Dorm life can be an absolute blast. Living on your own, with friends—and not just a room of friends but a whole building full of people your own age—can be a really fun and memorable experience.
However, as with all community, living in close quarters with a lot of other people can also come with its challenges. If you’re thinking about heading to college next year and living on campus in a dorm, suite, or on-campus apartment, there are a few things you can do to prepare for the transition from living at home with your family to living with roommates at school.
1. Meet your roommates before you move in
If you all live in the same state, it’s a good idea to try and meet up with your future roommates before move-in day. Most colleges provide some basic contact information for the person or persons you will be living with, a quick text, phone call, or meet up will help you gauge if you all are a good fit for each other. If you live out of state, try FaceTiming or Skyping.
This is also a great time to coordinate who will be bringing what to your dorm. Does someone already own a mini fridge? What about a microwave? Think through the things you can share and try and distribute out what everyone will need to buy evenly so you can avoid bringing multiples of things.
2. Get cozy
Your dorm will be your new home away from home, so don’t be afraid to move in and make your space your own. Put pictures up on the wall, string twinkle lights over the window, and bring your flannel sheets and comforter from your bed. When it comes to common spaces, you’ll want to brainstorm with your roommates how you want things to look. Will you want a couch and television in the middle? A beanbag chair? Is someone going to bring a rug? Communicating ahead of time about what you might want things to look like will eliminate any awkward interactions with your roommates once you move in.
Even if you know you’ll only be living in that particular dorm room for one semester, it’s still worth making it feel homey so you don’t feel like you’re displaced for several months at a time.
3. Patience is a virtue
It’s inevitable that you and your roommates will get annoyed with each other at least a few times throughout the year. Living with other people who aren’t your family or who have different habits takes practice. Playing loud music in the middle of the night, leaving dirty dishes in the sink, bringing friends over who stay for hours upon hours are all things you might have to face. You’ll have lots of opportunities to practice patience—it’s a good thing to learn how to live in community with others! On the flip side, it’s also important to practice good conflict resolution skills.
4. Communicate, communicate, communicate
This is good advice for all relationships, but ask yourself this: if something is bothering you, but you don’t communicate about it, how will the other person know that it gets on your nerves? Depending on the dorm you move into, you may be asked to sign a roommate agreement that includes points on cleaning, visitors, quiet hours, or room temperature. It’s a good idea to have a roommate meeting once a quarter so you can have a venue to get on the same page with one another in regards to things like who will take the trash out each week and how long visitors can stay over.
5. Soak it up
hLiving in a dorm room is truly a unique and fun experience. Take advantage of the opportunities to hang out with your roommates and have movie nights or hang out with friends from down the hall. Yes, you still need to get your homework done, but it’s also important to invest in your community. If you’re the type of person who’s tempted to hole yourself away on a Friday night, be bold and attend a hall get together or an event your dorm community is putting on. Who knows…you might meet a lifelong friend!