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College Survival Tips: The Dorms

family helping daughter move in to dorms


I’m sure you’re feeling a mixture of excitement and nervousness as the summer counts down and the first day of college gets closer and closer. College is a huge change and it isn’t something that should be taken lightly. One of the biggest adjustments you will face when you start college is living in the dorms. The dorms can be fun. They are a great place to meet your new best friends and make some great memories, but they can also be a chaotic catastrophe of loud music, roommate fights, and “pop-in” guests all while you are trying to sleep or study. Here are my tips for surviving college dorms while keeping yourself physically and mentally healthy. For advice on college academics, check out my first post in this series, College Survival Tips: Academics.

Prepare For The Move

Moving into a dorm is not the time to skimp on the essentials. Have enough clothing for all types of weather, pack two sets of sheets, and make sure you go grocery shopping as soon as you move in. Your roommates and friends will soon get annoyed if you’re always bumming snacks off them. Since your around all these new people, there is a significant chance you’re going to catch a few colds this season. It may seem ridiculous to buy cold medicine and cans of soup when you aren’t even sick but trust me, it will come in handy when you’re writing a 20 page final paper while battling a 102 degree fever.

Make Sleep a Priority

You may find that you’re struggling to sleep in college. You might be a light sleeper or have noisy roommates or neighbors keeping you up. This is when you want to make sure you have your sleep essentials: eye mask, ear plugs, and even a white noise machine. If you’re staying up to hang out with friends or cram for your next test, you may develop a warped sleep pattern and find yourself never knowing if you’re going to get 4 hours or 10 hours of sleep a night. A consistent sleep schedule is vital for your physical and mental health so don’t put it on the back burner. For more about how to regulate your sleep schedule, check out my article A Former Insomniac’s Guide to Sleeping Better.

Create Roommate Agreement

If it seems you and your roommate aren’t agreeing on a lot of the key issues, it might be time to talk about them or even make a roommate agreement. Some colleges, including my own, had every room create a roommate agreement detailing what was and wasn’t acceptable. Your roommate may not know that it bothers you that she hasn’t done any of her dishes in a week. The only way to know what each person needs to get along is if you talk about it.

Find Safe Haven

Even if you’ve talked it out with your roomie that isn’t a guarantee that she will always listen. It’s a good idea to find a safe haven away from your room just in case things with your roommate hit a boiling point. This could be the library, a café, or a friend’s room. Any place where you can relax and get away from the stresses of class and dorm life will do.

Ditch Any Bad Friends

You will meet a lot of people your first year and many of them will become your friends. Since you’re casting a wide net you’re bound to drag in a few bad friends. Newfound friends can turn out to be toxic in a number of ways: one friend can be too clingy, another can pressure you into partying way too much, and others can simply flake out on you. Don’t feel obligated to be friends with everyone you meet especially if they give you reasons not to trust them. I’ve seen lots of college students who will still hang out with their “friends” who aren’t good for them simply out of the fear of seeming rude or missing out. In a couple of years from now, you’ll only regret not ridding yourself of these toxic friends sooner.

Take care of yourself

Since you’re no longer living at home, there will be no one there to tell you that candy isn’t a meal or that you need to clean your room. Trust me, I know that feeling is refreshing. But you’ll soon realize that all the rules and regulations that your parents have been pounding into your head for the last 18 years actually serve a purpose. College gives you more freedom than you’ve had before but don’t let all that freedom keep you from taking care of yourself. You don’t have to turn into a fitness fanatic or a health nut. Just try to get some physical activity in and make sure you are eating some sort of vegetables that isn’t a pizza topping. Taking care of your living space is just as important as taking care of your body. Things can get gross in a college dorm room so don’t add to it by ignoring two weeks’ worth of laundry or the trash can that’s overflowing with Cup O’ Noodles containers.


For Families: Don’t compare your college experience (or anyone else’s) with your child’s experience. You may have had a blast in college or your child’s brother may have loved living in the dorms, but that doesn’t mean this particular child will feel the same way. Be supportive as your child transitions from living at home to living on campus.

The Golden Takeaway:  Moving into the dorms can be exiting and overwhelming all at once but everything will be fine if you keep these tips in mind and don’t forget to take care of yourself.

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