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How to Survive Living in a College Dorm Room

Updated on July 6, 2015
Your Dorm Room Survival Guide
Your Dorm Room Survival Guide | Source
A typical dorm room. There is usually only enough room for the bare necessities.
A typical dorm room. There is usually only enough room for the bare necessities. | Source

1. Don't Take Everything With You

Your side of your dorm room will consist of a bed, a desk, and a small closet. This leaves you with very little room for all of your things, making it imperative that you wisely choose what you should bring with you.

Benefits of Packing Lightly:

  • It will be easier to keep your side of the room clean.
  • You will have less stress from constantly trying to shove your things into crevices to make it all fit.
  • Your roommate won't be upset that your stuff is on his or her side.
  • You won't waste time trying to find lost items.
  • The less you bring, the fewer items of your that can be stolen.

Things Not to Bring:

  • Your own personal library. You probably won't have room for a bookshelf, so only bring a handful of books you actually intend on reading. The University Library is free—use it.
  • Extra furniture. Keep the armoire, couch, and wood dressers at home.
  • All of your childhood memorabilia. There won't be room...and do you want your college friends to know that you still sleep with Mickey Mouse?
  • Illegal items. Most schools have policies against drug paraphernalia and weapons. Even a small pocket knife might be forbidden.
  • Pets. Anything other than a goldfish won't be allowed. Plus, having a noisy or smelly pet isn't fair to the roommate sleeping in the bunk above you.
  • A surplus of inappropriate clothing. If you grew up in the mountains and you're attending school at the beach, 10 winter coats won't do you any good.
  • Heirlooms or other expensive and unnecessary items. Leave your gold coin collection, Star Wars antiques, and diamond jewelry at home.

Things not to bring to college.
Things not to bring to college. | Source

2. Eat Healthy

Dorm food is notoriously unhealthy, so be sure to eat your veggies, stay away from the sugary drinks, and keep the dessert cart far from arm's reach.

You may have grown up in a household where nutritious food was prepared for you. You might not have had to make healthy eating decisions and just ate what was put in front of you. Now you will have frozen yogurt and soda machines at your complete disposal. If you want to keep the freshmen 15 at bay, here are a few tips for healthy eating in the dorms.

Healthy Eating Tips

  • You don't know how much butter, oil, salt, or sugar was used in your food, so by staying away from overly processed and cooked foods (sugary chinese dishes, macaroni and cheese ect.) you can avoid hidden unhealthy ingredients.
  • If there is a salad bar, load up on leafy greens and vegetable toppings. Try to stay away from fatty dressings and fried toppings.
  • Don't eat desert at every meal. At home you probably didn't eat dessert at every meal, but in the dorms you will likely encounter a plethora of dessert choices served as snacks and at lunch and dinnertime.
  • Keep fruit in your dorm room to snack on so that you are not tempted to use the vending machine.
  • Don't snack while you study—it's too easy to go through a whole bag of chips because your mind isn't focused on chewing but on your biology final. If you're hungry, and not just bored, snack on fruit, nuts, or other healthy treats.
  • Get a small dorm fridge so that you can keep a few healthy items in your room. This will help you cut down on eating fast food because you're out of meal passes or the dinning hall is closed.

A Fridge and Freezer Small Enough for Your Dorm Room

3. Stay on Good Terms With Your Roommate

Maybe your family has twelve kids squeezed into a three bedroom house—but if that's not the case, you will quickly have to adjust to living in very close quarters to other people. You might not have picked your dorm roommate, but regardless, you are stuck together for the year.

Tips For Handling Conflict With Your Roommate

  • First impressions tend to stick, so be honest and friendly with your roommate the first day. Go out for a meal or spend some time getting to know him or her. Even if he or she is shy, taking the initiative and extending a warm welcome will help him or her feel at ease.
  • Choose your battles. There will be something you will dislike about your roommate, no matter how angelic he or she may be. Overlook the minor flaws and address the things that make you truly uncomfortable.
  • If there is a problem offer up a solution or address it in the form of a question. For instance, if your roommate wants to listen to heavy metal at the wee hours of the morning, offer to let them use your studio headphones (which have a way better sound). Instead of saying,"You always leave your dirty clothes on the floor. Stop being such a slob!" You could say, "Hey, I noticed you've been really busy with finals this week, but I'm having people over and am wondering if you could tidy up your clothes?" When you accuse people, it rarely keeps the peace; they may not even know that what they are doing is bugging you.
  • Before bad habits are established, spend some time going over personal guidelines and expectations. Don't let your anger build over several months; address your issues swiftly, humbly, and kindly.
  • If you can't handle the conflict on your own, your Resident Assistant (RA) or Dorm Parent should be able to offer up advice or help you fix the problem.

Don't Be His Roommate!

Be kind...and take showers.
Be kind...and take showers. | Source

Here are some topics you should consider going over right away:

  1. Can guests hang out in the room?
  2. Can members of the opposite sex stay or hang out in the room?
  3. What time should the room be quiet every night?
  4. Is leaving the light on to study OK while the other person is sleeping?
  5. Is it OK to spend time in the other person's space?
  6. How does the other person feel about parties and drinking?
  7. If there is an in-room shower, when should each person use it?
  8. Who vacuums the floor? When?
  9. How clean do you want the room kept?
  10. What time do you wake up? Should clothes and supplies be set outside so as not to waken the other person?
  11. Is it OK to use the other person's possessions like the printer, fridge, paper, or condiments? Seriously, fights have happened over someone using the other person's katchup.
  12. Are perfumes or air fresheners OK to spray? Being stuck with a nauseating smell is awful! Make sure your roommate is happy with it.


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    • Lila Raines profile imageAUTHOR

      Lila Raines 

      5 years ago

      Larry, thanks for reading and commenting. I also had a love hate relationship with the dorms. A good roommate makes all the difference. The last couple of years I had a really good one which made it a lot more fun.

    • Larry Rankin profile image

      Larry Rankin 

      5 years ago from Oklahoma

      I did my best to make a go of the dorms, but I just hated it.

      Very helpful tips for the uninitiated.


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