How to Survive Dorm Life in College

LifehacksStudent Life
Jun 27, 2019

Lower your expectations. Prolong your patience. Meet new people. Be a little more sensitive. Be more understanding. These tips may sound cliché and whether or not you admit to it, you almost always take them for granted even if sometimes you preach them yourself. Lo and behold, when you start living the college dorm life, you will need to practice what you preach. The college dorm life is a chapter within the college chapter of your life, and suffice to say that if you can survive the dorm life, you can survive college. Your few years of dorm life could be a great adventure, or a forgettable disaster if you’re ill-prepared. That many older people you know are still engrossed when retelling their colorful college dorm life stories speaks volumes about the abundance of life lessons and adventures that the dorm life can give even the timidest college student. So, without more ado, master these golden tips on how to survive college dorm life.

College Dorm Survival

Prepare for noise

This is where your understanding comes into play. Your preference for listening to your favorite music on earphones or speaking in a hushed tone does not mean that your dormmates also have a fondness for such. You are in a sizeable building with scores of freshmen with diverse personalities , excited and basking in enjoyment at the thought of freedom that college has to offer, so expect noise. This does not mean that every room in the dorm has loud music playing all day because virtually all college dorms have regulations about noise levels, but to a certain extent, there will always be the noise of some sort within earshot.

Some people have timbers for footsteps in the corridor. Maybe your roommate snores like an old, loudly whirring power tool. The adjacent room might sound like there’s always a debate drill going on. Whatever the reason, you should get yourself acclimated to the dorm life reality of 24/7 noise; moments of complete peace and quiet are few and far between.

College dorm life survival tip #1: Buy earplugs. They’re helpful and yes, inexpensive.

Be ready for zero privacy

This is the college dorm life so you need to lower your expectations. Better yet, have no expectations. Expecting privacy in the college dorm life is akin to expecting a unicorn to appear– it’s non-existent. You may think that we are being too hard on you but no, we’re actually putting it mildly. You and your roommates are sharing the same roof, not to mention the bathroom, dining table, sink, and the study. With these challenges, the college dorm life presents you the opportunity to adjust in two distinct ways:

First off, you will need to learn to adjust to a shared lifestyle and acquire team skills, which can be daunting especially if you have your own bedroom and living quarters back home. Secondly, everywhere you are on campus, chances are you’ll bump into a familiar face, yes - a dormmate. Whether it is good or bad depends on your soft skills, and so if you wish for anonymity, the college dorm life is not for you.

College dorm life survival tip #2: Your need for some semblance of privacy is understandable, for instance, if you wish to focus on those loads of homework. Scout the vicinity outside the dormitory where you can have a space to study or just be on your own. It can be a section in the library, a quaint little café nearby, or even a lovely little bench under a tree in the park. The important thing is you have space and time to be reflective.

Be ready to deal with all kinds of personalities

The dorm is just like the classroom – composed a ragtag bunch of personalities, some of whom run counter to your personal disposition. Maintaining an entirely bubbly attitude with respect to mingling with dormmates is healthy yet not too realistic. Why? Because of personalities clashing, yes, even college dorm life is not exempt. That is a human tendency. But you have the edge if you broaden your understanding.

There are a variety of reasons why dormmates may clash but it is important to take into consideration that when freshmen are cramped together in a building, the root cause of tension is seldom surface. When somebody is time zones, or in some cases, oceans, away from their support system, living alone for the first time, or trying to live up to the pressure heaped on them, it is reasonable to think that even the most composed person could be subject to unpleasant mood swings. Or, it could be the difference in upbringing or culture. Observe cultural sensitivity, too. This applies if you are roomed with foreign students.  In any case, always strive to be the bigger man. Who knows? An unpromising first encounter could turn into a beautiful friendship.

Inevitably, there are some people who will get on your nerves, plain and simple. It could be that tall, menacing fellow two doors down, or someone you encountered on campus, or it could even be your own roommate. At all times, always use the power of reasoning to determine the cause of the issue and find a workable solution. Yes, a solution. Because if there is a need to confront the person, you can't just air your complaints and grievances. It's best to have something that might improve the state of things, or even mark the start of a good relationship.

College dorm life survival tip #3 : Weigh things carefully before arriving at a decision. Remember that in living the college dorm life, you are likely to bump into that person frequently. Understand and absorb the importance of making peace with everyone.

Keep snacks

A college dorm life survival no-brainer. Allot a container for little snacks (biscuits, chips, canned food) and master how to use the microwave. The microwave breathes second life to otherwise bland and insipid unconsumed food from your last meal. Whether it is canned food or sandwiches, the microwave is there to save you when the cafeteria can’t. Lest you forget, there are also many dishes that you can cook using the microwave.

College dorm life survival tip #4 : Make it a point to leave the cafeteria with a few extra fruit items. If you do this, you’ll never go hungry at night when it’s close to bedtime.

