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What You REALLY Need to Know About Living in a Dorm

Updated on March 25, 2015
Jeannieinabottle profile image

Jeannie has been writing online for over 8 years. She covers a wide variety of topics—anything from hamsters to office work.

The Dorm

Ah, college! The best and worst time of your life. Living in the dorm gives you that first taste of freedom. If this is your first time living in the dorm, you probably have a lot of concerns. It is perfectly normal. After all, it is not every day you move away from home and everyone you know, and move into a place with a bunch of random strangers. Just remember - it is new for them, too! Everyone is on the same boat.

A lot of people will give you advice about how to get along with your roommate or cool decorating ideas. This hub will not be about that. Since there is so much advice out there, I would like to cover some other topics you may need to know, but you probably haven't considered. Dorms can be a blast sometimes, but there are also things I wish I knew before I moved into a dorm that I want to share with others.

Typically, you will receive a notice sometime during the summer letting you know the name of your roommate or roommates. If you are a freshman, chances are, you will not be living in the best dorm ever. If you are lucky you will only have one roommate. Since colleges are trying to make as much money as possible and cram as many students as humanly possible into a small space, you may end up with a number of roommates. This could be fun since at least one person should be cool; however, it could be very crowded and you may want to throw a fit with the residence staff until you are moved to a better room.

Not everybody is showing up.

When moving into the dorm, please keep in mind nothing is permanent. You are only staying in that room for one or two semesters. If your room situation is not tolerable, you can complain to someone at the residence office. YOU are paying to attend college. Therefore, YOU pay their salary. Always remember that.

Often just one or two complaints to that office will get you moved to a better dorm room. There are plenty of students who are simply not going to show up. Rooms will become available and so will other roommates. Don't get too bummed about any situation. It is only temporary.

You should try to give your new roommate or roommates a chance at first. Be careful not to jump to conclusions. Just because your roommate has a Justin Bieber poster on the wall does not automatically mean he or she will be totally annoying. Sit down and have a conversation with him or her at first. If at first you don't succeed, try it again. If you really don't think it will work out, call and find out other options.

First to get there means first dibs?

If you get to the room before the roommate, scope out the area and try to determine a fair way to pick out beds. If there is an obviously way better bed in the room, don't just think you can grab it and settle in. If your new roommate walks in the room and you've picked the biggest closet with the bed by the window, you have already started off on the wrong foot. Don't be greedy. Just because you got there a half hour early does not make you special. Your new roommate will probably be happy to tell you how un-special you are.

If possible, wait for the new person to get there. If not, try to divide the room in the most fair way possible. You should also be willing to negotiate when your new buddy arrives. If you are not willing to compromise, not only will your new roommate be disgusted with you right from the beginning, you may also earn a nasty reputation around the dorm.

Decorate Your Dorm

The bathroom will always be repulsive.

Dorm bathrooms are always terrible. It would be nice to imagine a beautiful, clean smelling bathroom, but you are never going to have that. Yes, even if you are a girl and you only share the bathroom with other girls, it will still be disgusting. Always. You must accept this as a fact now or you are just setting yourself up for disappointment.

If you are sharing the bathroom with a number of people, buy yourself a shower caddy now. You will want to easily take your soap, shampoo, razor, etc. into the bathroom each time you need it. Don't leave it in there. Everyone will use all your stuff whenever they go in the bathroom. No, leaving your name on it is not going to help. Buy a shower caddy and save yourself a lot of grief.

You can always have hope when living in the dorm and the best you can hope for is to live with people who are not drunk all the time. Drunks leave a bathroom in terrible shape. I have seen dorm bathrooms with vomit all over the place at least 20 times and that is a very low estimate. Of course, sometimes you may even come into the bathroom to find a drunk person passed out on the floor by the toilet. I've seen that, too. Depending on their situation, you may want to check up on them. It is always a thoughtful idea to make sure a fellow dormmate is not about to drown in a puddle of their own vomit. It is just common courtesy.

The laundry room is always available weekend mornings.

If you want to make sure you will always be able to use the laundry room, go on a Saturday or Sunday morning. Everyone that was partying the night before is not concerned about doing laundry. They may or may not even know what the word "laundry" means at 8 AM on a Saturday.

If you want to make sure you get your first choice of washers and dryers, get up early and claim what you can on a weekend morning. It will probably be just you and some other early risers. If you are the sober type, you are bound to meet other sober dormmates at this time. It will be a fun bonding time for you.

There will be a fire.

Depending on the size of your dorm, there is bound to be a fire or two. I know this might sound scary, but it is rarely ever serious. Usually some idiot who is not supposed to be smoking throws a cigarette in a trash can and - poof - fire! For some reason, these fires always break out at 3 AM.

When you first experience one of these night adventures, you will be horrified. If you live in a really populated dorm and you live in the dorm for at least a couple of semesters, you will no longer panic when this happens. Instead, you will find that you can bond with your dormmates while waiting on the sidewalk. You can place bets on which floor was on fire and how long it will take before you can return.

It will be noisy.

Unless you specifically state you want to live in a quiet hall, it will be noisy.  There will be sounds that you will never be able to identify.  It is best not to question these things.  Mostly, you will get used to drowning out noises with music or the TV.  If your dormmates get too loud, do not be afraid to call the Residence Assistant or even security.  That is what they are paid to do.  Just remember, it is reasonable to hear people running down the hall laughing at 10 PM in a dorm.  However, it is not reasonable to hear arguing and screaming at 2 AM on a Tuesday.  You have every right to call and complain about that, and probably, they need some assistance with their issue anyway.

