on making the most of your dorm life experience:
1) Be Friendly With Your RA
Residential advisors are upper classmen or graduate students who give their time to watch the dorm areas in exchange for a free place to live. It's important that you are on good terms with your RA. He (or she) is there to help you with reporting repair needs, resolve dispute you may have with another dorm resident, and let you in when you forget your key or passcard. They could make your dorm life easy or hard, depending on what they think of you. So make sure to say hi the next time you see them!
2) Make Friends with your Roommate(s)
Unless you are lucky enough to be able to afford a single, you will more than likely have roommates to deal with. These are your fellow students who have come from all over the country (and some, the world) to go to school at your university. They'll come from different background, have different majors, different hobbies and interests…and crazy habits that will probably drive you insane.
The number one rule when dealing with roommates is to be ready to compromise. Not everyone will like disco music or Indian food as much as you do. So be ready to turn off the music when someone comes home and reserve eating your Lamb Curry to outside of the small dorm room. Of course, compromise is a two-way street – they'll have to make some changes too.
Many roommates find it best to sit down together at the beginning of the semester and create a list of basic rules that everyone is willing to follow. That could include such things as phone use, sharing of costs, noise/music, food, fridge use, borrowing, guests, etc. This sort of system helps keep the peace by ensuring that everyone is on the same page.
There is always the slight chance that one or more of your roommates will become a nightmare. Before you jump them in a dark alley or short-sheet their bed, stop, take a deep breath, and realize that you are dealing with another human being…and that any revenge tactics could get you kicked out of school! Your best bet is to talk it over with the offender. If that doesn't work, ask your RA to help you.
Make it a point to attend the dorm orientation meetings at the beginning of the semester. Not only will you learn more about your new home but you will get to meet your RA and some of your fellow students.
If you want to meet more people in your dorm but aren't comfortable going out and introducing yourself, just leave your door open when you're watching TV, reading a book, or just hanging with your roommate. You'd be surprised at the people that will stop by to introduce themselves because of this simple act of openness.
Also, make sure to participate in the activities offered by your dorm. At these events, you get to meet the other people in your dorm building while having fun – what more could you ask for?
4) Get Organized
You and your roommate are probably sharing a space not much larger than a prison cell. How in the world are you supposed to cram all of your stuff and hers into that small area?
The trick is to be organized at how you keep your things. A disorganized area will look messy to anyone walking by and it will be a nightmare to find anything. So, make it a point put things in designated areas and keep them there. Buy storage boxes to be used in unused space like under the bed or on the floor of the closet. If you can, buy a loft bed so you can have more floor space.
There is enough space there for both of you – decades and decades of successful college students have proven that. You just have to be innovative in how you think about it.
5) Have Set Study Time
You're attending the university for one reason – to learn something. This requires that you go to class, do your homework, and study, study, study. Make sure that you have your priorities straight – classes come first, partying and socializing is last.
6) Find Ways To Combat The Noise
Unless you specifically ask to be placed on a "quiet floor" you will have to learn to deal with constant noise – yes, even at 2 AM when someone shuffles by your door on their way to the bathroom.
If you're a light sleeper, this could really bother you. You might want to invest in a white-noise machine that can be placed in your pillow or by your bed to help block out the bothersome noise. If you can't afford that, then an mp3 player with headphones might be a more viable solution for you.
If you like to study where it's quiet, make sure to always have a backup plan for when your neighbors decide to throw that kegger or your roommate wants to spend her whole weekend on the phone talking to her new boyfriend. Instead of driving yourself crazy, grab your stuff and move to the library or the dorm's "quiet study" area. Your sanity (and grades) will thank you for the trouble.
7) Think Safety
Campus security is usually good but it doesn't mean that you shouldn’t be on alert when you're walking around campus, including your dorm building. The basics you learned at home work well at the dorm too: don't let strangers into the building, keep your door locked, and report anyone or anything that looks suspicious. Also, if you or your roommate lose your keys, ask the RA to have your locks changed. Your safety is worth the trouble!
Also, never ignore a fire alarm. Grab your shoes and leave the dorm…even if it's 30 below outside or you're in the middle of writing your term paper. Dorm fires are nothing to be played around with – this is your life we're talking about!
8) Think Security
An always-open-door policy, whether someone is home or not, will ensure that your stuff will walk off faster than you can say thief. Keep your door closed and locked when you or your roommates are not home.
If you have a computer or laptop, look into a security tether that will tie your computer down to the desk or a nearby pipe. It won't completely stop your computer from walking off but it will help to deter would-be thieves.
Another option is a footlocker which can hold a lot of stuff, be locked up securely, and, best of all, can double as a table. You can store your expensive laptop, iPod, and jewelry inside without having to worry about your sticky-finger neighbor getting a hold of them.