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How to Prepare For Your First Year of Living in a College Dorm

Charlie Fletcher

How to Prepare For Your First Year of Living in a College Dorm

Not everyone chooses to live on campus, but for many people, it’s a big part of the overall college experience. Living in a college dorm for the first time gives you a taste of what it’s like to live on your own. You’ll be met with new opportunities and responsibilities. If you don’t prepare yourself now, you might even be in for a few surprises.

While living in a dorm is exciting and can offer newfound freedom as you enter adulthood, preparation is key, especially when you’re not sure what to expect.

Let’s cover a few simple, effective ways you can prepare for your first year of living in a college dorm. The more you plan ahead now, the easier the transition to dorm life will be.

Knowing What to Pack

Chances are, you’ve spent the majority of your life in one place. All of your belongings are in your “childhood” room and home. Obviously, you’re not going to be able to take everything with you to a small dorm room — especially if you have roommates.

But, what should you bring with you?

Start with the basics. Think about the things you’ll be using every day that will make your life easier, more comfortable, and more convenient. Some of the necessities you should pack include:

  • Bedding
  • Towels
  • Toiletries
  • A laundry bag or basket
  • Clothing for two seasons

It’s also a good idea to bring some items from home that will bring you comfort. Photos, a stuffed animal, or other small tokens or trinkets that are meaningful to you can make the transition easier when you’re feeling homesick.

Make sure to pack the right way so your belongings are secure on the trip. Use bins for moving and storing your supplies, rather than cardboard boxes. They can double as backup storage to keep your dorm neat and tidy when certain items aren’t in use. Your parents can help you out with packing, and they can even assist with making a checklist of things you need so you won’t forget anything. Talk to your family about the possibility of sending care packages, too. It can help to make the transition easier.

Finally, make sure to pack some decorative items that will make your dorm feel like “home.” The more comfortable you feel there, the easier it will be for you to adjust to your new routine.

Becoming Independent

Your first year of college is likely your first time living on your own. Though your parents might be helping you out with certain things, there is a whole new world of responsibility and freedom at your fingertips.

There are so many ways to grow and learn in college, and it can start in your dorm. Establish a daily routine that keeps you on a healthy schedule. It can be tempting to stay up late and sleep in if you don’t have early classes, but creating a routine will benefit your physical and mental well-being.

You’ll also have to keep up with things like cleaning your dorm, restocking necessary supplies, and managing meals if you don’t go to the cafeteria or other on-campus options each day. On top of all of it, you might want to consider how you can become more financially dependent since you’re away from home. Again, your parents might help you out by sending you money, but now is a great time to get a part-time job either on-campus or off, if you have transportation.

Start by budgeting your needs and wants, and you might be surprised by how much you’re spending each month on “extras.” When you build a budget that focuses on things like paying off bills and groceries first, you’ll start to see that your wants could be holding you back from saving as much money as you’d like. By working on budgeting and financial independence now, you can have a nice “cushion” saved up by the time you graduate and enter the working world.

Dealing With Roommates

It’s rare for college students to live alone. While some campuses across the country have single rooms, first-year students rarely get them unless they’re specifically requested. As such, you’ll likely have to deal with at least one roommate, if not more.

If you’re able to find out information about your roommate before you move in, try to connect with them. Talking on the phone, texting, or even video chatting can help to break the ice so things aren’t so awkward or unfamiliar when you move in.

If you find that your roommate is difficult to get along with or live with, don’t immediately think dorm life isn’t for you. Try some of the following strategies to work out your differences:

  • Talk things out
  • Express your needs
  • Don’t spend so much time in your room
  • Practice self-care

Though you might not like it, having a difficult roommate in college can actually serve as another life lesson. You’ll have to learn how to get along with people who have opposing views or bad attitudes. It’s not easy, but it’s a part of life. The good news? Unless you request the same person, you’ll probably have a different roommate next year. You never know when you’ll meet a lifelong friend to make up for a bad living experience.

Living in a college dorm should be exciting, but it’s okay if you’re feeling nervous or overwhelmed. Keep these tips in mind to prepare yourself as much as possible. From packing to personalizing your living space, embrace the experience and enjoy living on your own for the first time.

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