If you’re nervous about heading off to college next year, don’t worry—millions of other people fresh out of high school feel your pain. The first time living on your own can be nerve-wracking. When problems arise, your parents aren’t there with you to guide you through it and the friends you’ve known since kindergarten aren’t there with you to calm you down. But you can and you will survive living in a college dorm. Let’s ease your nerves a bit.
Here are 10 things to expect when you leave your family nest and venture out to your first college dorm.
1. Anticipate Random Roommates
Some people decide to room with a friend from high school or with someone they met on their college tour. If that’s not part of your plan, take a risk and go random. No worries, it’s not a complete gamble. Once you decide that you’ll be living on campus, your school emails a link for roommate assignments. This is where you’ll get to input your living habits: what time you go to bed, what time you wake up and whether or not you want the room quiet. Your college attempts to bring people together who they think will mesh well with one another. Of course, it’s not foolproof—we’ve all heard those nightmare roommate stories—but there is a chance your random roommate will become your best friend. “I would recommend going random because I made three of my best friends through my random quad placement,” St. John Fisher College sophomore Nicolas Rino said. College is all about taking risks and putting yourself out there. The best way to do that? Set your fears aside and go random for your roommate.
2. Use Social Media to your Advantage
If you aren’t comfortable with letting a computer pick your roommate for you, find someone on social media you think you’d vibe with and reach out to them. “I was just on the Facebook group throughout the summer and I saw someone who posted a really cool bio so I started messaging him. That’s how we decided to become roommates,” University of Maryland junior Sanjeev Jariwala said. Most colleges, like UMD, have a dedicated Facebook group for your graduating class. Group members post pictures and short bios trying to capture the essence of who they are. Think of it as Tinder for roommates. If you join your college’s Facebook group, you are destined to find a great roommate.
3. Experiment with different Dorm Styles
With several different types of dorm styles to choose from, you’re destined to find one that suits your style. There are singles, doubles, triples and quads, which house all of your roommates in a single room. The downside? Quads typically have communal bathrooms. Luckily, later on in your college career, you can live in a suite. Just imagine the luxury of having a room all to yourself. To make sure you don’t become a total hermit, suites usually have a living room for all the roommates to share. Another option is on-campus apartments. However, upperclassmen usually frequent these because they want to cook their own food. Unlike suites, apartments feature a dining room and a kitchen—but don’t get too comfortable. You’re not at college to hide from the outside world in your dorm.
4. Take advantage of your meal plan
Most college freshmen know the love/hate relationship with a meal plan. Living without a kitchen means you become familiar with the journey on down to the nearest dining hall—one, two, maybe even three times a day. It’s great for the first semester because it’s new and different. Then you’ll go home for break, spoiled with home-cooked meals, and you’ll find it a bit difficult returning back to boring old dining hall food. “Sometimes I do get tired of the food and just wished I had a homecooked meal,” said University of Maryland freshman Alayna Shadis. Sometimes you’ll wish you could eat at Chick-fil-a but you don’t want to spend the money. Just remember, in the dining halls you get to eat basically whatever you want, whenever you want, for free.
5. Make the most of Communal Bathrooms
I’m warning you, sharing a bathroom with thirty or more people can be disgusting. People don’t always clean up after themselves, which means sometimes you see things you didn’t ever want to see. The weekends are the worst because if someone throws up inside one of the stalls, the cleaning staff won’t come back until Monday morning to clean it up. It will just sit there and fester (I’m speaking from personal experience). Finding a floor with a clean reputation is a perfect way to avoid these sticky situations. If the residents on that floor don’t party super hard, their bathroom will most likely be much cleaner. Keep in mind, while the idea of sharing a bathroom with thirty other guys repulsed me at first, (I’m sure the girls’ bathroom is much cleaner) I could count all the truly revolting things I’ve seen on just one hand. One last thing, wear shower shoes. These babies are essential to avoid infections. This is something you won’t want to cheap out on.
6. Get used to Tight Quarters
As a freshman, you’ll probably live in a small room with other people. This means you’ll need to keep your room livable. Your roommates won’t tolerate your clothes all over the floor and your mom won’t be there to clean up after you. Have courtesy for your roommates and clean up after yourself. Clearly establish a set of guidelines to follow. For example, if you buy a bag of chips and don’t want your roommates wolfing them down, write your name on a sticky note and put it on the bag. In other words, mark your territory. When it comes to living in a small dorm, compromise is key, especially when you and your roommates aren’t peas in a pod.
7. Keep your door open
At college, you’re basically forced to make friends. Opportunities to establish friendships with your fellow floormates are common, you just have to take advantage of them. Many people will leave their door wide open basically screaming, ‘Come in, we want to make new friends.’ “I really like living in a dorm. I’m always hanging out with my friends in the basement area, watching movies, doing homework and eating. I like how close you get to be to everyone,” University of Maryland freshman Clara Longo de Freitas said. If you happen to live in a single, go that extra mile and introduce yourself to people on your floor. This is the last time in your life when you’ll be surrounded by people your age, so take advantage of it.
8. Call Your Resident Assistant
At college, you’ll want to get to know your RA. Basically, your RA’s job is to help you adjust to life at college. If you’re having issues with your roommates, your RA is the one to talk to. If you’re having trouble adjusting to class, your RA will have valuable tips for you. They’re experienced students with an abundance of college hacks to share, so listen up. “Often times residents are really concerned about how they’re going to fit in and how they’re going to adjust to their classes…helping them and guiding them through that process is really fundamental,” University of Maryland RA Debissa Nuressa said. If you get an RA that’s half as good as Debissa, you’ll be well on your way to success.
9. Count on being homesick
Homesickness will strike at the most inopportune times. It’ll sneak up on you when you’re trying to study for that big test. It’ll pounce when you’re out trying to make new friends. If anyone tells you that they’re not homesick, they’re lying to you. Everybody misses home once in a while, and that’s what you need to remember: You’re not alone. When you’re feeling nostalgic, instead of sitting in your dorm room listening to sad songs, go out and explore your campus. Pro tip: decorate your dorm room so even when you’re miles away, you have a little taste of home. Don’t be afraid to introduce the things you love from back home to the new people in your life. It’s what college is all about.
10. Netflix and Chill (Just Not Too Much)
I’m here to tell you that it’s perfectly okay to have a quiet night in your dorm room once in a while. Turn the lights off, get in your cozy pajamas, pop some popcorn and throw on your favorite Netflix show. If you’re feeling adventurous, invite some people from your floor over—the more the merrier. I myself am an introvert, so I don’t always want to go out. I don’t feel bad about it at all and you shouldn’t either.