Dorm Diaries: What I Wish I Knew Before Freshman Year

Movies and TV shows have painted a picture of an unrealistic college life for years (There is no way Elle Woods could have fit her treadmill into my dorm room!). Dorm living, which is often rendered the quintessential part of the college experience, has been quite the surprise over the past few months of freshman year. Before packing my bags and moving away from home, I thought I had a good grasp of what living with a roommate and sharing a bathroom with 40 other hallmates would entail. Talk about being naïve. Now don’t get me wrong, I love my roommate and communal bathrooms aren’t that terrible, but I certainly entered college with a few misconceptions. Here’s what I wish knew before freshman year about living in a dorm and some tips on how to make the most out of your new home.

  1.  Meeting your roommate before move-in day is important                     

    I’m not going to lie, your roommate situation can make or break your dorm living experience. That’s why, if possible, you should hang out with your roomie before you say hello to living together. For me, I met with my roommate twice before move-in, once for coffee and once to go dorm room shopping. Although we lived two hours away from each other, having a chance to hang out before living together allowed us to see if we were compatible and get to know each other better. Nothing is more awkward than meeting someone for the first time in a 12x12 dorm room as you are dripping in sweat from repeatedly climbing three flights of stairs. With that said, don’t feel pressured to be best friends with your roommate. Just make sure to set up a friendly communication style so that you can confront any issues that may arise cordially. If anything, reach out to your future roommate through social media and spend some time getting to know them before you end up sleeping in the same room for a year.

  2. You won’t be friends with everyone on your hall, and that’s OK                                      

    Just like your roommate, your hallmates may not end up being your best friends and that’s completely fine. For me, I barely know the names of more than half of my hallmates, but I have found some of my closest friends from living on the same floor. Due to a variety of different class and social schedules, your hallmates are not always going to have their doors open 24/7 for you to come in and say hi. In fact, they may never have their doors open and you may see many unfamiliar faces during your daily trips to the floor’s kitchen and bathroom (I know this one from personal experience). If you are wanting to make more friends on your floor, I recommend doing something as simple as baking cookies with your roommate and going door to door, delivering them and introducing yourself. Trust me, no college student turns down free food, so you are bound to strike up a conversation with at least one of your hallmates. Before moving into my dorm, I believed that every person on my hall would become my friend, but college has made me realize that you will meet people everywhere and your dorm hall may not always be that place.     

  3. You’ll spend more time in your dorm than you think                                                           

    As much as you think a 12x12 block won’t become your home away from home, it will. Yes, many days will be spent in the library or in class, but your dorm will become an oasis from the many overcrowded study spots on campus. A dorm room is a three in one space where you can study, eat and sleep. I’ve come to spend a lot more time in my room than I originally thought I would. It has become my place of relaxation, where I come to unwind from my busy college lifestyle. My dorm has become a hangout for my friends, where we host late night dance parties, mid-day study sessions and occasional Netflix bingeing competitions. Because you will spend a lot of time in your dorm, decorate your room in a way that will make you feel at home. Twinkly fairy lights and cozy blankets are two of the essentials that I have come to love about my dorm. Whether you coordinate with your roommate or not, make sure your space is a place you enjoy and can relax in. Treat your dorm like a home; trust me, you’ll be there a lot.           

  4. Don’t bring your entire wardrobe                                             

    If there was any piece of advice that I needed to hear before college, it was this. As I packed for college, I believed that I needed every T-shirt, skirt and dress I owned in my college wardrobe. Man, was I wrong. When I arrived on move-in day, I quickly realized that my small dorm closet was not going to withstand the weight of the 10 pairs of jeans I brought. Let’s just say, I had multiple bags of clothes going home with my parents that day. Even with the array of clothing items in my closet, my college style has turned into something I like to call “lazy chic.” On a good day, you might catch me wearing one of my ~nice~ T-shirts with a pair of Nike shorts, but other than that, most of my closet goes unworn. If you’re like me and like to be prepared, consider only bringing clothes for one season and switching them out as each new season approaches. Take it from the girl who brought bedazzled cowboy boots because she “might need them” and just know that you will not need as many clothes as you think you will.  

  5.  Appreciate dorm life for what it is                                                                                             

    I think most would agree that dorm living is not the most luxurious experience. From small living space to communal bathrooms, dorm living can be a difficult transition for incoming college students. What I didn’t know before I smelled the moldy scent of the dorm hallway and witnessed the image of a communal bathroom was that a dorm is so much more than its downsides. In just three months of living the college experience, my dorm hall has allowed me to meet some of my best friends and create memories that I will never forget. What I often fail to realize is that dorm living brings people together. For most residents, including myself, it is our first time being away from home and trying to “adult” in the real world. This fact alone creates a bond like no other. If I could give any piece of dorm life advice it would be to live in a dorm your first year.                   

If these past three months of dorm living have taught me anything, it is that choosing to live on campus my first year of college was the best choice I ever made. From bonding with my hallmates over the less than luxurious bathrooms to cooking meals in the kitchen, dorm life has turned complete strangers into my closest friends and that is something no one could have ever told me before freshman year.