What you actually 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. Through out 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 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 so little.

At the end of every summer, eager freshman move into their first dormitory, unsure of what to anticipate as new students, bringing too much or too little.  Those who have no older siblings, or are first generation students have no guidance as to what dorm life is really like. 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 four most important things to do before moving into a residence hall your freshman year of college:

Know the layout of your room

Is there a desk? Can you bunk your bed? Is a microwave and refrigerator provided? 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.

Talk to the roommate

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.

Pack Accordingly

Obviously, a lot of stuff will be left at home– there simply isn’t much room in a dorm. Think about what you need for now. If applicable, leave winter stuff (clothes, decorations) at home until Thanksgiving break, when you can swap out some of your warm weather stuff. Don’t bring multiples of the same item, and always downsize if you can. For example, bring a hand vacuum instead of a full sized one.

Make friends in your hall 

Okay, so what do I bring?

Here are some dorm items most people forget:


Even with a meal plan, it’s great to have snacks in the dorm to munch on between class or study breaks.

A printer

Most schools have free or inexpensive printing for students. I decided I would bring a printer into my dorm, regardless. This saved me the most when I was running late to class, or if I didn’t want to wake up super early before my morning classes.

Storage bins

Under the bed storage is a huge space-saver!

A sewing kit/ steamer

Just in case a button pops off or you rip your favorite shirt! I recommend a steamer to get wrinkles out of clothes! It saves space and is much less work than ironing.

A toolbox

Move-in day requires basic tools; hanging stuff up, lofting or unlofting beds, putting together furniture will all depend on that screwdriver from so-and-so down the hall. The first day at OU, we had one girl on our floor with a screwdriver and everyone was using it. It’s a good way to make friends with people in your dorm!

A water filter

Tap water is sometimes questionable, so some sort of filter is great for the dorms. My room mate freshman year brought a Brita filtered water jug that fit right in the fridge.

A water bottle

While walking around campus all day, it’s 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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