After 18 years of living in your parents’ house, moving into your college dorm room can be a jarring transition. Suddenly your room isn’t just yours anymore, the kitchen is covered in dozens of people’s dishes, and you no longer know who used the shower before you (or what they did in there). Instead of sharing your space with people you’ve known all your life, you’ll be sharing it with people you’ve never met, some of whom you probably won’t get along with (hey, we all have our differences, right?).
Rather than endure the exquisitely awkward pain of a conflict with someone you barely know, it’s important to know and respect the rules of the dorm that Res Life doesn’t include in the student handbook. By adhering to these, you can hopefully avoid unnecessary arguments, hold onto your belongings and skip over some of the uglier moments of freshman year.
Rule #1: Don’t keep your door shut all the time. No one will want to introduce him or herself to the person who’s always locked in her room, and sooner or later you could find the building to be pretty lonely, no matter how many neighbors you have. Leave the door propped open so that people passing by can say hello and you can actually meet who you’re living with.
Rule #2: Don’t be the roommate who barges into the room without knocking. You don’t know what you could be walking in on! Regardless, your roommate deserves a courtesy knock (and so do you), and she won’t take kindly to you constantly bursting in on her privacy.
Rule #3: If the shampoo isn’t in your shower caddy, do not touch it. The same rule applies to conditioner, body wash, toothpaste, toothbrushes, soap, and especially razors and loofahs. Go to the local CVS or even the campus store, and buy your own toiletries. And if you’re really in a bind, just ask—there’s sure to be some girl with a heart of gold who will let you borrow her conditioner—but nicely, and don’t make a habit of it.
Rule #4: Don’t have sex in one of the communal showers. People will hear you, they will tell other people, and before you know it, everyone in your dorm will know. Plus, ew. Just ew. There’s a reason you have to wear flip-flops in there.
Rule #5: Do not take anything from the kitchen unless you brought it there. If it’s communal, people will leave food and dishes there. How would you feel if someone stole your expensive mochaccino caffeine-less beverages from the fridge? Not good, that’s how.
Rule #6: Clean up after yourself or forever bear the pain of your dorm-mates complaining to each other about how messy you are.
Rule #7: Don’t start making out with your latest love interest while your roommate is in the room, unless you want to completely alienate and/or repulse her. She doesn’t want to see that, and you wouldn’t want to be subjected to her PDAs either. Think about just sitting around, doing your psych homework, only to realize with growing horror that those wet sounds you’re hearing… yeah.
Rule #8: Think long and hard before hooking up with someone who lives in your dorm (aka dormcest), especially if they’re on the same floor as you. Remember that you will probably see them every day for the entire school year. Remember that even if it feels good now, it has incredible awkward potential—and since you live together, that awkward will spread like wildfire to everyone in your dorm.
Rule #9: There is no complaining on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays if people are playing music too loudly, talking too loudly, or generally distracting you with their revelry. It’s the weekend, and absolutely no one cares if you want to study. If you really can’t put your books down to join in, take it to the library.
Rule #10: “She who boots shall clean up the puke”– if you get sick from drinking too much, it’s on you to take care of the mess. Don’t leave it for the janitorial staff, or expect that anyone else will clean it up. Once you’ve sobered up, go get rid of the evidence, and try not to overdo it the next time.
Rule #11: Everyone has the right to some peace and quiet in college. So if someone in your building is being ridiculously loud, go knock on their door and ask them nicely to keep it down. If they don’t listen and/or don’t care, then you can report them, guilt-free. However, the emphasis is on ridiculously. People have the right to talk, even while you’re studying (especially on the weekend—remember Rule #9!). Remember that the dorm is a shared space.
Perhaps most importantly, remember that when a large group of people lives in a small space, everyone seems to know everyone else’s business. Gossip flows like water. So you can be sure that if someone catches you stealing cake from the dorm fridge or swiping toothpaste in the bathroom, sooner or later everyone else will know about it, too. The best rule is The Golden Rule—treat your dorm-mates the way you wish to be treated. Don’t set yourself up for a year of suspicious looks and scathing whispers. Instead, follow the unwritten rules of dorm life and guarantee yourself a happy school year with lots of new friends.