If you’ve just graduated from high school and are preparing for what might be your first year of college dorm life, you probably have a lot of questions and concerns. You may be facing the first time you’ve ever shared a room, especially with someone to whom you’re not related. What if you don’t get along? What do you need to take for your room? Top bunk or bottom bunk?
For many, this will be an entirely new experience. First off: relax. You’re certainly not alone–chances are that every other freshman in the dorms will have the same fears and concerns. Take advantage of the time before school starts to prepare yourself. You can begin by visiting our Campus Life section and reading the many articles about what to expect and how to handle college dorm life.
College Dorm Life and Homesickness
It’s natural for some homesickness to accompany your first two or three weeks of adjusting to college dorm life. You’re in an entirely new environment. On one hand, there are no more curfews, no constant reminders to do your homework, no questions about where you’re going, or who you’re going to be with.
On the other hand, you’re on your own for what might be the first time in your life. No one’s cooking your meals, except maybe the cafeteria staff. No one’s making sure your homework gets done, or that you get up for class on time. No one’s washing your clothes. The freedom accompanying college dorm life can be both a blessing and a curse. However, during this major transition, many students find that the biggest hurdle they face in their first college dorm life experience is homesickness. In her article Back to School Blues, Christina Couch offers a number of valuable tips on how to cope with the natural feelings of loneliness and homesickness that often affect new students.
Finding an inexpensive way to keep in touch with family and friends can be a great way to smooth the transition into college dorm life. Many campuses offer free or low-cost Internet connections in the dorms, so e-mail and instant messaging are two ways you can check in with people at home. In addition, to save on long distance phone bills, look into available VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) services.
Sharing your exciting and/or trying experiences with people from home can help dispel feelings of isolation and loneliness. You may actually learn that you’re not missing much. However, if feelings of homesickness and depression persist as a result of college dorm life, make sure you talk to someone about them. A good place to start with is your dorm’s resident advisor.
One of the anxieties that comes with the approach to college dorm life lies in the preparation. How do you figure out what to take with you? Preparing your college dorm room checklist can begin with your visit to the dorms during orientation. While there, take a good look at what’s provided by the school. If you get the chance, ask dorm residents how they prepared for their college dorm life, such as what they brought, what they forgot, what they found out they needed after a few days in their dorm room. In addition, visit your college or university’s web site to see if they have a dorm room checklist online, and also be sure to check for items that may be prohibited from the dorms, such as candles or space heaters.
Once you’ve put your dorm room checklist together, contact your future roommate to introduce yourself and discuss what each of you is planning to take to college. There’s no sense in trying to fit two microwaves or small refrigerators in what will will likely be extremely limited space. This might also be a good time to discuss your individual expectations and what you each anticipate from college dorm life. If your future roommate regularly stays up until 3 a.m., and you’re an early riser, you will probably want to take the opportunity to set up some ground rules you both can live with before you move in.
Megan O’Leary, in What to Bring to College, provides a college dorm room checklist including many items you’ve probably considered, such as an alarm clock, a computer, and other essentials of college dorm life.
She also includes some items you may not have thought of, but that can make your college dorm life more pleasant, such as houseplants, a shower caddy, and a comfortable chair or bean bag. Be sure to get yourself a daily planner or calendar to mark down important dates, such as when papers or projects are due and exam days. Remember (and this takes some getting used to), one of the biggest adjustments to college dorm life you’ll have to make is to be disciplined, to put yourself in charge of getting your homework done and preparing for tests.
Get Involved with College Dorm Life
The experts agree that one of the best ways to cope with the loneliness that can accompany college dorm life is to get involved in activities on campus. Allowing yourself to get bored can lead to depression, so make sure you have things to do; the more you get out of your dorm room, the more you’ll get out of college dorm life.
By finding activities you like, you’ll meet like-minded people and develop friendships, and when you broaden your college experience you’ll find that college dorm life becomes easier and easier.
Visit our Campus Life section for more free information about college dorm life and meeting new people on campus, how to tackle college academics, how to stay healthy and in shape during your college years, and much more.
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