How To Prepare for Dorm Life as a College Freshman


If you are currently a senior in high school who is planning to attend college next fall, chances are you’ve never lived on your own before. Depending on the level of independence you are already at, this will most likely be the first time you’ve had to handle doing your own laundry each week, managing a budget for groceries and other necessities or garnering enough self-discipline to stay on top of your work without your parent or guardian reminding you every night.

Due to the fact that I, too, am a senior in high school with no college experience whatsoever, you may take the following advice with a grain of salt. However, I have taken it upon myself to ask some college students, as well as do some brainstorming of my own, about what to expect from college and how to tackle dorm life in order to take some of the stress out of moving and redirect the focus to getting an education.

Moving away from your family can be tough, but once you’ve had the first couple weeks of classes to become adjusted, you will find that the independence is refreshing. For sophomore at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, Caleb Saiyasak, the new found liberty was not difficult to get accustomed to.

He said, “Living on my own for the first time wasn’t nearly as bad as I thought it would be. Even though you’re “on your own,” you’re surrounded by other people who are in the same situation as you, and you have an RA [resident assistant] who is there to help you with problems, even those unrelated to just housing.”

Purchasing dorm essentials is not as daunting as it seems at the beginning, either. In the months before college move in day, multiple retail stores, like Target, section off an entire area of their store and dedicate it to dorm supplies, such as bath towels, kitchen utensils and bedding. Most dorms also are already equipped with furniture and other necessities, so you can check your college’s website or contact the housing department for further details.

Create a checklist to assist you on your quest for dorm supplies and make sure to check what your roommate is bringing so that the limited space in the dorm room is not crowded by two mini fridges or two coffee pots.

Saiyasak also recommends buying hangers, organizing bins, room decor, etc. once you arrive to save time and space in the car.

Unless you’re lucky enough to room with a friend, you’ll be spending two whole semesters with a complete stranger. To help ease the threat of an awkward first encounter, try to connect with your roommate beforehand through social media, and if you live close to each other meet up a few times to get a feel for their personality so that you can decide if the pairing is destined to work out in the long run.

Additionally, most colleges have potential students answer a survey with general roommate compatibility questions, such as “Do you go to bed early or late?” and “Do you keep your room messy or organized?” This way, you won’t be heading into the situation blindly.

In the event that your roommate does not work out, it is not uncommon to request to change dorm rooms, but to do so is frowned upon by most colleges, which would rather students stick with the pairing for as long as possible.

Saiyasak said his roommate could not have been a worse match - always coming home late and leaving a mess everywhere. This worked in Saiyasak’s favor, however, as he made more of an effort to meet new people for lack of a decent roommate.

“I ended up spending more time outside my dorm than inside it, which ended up working out because I met some of my best friends when I was pretty much forced to be out of my dorm,” he said.

If you aren’t repelled from your dorm by your roommate, there are plenty of other ways to connect to the myriad of people you will soon meet. Get involved, whether it be student organizations, study groups or clubs - colleges have an abundance of these. On the off chance that nothing suits your needs or interests, start your own. You should also make an effort to start a conversation with the people you sit by in class.

“Every class you’re going to have is filled with potential friends, contacts [and] networking opportunities,” said Saiyasak.

The social aspect of college can be exhilarating, but balance between friends and school is vital to keeping up with your plethora of assignments. Saiyasak said that he took a class that helped with basic time management and provided peer mentors. Work with friends in your major, and don’t stay cooped up in your dorm studying - try to utilize the private study rooms or the common areas that some college dorms have.

“It’s very easy to find yourself distracted by other things and push work off,” said Saiyasak.

He advises mustering up the energy to begin an assignment because then you will be much more inclined to finish. It is easier to have and to enjoy free time once you have your work done. The work can and will get overwhelming, however, so keep in mind that your health, both physical and mental, should be prioritized alongside your schoolwork.

Saiyasak said that intramural sports, combined with the 2-3 miles of walking up and down hills between classes every day made it easy to keep physically healthy. Also, if you’re having issues with stress, or if you’re anxious about working, confide in those around you who you can relate to. Find people who will listen to you and respect you.

“Having others to help you even at your worst is the best thing that you can have,” he said.

Colleges have work out and training facilities open to students, as well as campus counselors to speak with when necessary.

Finally, because is is not recommended to find a job as a freshman, you most likely will be making zero income. Save as much money as possible before leaving for college, and utilize the mandatory meal plans for most meals. Try to only purchase what is needed.

You are not the only 18-year-old who is stressed out about college. Talk to people, whether it be past, present or future college students, every chance you so that you are ready and know what to expect once you start school.

Source: DIY Network

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