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Surviving Your First Week in a College Dorm Room

Updated on March 21, 2011

College dorm prep

Your first week living in a college dorm will be among the most exciting of your entire life. You're meeting lots of new people from all over the country and the world, and you might even be living with a total stranger. There are a few things you should bring (or buy) to make your life a little easier, and a lot of things you should leave at home. I hope that by the time you read through this page you'll be ready to be a college pro, making A's on the weekdays and scoring with the ladies on weekends.

What to bring (the little things):

There are a few things you absolutely have to bring. Here's a rundown:

  • Bedsheets. Most dorm room beds are twin extra-long, or twinXL, which means the bedsheets on your twin bed at home will be too short to fit. You'll have to buy new sheets for the dorm. Go with a school color or a color that won't show stains as easily, like tan. Trust me on this.
  • Padding for your bed. I'm pretty sure most colleges buy their beds from the surplus stock at the state prisons. They are basically a slab of slate on top of a metal frame with springs. If you like a soft bed, you'll have to bring your own padding. You can find it in twinXL size, or you can just buy a bigger size and cut it down.
  • Speaking of cutting, buy a Leatherman multi-tool. You don't need to carry it around with you, but it's nice to have a tool that can do so many things and you'll never know what you need it for in a dorm room.
  • Speaking of versatile tools, duct tape. Buy a roll of it. You'll figure out how to use it to fix 90% of your problems later. That's why college is an educational experience. 
  • A small waste basket. Buy the cheap solid plastic ones at Wal-Mart or Target. Don't get those fancy mesh ones. Liquid substances are going to go into that waste basket at some time or another, and if you've got a mesh basket that can't hold liquid (and specifically human bile) you're going to regret it. 
  • Pens, pencils, highlighters, a few pads of paper. There is some schoolwork to be done. Bring a calculator if you plan to major in math, science, or anything related to engineering.
  • A lighter. Preferably a nice Zippo or something similar. Learn how to use it well. Even if you don't smoke, there's nothing classier than a man who can produce a flame in less than 2 seconds. 
  • Power strips. Buy like 4 or 5 of them.

What to bring (the big things):

  • A laptop computer. You'll probably want a decent one that can last you 4 years. Don't get one with a 17 inch screen, because you're going to be carrying this thing around a lot. Also get a nice laptop bag, or make sure your book bag can also carry a laptop. Carry as few books in your book bag as possible.
  • A printer and paper. You don't want to count on the computer lab printers when you're in a jam. Don't connect your printer to the network. 
  • A microwave. Work this out with your roommate. Don't count on using the microwave in the common area on your floor. They get abused and break, and then you'll be eating your Ramen noodles dry. Also, get a cookbook for microwave cooking.
  • A mini-fridge. Some colleges require that you lease a fridge through them. Find out if yours does. If not required, don't lease, buy. You can probably find a mini-fridge on Craigslist for about the price of a 1-year lease.  

What not to bring:

  • Posters. Leave them at home. Buy new ones during the first week. Every college in the country has a huge poster sale the first week of the fall semester. Go there, buy new posters for like 75% off, and meet new people. You and your roommate should buy 3 posters each and meet at least 2 new people. Get their contact info and have them over for some light partying.
  • Plates, cups and utensils. If you and your roommate have backpacks, empty them out and go down to the dining hall. Make sure to grab a tray and extra plates and utensils, then buy food that has it's own plate. Eat in the corner. Return the tray with a plate and set of utensils on it. Do this for a week and you'll be set for the year.  This works best at the most understaffed dining hall. 
  • A big screen TV. It'll probably get broken at some point. If you have a suite with a bunch of other guys, get everyone to go in on a big screen TV purchase for the common room, that way it's only a couple hundred bucks apiece. 
  • Plants. They make a mess of your car when you travel a long ways with them. Don't get me wrong, you DO NEED PLANTS IN YOUR DORM ROOM, but it's just better if you buy them after you arrive. Go to Lowe's or someplace similar with your roommate and find a nice potted plant. This will freshen up the air in your room, which is absolutely necessary. 

Saving space in a dorm room

  • Dorms rooms are cramped, but there is something you can do about it. See if you can bunk your beds. This will open up a lot more room.
  • Also, I used to stack mini-fridges on top of one another. And we'd stack a microwave on top of that, so we had a tower in the common room of our sweet that was 2 mini-fridges and a microwave on top. This saves a lot of floor space. If you've got free space in your closet and you aren't hiding anything in there, think of putting your fridge-fridge-nuker tower in there. This is where those power strips will come in handy.  
  • You'll probably be given a drawer chest for use in the dorm. Use this as your TV stand. 
  • Milk crates. Find someone who has them. Get like 5 of them. You can stack them, you can store stuff in them. Very versatile. 

I'm all set up, now what?

Your room looks great, you've got more space than you thought you'd have, and you've even made your own bed, now what? Well, first you want to find out the best pizza places and Chinese restaurants in town. Disregard the ones that don't deliver to campus. Get phone numbers and menus and post them on the wall next to that poster of the two chicks kissing on the bed you just bought at that poster sale. Also, save the best ones on your cellphone. 

Don't forget to coordinate the alarms on your cellphone with your class schedule. You don't want to start skipping classes the first week. 

Make friends with upperclassmen. They can get you out of a jam and also know how to get things.  


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  • I am DB Cooper profile image

    I am DB Cooper 7 years ago from Whereabouts unknown at this time

    That's a good tip, although you'll want a safe that can be locked down to something or big enough that it can't easily be carried away. I've known people who have had entire flat screen lcd's stolen, along with xbox's and playstations, so if someone can carry it away it might not be "safe", especially since people will assume that anything inside it is valuable, and they can worry about breaking it open later.

  • t2webnetwork profile image

    t2webnetwork 7 years ago from Oxford, MI

    Good list. I also think that a smaller safe for expensive items can help. Place things such as rings, and more in here when not around. Also, it's a good thing to hide it as well =]