More than one TV is OK!

I remember being told when I moved into a dorm that the dorm room would only need one TV.  I was told to call my roommate and negotiate which one of us would bring the TV.  Everyone assured me that would be the perfect situation and nothing could go wrong.  Don't listen to those people.

If you want to bring a TV and your roommate also wants to bring a TV, by all means, do it.  You can both bring cable wires and one of you can buy a cable splitter for 2 bucks.  You can easily split the cable to two TVs.  If possible, buy a TV that has a headphone jack. You can watch what you want to watch and your roommate can watch whatever he or she wants to watch.  This will prevent a number of future disagreements, trust me.  If you are the type that barely watches TV, or if you watch DVDs or television shows on your computer, perhaps this does not apply to you.  If you are like me and you want to lay down and flip channels on the remote, this does apply to you.  Bring your own TV.

There will be nudity.

The dorm is not always PG rated.  Sometimes living in the dorm can be R rated, and sometimes it hits a triple X rating.  Beware!  You will walk in on odd situations.  At other times, you will hear some sound effects.  Sometimes you may have a roommate that is not embarrassed to walk around nude.  Sometimes you will find some interesting "activities" occurring in the bathroom.  Sometimes a dormmate will go streaking down the hall for no reason.  These things happen.  You may be shocked by it at first, but you will build up some tolerance for it over time. 

It will be fun!

I hope my hub has not scared you too much! I just want to give you an idea what dorm living is really like. It can be a wonderful experience or a "learning experience" depending on what college you attend and the type of dorms available. I truly believe everyone should live in the dorm at least once in their life. It teaches you a whole new level of tolerance and an understanding that everyone has their own way of living. There is no such thing as "normal."

In some dorms, there is such a sense of community. In other dorms, people learn names, but that is about it. I've lived in either type of dorm and both have their positive and negative sides. Most of all, you will meet some of the coolest, weirdest, most awesome, most scary people you've ever met. You will walk away with great stories. You will have friends you can lean on and sometimes just run across the hall or run across the campus to visit. It is an experience like no other and I feel sorry for those that never get to live it.



Submit a Comment
  • Jeannieinabottle profile imageAUTHOR

    Jeannie Marie 

    5 months ago from Baltimore, MD

    You're welcome. Happy to help.

  • Christina Dunn profile image

    Christina Dunn 

    17 months ago from United States

    I now feel more prepared about moving into a dorm. Thank you for writing this!

  • Jeannieinabottle profile imageAUTHOR

    Jeannie Marie 

    5 years ago from Baltimore, MD

    Oh yes, the shower. It was always awful. Once I lived in a dorm that had a bathtub and the things that went on in there... yuck! I actually once found a dormmate soaking in that thing. I could not believe it. I always heard you are supposed to wear waterproof sandals, too, but I never did either. I have tough feet, I suppose.

  • TimArends profile image

    Timothy Arends 

    5 years ago from Chicago Region

    You're right that the bathroom will be repulsive. So will the shower. I got athletes foot from stepping in a shower that was the literally Black from all the dirt. I had to scrub it out with Comet cleanser from then on before I took a shower. Someone suggested but I should've just worn sandals. Whatever.

  • Jeannieinabottle profile imageAUTHOR

    Jeannie Marie 

    8 years ago from Baltimore, MD

    Thanks for the comment. I hope this hub will helps others. There is so much no one can tell you before you live in a dorm.

  • AureliaMilani profile image


    8 years ago

    How I understand all this thing, I had such practice in my life and it's nice that some people can know such information befor they start to live in dorm. They can prepare yourself in advance))))

  • Jeannieinabottle profile imageAUTHOR

    Jeannie Marie 

    8 years ago from Baltimore, MD

    That is great! It is pretty rare to get to live in a new building with nice bathrooms. Just make sure to help keep the bathroom clean, too. Some bathrooms start off nice, but don't look that way by the end of the semester.

  • profile image


    8 years ago

    Actually my building is brand new And the bathrooms are great!

  • Jeannieinabottle profile imageAUTHOR

    Jeannie Marie 

    8 years ago from Baltimore, MD

    I agree with you. As difficult as it could be at times, I am so glad I lived in a dorm. I feel sorry for anyone that never got to have the experience. Thanks for the recommendation. I will have to check that out.

  • nycgrl profile image


    8 years ago from New York

    This is absolutely true! These are all the things they never tell you. As much as dorm living can be torture, I do not regret the experience. Some of the best times of my life to this day were in those dorms and I would do it all over again even the insane roommates (of which I had a couple). You should check out this web series called "Dorm Life" on Hulu. It's a really funny series with like 50 episodes all about 5-10 minutes long about college freshman living in a dorm. The actors were actually students from UCLA.

  • Jeannieinabottle profile imageAUTHOR

    Jeannie Marie 

    8 years ago from Baltimore, MD

    Thank you for the comment. This list was everything I always wished someone told me. Dorm life is a great experience, yet I would NEVER do it again.

  • Cogerson profile image


    8 years ago from Virginia

    Great hub...I agree....bathrooms will disgusting....nudity will be happening....there will be a fire.....a weekend morning is a great time to wash your dorm living is a memorable experience


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