Shower essentials are non-negotiable

College dorm life is not glamorous, mind you. So, no, you won’t ever have a bathtub installed in your dorm bath nor will you have time for it. And because you are sharing with your roommates, showers are not always clean and thorough. They are always quick and hurried.

Ward off the possibility of contracting harmful skin bacteria on your feet by buying a decent pair of flip-flops made of harder plastic, not rubber. Rubber flip-flops, as comfortable as they are, unfortunately, absorb bacteria. Wear them whenever you are in the bath and keep them dry afterward. You’re far from home so you cannot afford to be sick. Take no chances.

A shower caddy will also make your life easier. Your shampoo, body wash, soap should come in one compact unit. It is easier, much less messy, and light-years presentable than cramping all of them in an icky plastic bag.

College dorm life survival tip #5 : If the showers are more than a short walk from your room, consider buying a bathrobe. You don’t want an unfortunate and embarrassing slip of the towel.

Be in touch with the RA

Your college dorm life survival guide will not be complete without mention of the RA. Your Residential Advisor (RA) is the closest semblance of supervision or guidance that you will come across and be in contact with during your dorm stay. Forming a good, casual relationship with them is vital to your survival.

Normally upperclassmen who work with the university to enforce the regulations on the floors or rooms in a dorm, RAs are also students like yourself, but they have a little authority over freshmen when it comes to keeping newbies like you in line. You do not have to be the best of friends with the RA, but it is imperative that you build a certain level of respectability in their eyes, and not land in their list of unruly students that need “monitoring.” Landing on that list will more or less jeopardize your stay at the dorms.

College dorm life survival tip #6 : You are surely going to be introduced to your RA when you move in. Politely introduce yourself and start light but sincere follow-up conversation later in the week after you have settled your stuff and talked to your roommates. You see, your RA is also juggling academics, work, and social life, and they could also use your acquaintance. Creating a good first impression goes a long way - your RA’s job becomes easier, and the dorm environment becomes more harmonious when dorm fellows and RAs alike know each other beyond the name basis.  

Outline the division of labor early

After you have unpacked your stuff and exchanged pleasantries and little stories with your new roommate/s, politely mention the need for a chore chart to outline who does which chore. Insist lightly if you sense any hesitation. The chore chart should not be too complicated (ideally, your names and the corresponding chores) and assigning of chores depends on your and their "favored" chores. For instance, if they answer that they like washing dishes and you don’t, then it’s resolved, so on and so forth. The reason the chore chart should be first in order of importance is that it is best to set the tone early, so you and your roommates’ responsibilities are clear from the beginning, prompting mindfulness before it gets hectic. Without a chore chart posted on the dorm room wall, clashes will surely ensue because it is way harder to tell your roommates that they are not doing their fair share once your contempt has accumulated, and hence, the likelihood of you saying something disrespectful and rude is higher, and you do not want that. An agreement should be made that chores must be done irrespective of academic commitments (hello, finals).

College dorm life survival tip #7 : Prepare a list of possible and imaginable dorm chores even before you reach your dorm room. That way, you and your roommates can just proceed with assigning.

Organize your clothes

Sometimes all it takes to make an otherwise clean and organized dorm room look dirty is heaps and heaps of unfolded clothes, courtesy of you know who.  Unfolded laundry not only eats a lot of space, it is also a massive eyesore that accelerates stress levels. The cardinal rule: after doing the laundry, muster the resolve to fold them right away; employ the same approach with used clothing. Develop this habit and you’ll be doing yourself a huge favor. Why? Firstly, your academic stress will not be aggravated by the sorry sight of mountains of laundry inside your dorm room. Secondly, when your clothes are organized, you prolong their shelf life, and needless to say, you save money.

College dorm life survival tip #8 : Folding your clothes also does wonders in ways you thought improbable.  When all your clothes are organized, you know what you have and you’ll know if you’re missing an item. When you are on a budget 24/7, this kind of advantage is a must. So, yes, fold your clothes.

Space, space, space

College dorm life is literally cramped and you could use all the space you can get. Go to your RA, ask him/her if the dorm allows bed risers. If yes, purchase some. Bed risers allow you to make use of space beneath your bed to store everything from canned food to your shower caddy to extra pieces of clothing to pairs of shoes to piles of books.

College dorm life survival tip #9 : If bed risers are not allowed before you buy extra drawers or little cabinets for your stuff, please consult with your RA first for tips on how you can save space. Also, since most dorms do not allow you to punch holes in the walls, consider buying a standing or portable bookcase.

The college dorm life, like college itself, is survival of the fittest. You are going to find yourself in all kinds of situations while living in the dorms. These college dorm life survival tips are essential in understanding how dorm life works, and mastery thereof is not only vital to your stay, but also to your social and personal growth. Yes, balancing college dorm survival and academic pressure is quite overwhelming but when you know what to expect and how to respond, it shouldn’t be too difficult. As a matter of fact, taking on the challenge can be enjoyable.

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