Surviving Freshman Year When You Live in a Single Dorm

The summer before my freshman year at the University of Pittsburgh, I submitted my housing application with growing excitement. I felt sure that my request to join the Honors housing community would be granted, and that my decision to let the school choose my roommate was the right one. After an agonizing month of waiting, I was first informed that I would not be apart of the Honors community. This was a disappointment, but I maintained that it would be easy to find lots of friends wherever I ended up.

When the official housing assignments were finally posted, my initial reaction was confusion. My eyes travelled from the heading of the “Building” column down to the words “Lothrop Hall,” and then to the “Roommate” column, only to discover that there was a blank space where someone’s name should have been. I immediately texted a photo to a friend.

“What do you think this means?”

“I think it means you have a single,” she replied.

Those words, which confirmed what I had already been suspecting, sent me into a tailspin of mixed emotions. On one hand, I knew it would be easier to get settled in my room without the added pressure of meeting a new person who I would then have to live with for the better part of a year. I’m also an introvert, so I knew it would probably be beneficial for me to have my own space. On the other hand, it felt as if I had been forced into a potentially isolating situation. Matters worsened when I discovered that of the 50-some girls on my floor, only myself and nine others were freshmen.

Now, as my time in my single dorm is coming to an end, I can confidently say that I am happy I ended up there. At times it has been far from easy, and I still wish the university had placed me on a floor with more freshmen. Even so, through this experience I believe I’ve learned more than I ever would have otherwise about myself, and what I am capable of as an independent human being.

If you’re an incoming freshman considering (or stuck with) a single, my hope is that these tips will help you to survive, and even to thrive, on your own.

1. Join clubs and organizations.

This is perhaps my biggest piece of advice. Over the past year, the vast majority of the connections I have formed at school have been through the various organizations I have joined (including Her Campus!). Clubs and orgs provide a space for you to meet like-minded people who you will then see at least once every week. This is perfect for forging new friendships! While you might not always feel like showing up, I promise it’ll be worth it in the long run--- and ten times more beneficial than the tempting alternative of holing up in bed with Netflix.

2. Be proactive.

In my case, it was nearly impossible to find friends within my actual dorm, due to the deficit of fellow freshmen and the fact that I lived alone. While this may not be the case for everyone living in a single, I highly recommend being proactive in seeking out social opportunities with potential friends, such as those from clubs. This is something that I find personally difficult, but every time I’ve mustered up the courage to reach out to someone new, it’s almost always paid off in the end. For example, back in the fall semester I decided to randomly text the group chat for my workout club to see if anyone wanted to grab dinner. The girl who responded and I ended up talking for several hours, and she’s now one of the best friends I’ve made at college!

3. Leave your door open.

I won’t lie--- I feel slightly hypocritical providing this piece of advice, as it’s something I never really followed myself, except on rare occasions. However, it’s true what RAs always say: open doors make happy floors. If you leave your door open, especially toward the beginning of the first semester, it is likely that many who are in the exact same boat as you will drop by to say hi. Remember that among you and all the other freshmen, everyone’s the new kid. It’s the easiest thing in the world just to retreat into your room and tune the world out (I should know), but if you make the small amount of effort it takes to leave your door open, it could make a world of difference.

4. Get a Spotify Premium account! (Or other comparable music streaming service.)

Sadly, this article is in no way affiliated with Spotify; I just feel strongly about this piece of advice! While it may seem odd, for me it’s been a lifesaver. Especially toward the beginning of the year, as someone who grew up in a house with four other people and a dog, the silence in my single seemed deafening. With only my thoughts to keep me company, it was easy to dwell on my homesickness. Having just recently purchased Premium and made a ton of playlists, I started putting one on each morning as I got ready. Soon, I was playing music in my room almost constantly. It filled the silence, boosted my mood, and gave me something to sing along to instead of overthinking.

There are truly many positive aspects to living in a single dorm. You can play music, TV, and movies out loud, leave on or turn off the lights at all hours without bothering anyone, and wear (or not wear) whatever you want. And, if you’re an introvert like myself, you’re guaranteed your very own space to relax and recharge before heading out to face the world again.

No matter where you spend your freshman year, it’s bound to be a whirlwind of new experiences, both good and bad. If all else fails, never forget that it is in your power to wake up each morning and face the day with a positive outlook. Yesterday’s already gone, and you’re going to be great! After all, this is just the beginning.


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