College Dorm Life 101

Going off to college can be a stressful experience for freshmen all over the world. Not only will it be the first time living away from home, it may also be the first time sharing a room or living space with someone else, and having a new set of responsibilities. Living with people you don’t know yet can be overwhelming. What if you and your roommate butt heads? What if he or she has a conflicting lifestyle? Needless to say, dorm life can be one of the most nerve-wracking aspects of college that freshmen face each year.

Getting Accustomed to Dorm Life

If you’ve shared a room with a sibling at home in the past, then you may be used to compromising and dealing with not having a personal space to yourself all the time. But those who have never had to live with someone else may find it really difficult to have a roommate, especially a stranger at first. It might take some time to adjust and get comfortable, but fear not – the dorm life can be a very memorable part of the college experience when done right!

Before starting college, you’ll be notified of all your new roommate(s). To make adjusting to dorm life easier, it’s a good idea to reach out to them before moving in for your first quarter. This way, you’ll get the chance to get to know a little bit about each other before meeting, discover each other’s interests, personalities, likes and dislikes, lifestyles, and more.

In addition to introducing yourself, it’s smart to establish a level of comfort between you and your roommates, and together set basic ground rules to abide by so that there’s no unnecessary drama later on. For example, agree on a reasonable time frame when “night-time voices” should be used in consideration of other roommates. When coming up with dorm regulations, be mindful of each other’s schedules and lifestyles (early risers vs. night owls, smokers vs. non-smokers, for example). Becoming familiar with each other early on encourages a more communal and swift dorm living experience.

What Do I Bring?

Another major thing students stress about when it comes to dorm life is what to bring. The last thing you want to do is clutter a small space by bringing something that other roommates already had planned to contribute. By communicating with them before the move-in date, everyone can plan ahead and make their list of what needs to be supplied.

To ensure a complete and comfortable living experience, here is a checklist of dorm room essentials to bring:

  • Computer
  • Headphones
  • Earplugs
  • Desk and office chair
  • School supplies
  • Shower caddy
  • Toiletry items like toilet paper, toothpaste, toothbrush, makeup, nail clipper, face wash, body wash, shampoo, conditioner, lotion
  • Alarm clock
  • Drying rack for clothes
  • Laundry detergent
  • Laundry hamper
  • Compact fridge
  • Microwave
  • Bedding
  • Towels
  • Fan
  • Iron
  • Hangers
  • A medicine box with common items you may need like ibuprofen, bandaids, tiger balm, Vitamin C tablets, cold medication, etc.
  • Charging cords
  • TV
  • Plants and other decor
  • Rolls of quarters for laundry
  • Vacuum cleaner
  • Dishware and mugs
  • Appliances like rice cooker, tea kettle, toaster
  • Clothing
  • Paper towels
  • Sewing kit
  • Portable heater

Communal items you may choose to discuss with your roommates include the TV, microwave, compact fridge, other appliances, vacuum cleaner, and dorm decor. Other smaller things you may choose to either share or keep to yourself include paper towels, some toiletry items, and dishware and mugs. Again, having a discussion with your roommate(s) about who will be responsible to bring what will avoid having duplicate items or confusion later on.

Staying Safe in the Dorms

Remember that you are in control of your dorm life experience more than you might think. This is why campus safety is so important. Everyone must do their part to not only keep themselves safe, but their dorm-mates safe as well. At the beginning of the quarter shortly after settling in, resident advisors usually step in to give students an overview of the dorm and inform everyone of important emergency exits, relevant contact information, and other tips for safety. There may even be a mock fire drill to encourage everyone to be ready in case an emergency strikes.

To stay safe at school, we recommend taking the following precautions:

  • Travel with a buddy whenever you can. This is especially important late at night. Most colleges have some sort of campus escort service that’s offered for free so that students can get to and from classes feeling safe not walking alone. Take advantage of it!
  • When getting around campus, avoid using shortcuts and unfamiliar routes, and take the well-lit paths.
  • Share your schedule with your family, friends, and roommates. This way, if you are not able to travel with a buddy, someone will always be aware of your intended whereabouts and know when to call for help if ever needed.
  • Know your campus. Explore your school and neighborhoods, get familiar with the routes you’ll be taking to and from classes and/or activities, and take note of where emergency phones are located.
  • Make smart social choices. Networking is an important aspect of college, but the social scenes can sometimes be reckless and even dangerous. Before jumping into Greek life or anything that requires commitment, it’s a good idea to gauge the social scene first, and really evaluate whether or not it’s right for you.
  • Keep emergency contacts on and off-campus on speed dial. Contacts might include your roommate, your family members, your close friends, your resident advisor, as well as the official emergency contact line on campus. You never know when you’ll need to quickly reach someone. Having to fumble through your contacts list in an emergency situation is less than ideal!
  • Don’t leave portable heaters, candles, or anything potentially hazardous running when you are not there to monitor it.

Meeting New People with Your Roommates

Once you’ve taken time to get to know your dorm-mates, it’s time to branch out and meet other new people on campus! Attending social events and partaking in kick-off activities with roommates can make the experience more fun and much less intimidating.

A great place to start is participating in activities held in your residence hall, which will allow you to meet other people in the dorm aside from your immediate roommates and those living on the same floor. Your resident advisor will be there to help create a welcoming community, but at the end of the day, you also have to do your part to be open to meeting new people. Simply leaving your door open and participating in hall programs can go a long way when it comes to making friends quickly in college.

College is a fantastic place to meet people who can become some of your best friends and/or valuable connections for life. So, make it a point to get involved on campus early on by checking your school’s website and bulletin boards on campus to help you find clubs and organizations that interest you. You never know who you will meet, and what exciting opportunities may come with a growing network!


From a distance, dorm life may be intimidating especially if you aren’t already used to living with other people. But, the reality is, it can also be very fun! Taking the necessary steps early on to get to know your future roommates, learn how to compromise and respect each other, and plan out what to bring amongst each other will ensure a comfortable, exciting dorm experience for everyone.