By the time you’re ready to move off to college, the first day of school is nothing new to you. But there is one huge difference between, say, starting kindergarten and starting your bachelor’s degree: It will probably be the first time you’re living on your own.

For many soon-to-be undergrads, the first place you’ll live on campus is that time-honored staple of collegiate life – the dormitory. In this article, we’ll share some tips and tricks for making the transition to independent living.

Know Your Terminology

Depending on where you go to school, the term “dorm” might be a little passé. The preferred method of referring to your new home on campus could be “residence hall.”

“Dorm” is considered by many campus housing professionals to be outdated and more utilitarian than the accommodations offered. Some, like those at the University of Houston, will tell you that DORM actually stands for “Dull Ordinary Room of Mine” while a residence hall is “Really Exciting Sensational Individually-Designed Enlightening New College Experience that Houses an Abundance of Life and Love.”

Do with this information what you will; we just want to make sure you don’t start off your campus living experience with a faux pas. For the purpose of this article, we’ll use the terms interchangeably.

Know What to Bring and What Not to Bring

This could be the first time you’ll be away for an extended period of time, and you may want to bring all of the comforts of home to ease the switch. But chances are, all those comforts won’t fit.

“Residence hall rooms are known for many things, but space is not one of them,” admits Nick Marinello, residence hall director at Oakland University. “If you are living with a roommate that you know, sit down with them and plan on what each of you will bring. You may think you each need a television, a fridge and an eight-seat sectional, but trust me – you don’t. Find out who has the bigger TV and the more comfortable couch and each bring the best of what you’ve got.”

Be sure to check your university’s campus life website for a list of restricted items.

“Students often try to bring in lots of crazy things, from pets to their own bed from home,” says Marinello. “You don’t want to haul your queen-size bed across the state only to learn that it won’t fit and isn’t allowed anyway. The other thing that many people try to bring are tons of electrical appliances.  Many residence halls are not equipped to run your private tanning bed, and you’ll suffer from power outages all year. That’s not a great way to make friends.”

Learn How to Be Part of a Community

College can be a culture shock to a lot of people. There are a lot of new experiences and a lot of firsts. This could be the first time you’ve really had to live with other people. The unfamiliar surroundings, new roommates and tight spaces can test anyone’s patience.

Conflict arises and roommate disagreements are expected. How you handle these disagreements is fundamental to shaping who you will be as an adult through the rest of college.

“You have two options,” explains Marinello. “You can talk to the person or let it go. The most successful roommates talk things through. You both need to learn what you are going to accept and what you are going to let go. Try to let most stuff go. There are very few roommate conflicts that can’t be solved by talking things through.”

There is a community outside your room that you should consider becoming a part of as well. Living in a residence hall offers a unique experience to everyone waiting to seize the opportunity. Some people see the dorms as a stepping stone and can’t wait to make the move off campus. However, Marinello believes you shouldn’t be in such a rush.

“Living in a residence hall may be loud at times,” he admits. “But you are surrounded by students that are just like you and are willing to hang out even with people they just met. Living in a residence hall will afford you the greatest access to friends you will ever have in your life. Apartment living just can’t provide that kind of community. No one will be knocking on your door to go get pizza at midnight in an apartment.”

“You will have plenty of time to come home to a TV dinner and an empty house,” he adds.

Bring the right stuff with you, be a good roommate, take full advantage of all your new community has to offer, and you’ll transition nicely into your first years of college.

Selecting the right school and paying for it is another matter entirely.


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