What You Need To Know About Living In Your First College Dorm


Nothing is worse than realizing you forgot shower shoes and share a restroom with forty other girls. Trust me — I’ve been there. As a first-year student at Ohio University, I had no idea what to bring. Throughout the course of the year, I had overpacked, sent too much home, made do with what I had, brought too much back, fought clutter, and learned about managing a space both effectively and creatively.

One of the major keys to successfully functioning in a college dorm is making use of what little space is given.  Hopefully, this will be your last time living with another person in a 120 square feet. College is truly a time of minimalism; I have seen endless unique ways to live comfortably with little.

As someone beginning college, it is perfectly normal to feel nervous about dorm life. PSA: College is a lot different from what Universities highlight during visits, tours, and orientation. There is much less guidance than one would expect, and it truly is a students’ first taste of adulthood. Regardless of the size, location or academic curriculum, moving into a dormitory or residence hall requires preparation and forethought.

Here are the five important things to do before moving into a residence hall your first year of college:

Know the layout of your room

Is there a desk? Can you bunk your bed? Will a microwave and refrigerator be provided? What are the dimensions of the space and how many roommates will I have? These are all things to consult your university about. Knowing what is already in the room allows you to shop accordingly and plan how your space can be used. Often times this information can be found on a university housing website.

Talk to the roommate(s)

Communication is key. Is there anything your roommate is already bringing that you can share, such as a coffee maker? Would you like to split the cost of some items, such as a carpet or futon? Decide as a team what would be useful in your room and what should be left at home. It can also be used as an icebreaker — discussing these points may give you some insight about your roommate.

Pack Accordingly

As tempting as it will be to bring your entire wardrobe, don’t. Think about what you need for the upcoming semester. If you are able to return home before the season changes, only bring clothes that will benefit you in the current weather. Clothes and decorations can always be swapped out during breaks.

Make friends in your hall 

During move in, leave your door open and be friendly. When you need a break from your roommate or even just a distraction from homework, having friends nearby will be such a blessing. Also, if there is a group chat of any sort, join it. You will appreciate being able to ask “Does anyone have a can opener I can borrow?” in a message instead of needing to go buy one.

What Should I Bring?

Fortunately, all of my dorms offered vacuums, cleaning supplies, and other necessities residents were able to sign out. The housing website for your University should offer more insight into what is recommended and what is banned from the residence halls. Here are a few things you may forget:



Even with a meal plan, keep food in your dorm. If the dining hall is far from your dorm or closed during certain hours, having microwavable meals or quick snacks will be cheaper and more convenient than eating out.

A printer

Most schools have free or inexpensive printing for students. If possible, I recommend a printer. It will save you that extra stop in the library or a long wait during peak hours.

Organizational storage

Repeat after me: dorms are not spacious. Anything that can help you stay organized and save space is worth the purchase. I loved having storage bins under my bed and a chest that doubled as extra seating.

A sewing kit and steamer

Bonus: Learn how to sew. If you move in with one raincoat and a button pops off of that coat, you will feel so empowered if you are able to fix that. A steamer is a major lifesaver for outfits that need to be wrinkle-free for an interview or presentation.  It’s much easier to use than ironing and takes less room.

A water filter

Tap water is sometimes questionable and plastic water bottles are wasteful. I recommend a water filter that can fit in your fridge.

A water bottle

Not only is While walking around campus all day, but it’s also best to have a metal or plastic reusable water bottle handy.

Microwavable dishes/ Tupperware

I am anti-styrofoam and wanted to be able to microwave meals, so I went with microwaveable dishes. A small container of dish soap lasted me the whole semester. I brought a bowl, plate, and a couple coffee mugs. Tupperware proved useful if I wanted to save leftovers in the fridge.

Plastic silverware

Although I am a big advocate for recycling, it saved tons of time and effort to just have plastic silverware readily available.

Tips for Move in
  • Arrive as early as possible to beat the rush
  • Find out if there is an elevator in your dorm
  • Bring a few helpers
Make sure your roommate situation rocks

1. Search

The university may provide a search engine for you to find someone compatible, but you can also search on social media. Write out a few sentences about yourself and what you’re looking for in a college roommate. Keep up with people that seem interested, and don’t turn anyone away until you’re positive you found your match!

2. Ask the important questions to make sure you’re compatible.

After talking about your major and some interests, it’s time to make sure your potential roomie and you will actually get along. Ask what their pet peeves are, what their sleep schedule is like, if they plan on outwardly breaking any rules. Learn about their interests and likes. It’s much easier to ask deal-breaking questions beforehand.

3. Split the cost

Dorm shopping will be so much cheaper if you split things like disposable dishes, paper towels, and cleaning supplies. Big items, like televisions, carpets, and futons can be split to benefit everyone for a lot less!

4. Set boundaries

Don’t be afraid to let your future roomie know what you expect. If you don’t want guests on school nights, or you like lights out by 10 p.m. — let them know! It will make communication easier.

5. Get to know each other

You want to make sure that you have the basis to be friends, too! Make friends with your roommate. That’s one person you already can depend on freshmen year. It’s much easier to live with a friend than a stranger.

6. Communicate

Let you roommate know when you’ll be home, when the light is bothering you, or even when you might be stressed during a busy week. Be honest when your feelings are hurt or you’re annoyed. Nobody can fix a problem they don’t know about.

Young adulthood is an exciting journey, albeit can be confusing and scary.  College lets you leave the training wheels on while exploring who you are and who you will be in the world around you. With preparation and planning, it will be much easier to spend your time in college working smart, playing hard, and having fun. Utilize your space! Can you come up with any unique ways to save room in the dorms?



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